Tag Archives: behavior

Thinking for Themselves

IMG_5983 (1)Thinking for Themselves

The picture up there is actually a bit of an anomaly.  I let the kids have their phones and games out for this lunch only…and it was like watching something out of a Kubrick film.  Glued to screens.

But my kids are all pretty good thinkers and a lot of that is necessity as much as purposeful parenting.

I want the kids to think for themselves.  When they have  a problem I want them to come up with the answer of how to fix it.  I will guide and help but I’m not fixing it for them, not any more.  When they were little I did it all.

My best example: when my daughter had a class just “pop up” on her school schedule that she never even signed up for I told her to go to the registrar and get it fixed.  She rolled her eyes, got stressed out, and acted like I’d grown a second head.  But I made her go do it anyway.  Turned out . . . a computer glitch had affected a whole bunch of students and her name was on a list of kids now that needed it fixed.  Ignore the problem and she’d have flunked a class she didn’t even sign up to take.

When her wah-wah pedal (yes, that’s the name) for the guitar didn’t work I took it apart and made her watch me fix it.  When it broke again?  I asked if she watched me fix it the first time.
“Yes,” she said skeptically.
“Good.  Then the screwdrivers are in my toolbox,” I told her.  She was thrilled when she was able to do it herself.

I try to do the same with conflicts at school, with the kids having issues, with all of it.  When my son faced bullying and retaliation at school I tried to have him fix the problem.  He did try, and I only intervened when it was clear he truly needed my help.

This is a lesson and a necessity.  I cannot fix everything.  Between lunches, meals, laundry, the home, bills, work, shopping, and general parenting I have about an hour’s worth of time each day.  That’s it.  The rules that applied for their siblings apply to them, as well.  The idea being that if they need to get something done they’ll just buckle down and do it.

That has worked, for the most part.  When my son wanted cookies after school he asked if he could make them.  First time he forgot an ingredient.  The next time?  Perfect cookies and I didn’t have to make them.

The only time it hasn’t been as successful is when I dealt with bullying at school.  My son, though, tried to fix the problem himself.  I give him a lot of credit for that.

My reasoning?  Kids don’t need to be coddled.  I play with my kids, hug them, love them, do my best by myself to parent them.  But sometimes they need to take care of themselves, too.   When they do they understand they’re growing up and taking on more responsibility as well.  That’s a big deal, particularly as they get older.

What’s the difference?  When kids around them are helpless to understand how to deal with life, not just what happens in school, my kids have already dealt with it.  They didn’t wait.  They were ready the day I had to tell them their mother passed away and they had to face this without one of their parents. After that, nothing was really too difficult.


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My daughter and I had always had a hot and cold relationship.  Love was the constant.  Even though she was tied to her mother’s hip, it seems, she never lacked in confidence in her Daddy.

When the teenager up there (at a ZZ Top concert, by the way, she was thoroughly surprised just how much she enjoyed herself) was a little girl she and her mother were thick as thieves.  That is…until she got hurt, had a cut, or was sick.  When that happened, she came crying (literally) to her Daddy.

This might have been from when she was an infant.  Her birth was rough, with an emergency c-section and her mother out cold for more than a day.  I actually took the baby home with me and her mother was still in the hospital.  The baby contracted RSV, while her mother recovered from a post-op infection.  So I would wake up, give her an albuterol treatment, feed her, change her, go to bed, and repeat every few hours.

So when she was hurt as a little toddler or little kid she came to her daddy.

Then immediately went back to her Mom when she felt better, hugged her, and told her mom thank-you.  Sometimes she’d even stick her tongue out when I jokingly said “hey!”

Still . . . I worried a lot about this little girl when her mother passed.  So the fact she talks with me nearly every night, kisses me good-night, and is closer to her dad then ever . . . that’s a kind of paradigm shift, one that would have been hard fought before.

But only recently have I seen her worry about me.  A lot.  When I started working out harder she wanted to make sure I did it right, not because I’m obsessed with my weight but because I need to get healthier, lose some of that bad weight in the stomach that can cause heart problems.

So every other night she’s met me in the front of the house and worked out with me.  She’s taken exercises from PE classes, asked her teachers, and put a nice little regimen of core exercises together.  She does them too, for sure, but she makes sure her old man does it and isn’t injured.

It would be easy, I suppose, to be embarrassed or indignant that your daughter is telling you what to do.  I don’t look at it that way.  My daughter is looking at me and thinking that if I am wanting to be healthy she can, too.  We do it to the degree we need…and move on.  We aren’t starving ourselves and we’re not trying to be body builders.

The small eye-rolling moments still happen.  When I goof off during warm up.  When I say “No…not 21 Pilots…we work out to Led Zeppelin” but she tolerates those because she likes doing it with me.  Or she’s worried.  Or both.  Either way, I take the win.

So when I look at this teenager in the room with me now I realize that things are a lot different than they used to be, but that’s not a bad thing.

Different is good when it gets you even closer to kids who just a few years before . . . would never have admitted they wanted to be that close to their dad.

It Makes Everything Better


It Makes Everything Better

A few days back I was walking through a park near where I work on my way to the local courthouse for a story.  In the middle of the park is a series of benches, all worn, the paint coming off, initials carved in the paint.  They are sleeping places where homeless often take over, or the local kids getting completely stoned from their weed of choice.  It’s not an intolerable place, I don’t want to paint it like that.  It’s just a park in the middle of the city . . . a place where all the people you’d meet in the middle of a city might gather, I suppose.

On the edge of the park is an apartment complex and a number of kids live there.  So I imagine what I saw on my walk was from one  of them.

On one of the benches, in-between the rubbed-off paint and behind the scrawl of words carved in the seat was a teddy-bear with a heart between its hands reading, simply, “hugs.”

I bring this up because in a moment when I was rushing to get somewhere, after a stressful panic of working on what I needed to know for a court hearing and juggling several stories I stopped and snapped that picture.  I captioned it “hugs make everything better”.

I bring this long story to a point because I didn’t know how true that was.

Friday the 13th was just a bad day.  Not because of some triskaidekaphobia.  This was just a bad day.

Bad, sure, because of a series of attacks in Paris.  I have friends who are or were there.  I found out they were safe and then faced watching it unfold on national news like everyone else.  Bad because, that day, after a massive investigation the response was not quite what I’d hoped from our story.  We got a response, but you always hope for more.

Then I found out sometime in the middle of the news from Paris unfolding, that someone I knew in my youth had passed away.  It’s amazing the memories that flood when that happens, no matter who you are.

So when I got home, late from all the events of the day, I faced three kids and a barrage of stories of how bad their days were.  Terrible, it seems.
“I had to run the mile today.”
“Some kid pushed me into the bushes.”
“We went over all these issues about gender studies and you need to know this about this and about this . . . ”

And I blew.

I’d had a rough day.  I was in dress clothes still, cutting vegetables, putting dinner together, and I was the conduit for yet more bad news.  I just could not take any more nor face any more issues.  The week was almost over, the day was over and I’d had it.  My brain could not digest any more emotional turmoil.

“I know you have all had a bad day.  I’m home late…that should show you that my day wasn’t really great, right?  Could I just make dinner and change into some jeans before you pummel me?”

I did change.  As I came out of my room my daughter walked up with a smile and kissed my cheek.

At the bottom of the stairs waiting for me was one of my sons.  I was waiting to be stressed out.  He hugged me.  His brother met me and joined in.
“Hugs make everything better,” he told me.  I put my arms around both necks and smiled.

They do indeed.

When You’re Home, Are You HOME?

I'll Sleep when I can . . .

When You’re Home, Are You HOME?

One of the things I’ve learned in the last few years was a harsh lesson about something I hadn’t always done in my kids’ early lives.

I work in a job that can be moments of tedious combing through numbers and data followed by moments of sheer panic when breaking news hits and you have to race out the door at a moment’s notice.

My own children now have been groomed to an almost Pavlovian action of acceptance when my cell phone rings.  They’ve seen the result of that phone call time and again. My oldest more than the others, as in previous jobs I wasn’t just a producer and writer I was also a photographer.

On an early evening, a celebration of wonderful accomplishments by my oldest daughter when she was very little I’d made a commitment to go out to dinner at her favorite restaurant. Instead, I called home because I got sent to a standoff. A man held himself at gunpoint and we all knew it was going to end with him surrendering and the day’s work amounting to about 30 seconds of airtime. At best. My wife was furious.

My daughter simply accepted it, though disappointed.

On 9/11 I was in a car on the way to the airport after the first plane hit. I was supposed to fly to New York to cover it. A couple weeks later I was in Washington, DC covering the aftermath. My daughter was supposed to have a play.

We were out at a family outing when the Space Shuttle Columbia went down. I spent the next two days in the piney woods of East Texas in what forever thought was the most depressing story I ever covered.

Even on days when things weren’t insane or tragic events, the idea of chasing all this was exhausting, both mentally and physically. My kids would ask: “can you play a game with me” and I’d inevitably be nearly catatonic or asleep.

I wasn’t terrible. On the days this didn’t happen I was there, invested, and involved. I made dinner most evenings, as my wife wasn’t fond of cooking. I made their desserts. I planned birthday parties that cost me too much money. Yet I always knew that when things blew up I’d just drop everything and go.

So four years ago when I became a single dad that changed.

The job I have has been wonderful. When my son needs to go to the doctor . . . they know I have to go to the doctor. When I’m out with my family, I’m out with them. It’s certainly the lesson I learned from my time growing up. My father worked . . . but when he was home with us, he was home with us. He may have worked on home repairs but if we wanted to help, we helped.

“Dad, can I help you make that dessert,” my son will ask, and the answer is always “yes.” My oldest, in college, says she has a performance to show what their grant proposal was and, hard as it was to arrange, I was there. No complaints.  (Well, except for the hour I waited in line at “Voodoo Doughnuts” to get her doughnuts for the evening. I still am not sure that was worth it)

I still have my moments.  I’ll walk in the door and be asked “want to play a game, dad?”
“I’m making your dinner!”
“Later maybe?”

Later certainly seems tiresome and I sometimes say I just am too tired. I work my job still, am committed, and if the world explodes, I still go in without hesitation. Yet if nobody can watch the kids. . . they know I have that issue to attend and if I cannot, they may be frustrated but understand. That’s worth its weight in gold.

Though tonight my son asked “do you want to take the online quiz I made?”
I was in the middle of making dinner. Yet I saw the hope in his eyes and the spark in there that was proud of what he did. It’s something in years past I might very well have missed.
“Let me finish . . . and then we’ll try.”
I sat down, and my son had made a trivia quiz about “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” I got all but one right.
“Wow!  Good job, Dad,” my son said.

My routine tonight, as it is every night, was to take them up, read them a chapter out of the book they wanted – not because I treat them like little kids, but because they ask me to do it. They like that I make voices and dramatize the books. That’s why they want it.

I hug my daughter at the end of the evening, tell her “goodnight Beastie”.  Then I  text her sister at college, and tell her I love her.

And I go to bed in order to do it all over again tomorrow.

Humorous Lessons


Humorous Lessons

I learned long ago that just beating the lesson home with your kids works . . . but they start to zone out and think of it as white noise.

But use humor . . . that tends to drive the point home with abandon.

On Sunday the television was on while I made breakfast for the kids. My sons had already eaten and I was waiting to put my daughter’s on a plate because, frankly, she was still asleep.  I sleep in on weekends, but by sleeping in I get maybe another hour or two of sleep, so I’d been up since 7am.  After cleaning up the breakfast extravaganza for the boys I noticed that the movie Maleficent was on the TV. My sons were actually watching it, too.

“Hello, beastie,” Angelina Jolie says to the little girl who will become Sleeping Beauty.

“Beastie…I like that,” I told the boys.

When by 10:30am my daughter was still in bed I cooked her breakfast and put it on a plate.  I walked up the stairs, started a load of laundry and then stood in front of her door.  When knocking didn’t work I opened it: “it’s 11am, Beastie . . . breakfast is on the table getting cold.”

She was down in about 5 minutes.

I cleaned over the weekend, too. My daughter got a trick from her doctor that her attention will focus when she chews gum. So I buy her gum . . . except I find the wrappers everywhere. Particularly on the floor, about 2 feet away from multiple trash cans.

“I find one more gum wrapper on the floor, Beastie, I’m going to start putting them inside your pillow case!”

Her brothers aren’t immune, either.
“I find one more Game Boy cartridge on the floor I’m going to sell it and keep the money!”
“Sorry dad . . . ”
“I have to clean up one more box you played with in the front room I’m going to make you sleep in it!”
“No you won’t.”
“Oh, really?!  Want to try me?!”
Here their sister steps in . . .
“NO!  Don’t try him, you’ll be sleeping in a box!”

We watched the lunar eclipse and it went really, really well . . . until it didn’t. When one son started standing in front of the telescope and the other tried to whack him with said telescope . . . MY telescope . . .
“I’m going to knock your heads together if you don’t knock it off!”
“No you won’t . . . ”
“Umm . . . ” said the sister, “yeah . . . he did it to Abbi and I once. It really hurts.”
You may say that’s not humorous . . . but in a Three Stooges kind of way, it’s actually really hilarious.

“Grab the telescope, Beastie, it’s time for your brothers to go to bed,” I tell my daughter. She politely obliges.

Then came this morning. By 6:45am I noticed the shower wasn’t running.  I went up the stairs and her door was closed.
“Are you going to go to school today, Beastie, or were you planning to get up sometime today?”
“What time is it?”
“Oh sh…umm…shoot.”
“Good save.”

As she raced down the stairs I’d made her a drink to take with her and a breakfast bar to eat in the car. She looked at me funny.

“Are you going to wake me up every morning and call me “Beastie”?”
I started laughing. Her brothers, too.
“It’s taken you two days to notice I’ve been calling you that?”
She wrinkled her brow.  “I’m a mess,” she informed me.

That she is.

I can verify it because she still hasn’t noticed all the gum wrappers inside her pillow case.

The Small Pieces of You

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The Small Pieces of You

As the time has passed and my children have started to find deeper and more striking personalities of their own a very interesting thing seems to have happened.

They are also letting pieces of their family tree sort of branch out in those personalities.

I certainly have pieces in there. My middle daughter up there is a musician. She plays guitar and has a seeming inane sense for lyric that simultaneously makes me proud and jealous. I wish I could write words as easily as she does for my music. Her brother is a guitar player, has a shyness that equaled mine at that age, and seems to have a hard time coming out of his shell, much like his father.

But then . . . I noticed something more in the last few weeks.

Tonight, for example, was nothing in my personality coming out of my daughter.

Occasionally, and this is a rare occasion, I will have time where the boys are in bed and my daughter is upstairs and the lunches are made, kitchen clean, etc. I can actually sit . . . and watch a TV show. I had actually pulled something up on Netflix to watch. I was maybe 10 minutes in when my daughter came down the stairs.

“Watching something?”
“Yep. It’s really good! Can’t believe I haven’t watched this before!”

Now for most people that’s the end of the conversation. However, my daughter has her mother and her grandmother’s genes in there. As I watched James Spader go into a monologue that apparently had a very important bit of information in it my daughter started talking.

“So my friend Zoe . . . ” and it went on from there. (I did listen, I just don’t want to invade her privacy and give her full conversation) Seemingly she timed her own little monologue to end just as the television ended its seemingly important plot twist.

I scrubbed the little line back on the screen and watched my TV spin its beach ball of death counter-clockwise.  All the while, in the painful silence, my daughter remained silent.

Spader began his rant again . . .

“Did you know my teacher Ashley…”

After another 5 minutes I realized I was right where I was five minutes ago. I scrubbed the Netflix show back again. Third time’s a charm.

“Lizzy…” began Spader

“I’m so worried I’m going to fail my history test.”

It’s here I shut off the television.
“Why’d you shut off the TV?”
“You want to talk.”
“Oh . . . no, I just don’t want to study.”
“So . . . you worry you’re going to fail, but not worried enough that you didn’t notice I’ve watched the same 5 minutes of television for the last half hour now.”
“Oh . . . is that why you were doing that?”
“No . . . I was doing that because I thought you wanted to talk.”
“Oh . . . no, I just can’t help that.”
“Yeah, I know. Your mother and grandmother couldn’t, either.”

Here I recounted to her nearly every night of my marriage. We would sit, I would try to have a conversation with my wife and she’d be thoroughly engrossed in some reality show. Real Housewives fascinated her for some reason. When she’d be exhausted she’d ask to go to bed. Right as I reached that twilight, the moment before REM sleep, I’d hear it.

“I’m so worried about work, Davey.”  My wife knew I hated being called Davey, so she did it anyway . . . and more importantly, so I’d wake up.

“Your mother couldn’t stand the silence, it seems,” I told my daughter.
“Oh, that’s awful,” she exclaimed.
“Not awful, just was. I don’t know why.  Your grandmother could never stop talking in the middle of TV or movies.  Even at the theater. Drove your grandfather nuts.”

My daughter blushed a little.

We talked. Finally, she got out her worries about the test.

“Maybe you should go study some more.”
“Yeah . . . that’s a good idea.”
She hugged me, leaned on my shoulder and lie there for about five minutes.

In silence.

“What’s the show about,” she asked me.
“I have absolutely no idea,” I told her.
“It looks cool,” she informed me.  “Can you turn it back on? I want to watch it with you.”
“Okay,” I informed her.

I started the episode from the beginning again. James Spader walks out of the shadows, starts the monologue . . .

and then

“So I was thinking about Homecoming, Dad . . . ”


Lost in the Bottom of a Suitcase

Lost in the Bottom of a Suitcase

It’s been easy to recount tales of the times when my kids had two parents, when things were bright. Holidays and a tiny house in the Midwest and moving to a larger home in Texas. Those all seem just such easy things to recount and such amazing things to remember. It’s also therapeutic to talk about events as they unfold in our lives and how we’ve had to adjust.

One thing I hadn’t thought about was the fact that, now more than four years removed, that things will spring up as memories from those first days after losing someone you love. It’s easy to understand the melancholy of memories from a song, a scent, or even a taste. You don’t think about what comes in those days just after since you lived them.

Recently, though, I stumbled on something I’d totally forgotten from the first few months after my wife passed away.

Cleaning up the remnants of a trip to visit my family I reached into the side pocket of the suitcase my sons used and found two envelopes. Neither of them was from our trip so I was a bit confounded to find them. Inside were two greeting cards, ones sent to my sons from me during the summer of 2011.

You have to have some context here: my wife passed away in March of 2011, causing unbelievable grief and uproar in our home. In that same stretch of a month or so I changed jobs, we lost our home, everything was a mess. In order to actually concentrate on the work and setting up our rental home my parents volunteered to take all four of my kids back with them for the summer. As needed and appreciated as that was the times at home alone were maddening.

After a few particular conversations over the phone I sent greeting cards to the boys.

IMG_5297I know I sent them to all four kids, but these had IMG_5298been lost to the recesses of their suitcase from the trip to the Midwest.  The boys had worked for the newspaper for fun and inserted ads in exchange for some small change. The paper is run by a relative and “worked” is a bit of a misnomer, but it was the same. The boys had said they didn’t get to do the work that week and I had an idea.

IMG_5299My new job had a vending machine that dispensed dollar coins, the kind that look goldIMG_5301 and had Sacajawea on them. I got four of them and taped them to the cards. I also wrote notes to each of them, promising to visit them before the summer was over and come back home with them. I made good on that promise, by the way.



I had forgotten the cards, and maybe I had wiped it clear for a reason. The notes are hopeful and talk about how much I loved them and would see them soon. What they don’t reveal is how much of a panic I was under and how I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Regardless, though, I couldn’t show panic or worry to my kids.

My oldest daughter said something once, and I’m likely quoting it wrong, but the gist is there: as a kid growing up you live with your parents and it’s like living with giants. But losing their mother it was like seeing the giants fall and you can never raise them up again.

They’d already learned their parents were mortal. They needed to cling to the hope that their father had an idea of where to go next, even if he really had no idea.

So reading these notes brought back the heartache for me and how difficult that first 3-6 months was for our family.

My sons? They looked and said . . . “HEY!  I forgot these were in here. Now I have two bucks!”

A Thorny Situation

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A Thorny Situation

It started harmlessly enough.

Our backyard is a mess.  The combination of a California drought, a broken sprinkler head, and dead pine needles killing every bush in the very back of our yard, we needed to start the cleanup.

What I hadn’t realized was just what kind of trees and bushes the builder had actually planted there.

I’ll be honest, we’re only renting the home, but I’m supposed to keep up the landscaping.  I hated the landscaping, though.  First were ugly palm bushes, and I’ll be honest, I was glad those died off.  Then came the other bushes.  I love the rosemary bushes and others, and they’ve thrived.

But the trees…those have been a pain.

The pine needles were everywhere, and most of them were nearly mulched by now from more than a few years of sitting there.  I think the previous resident let them be and that wasn’t good.

I cut major, dead branches, picked up pine cones, cleaned out crap, dug up roots, and fixed the sprinkler head.

This all came Monday night after work.  As an indication of what living as a kid is like in the Manoucheri household I informed my four children they had to help.  When my son said he was wearing flip-flops I told him that was a horrible idea and forced him to put on socks and shoes.

2015-03-26 18.06.03The smiling boy on the right there is my semi-brave twin.  He’s game for all roller coasters, adrenaline rides, zip lines, you name it.  He’s had a staple in his head from falling out of a bounce house and broken an arm trying to skip across three rungs of monkey bars at once.

So it should not have surprised me when he went inside that I heard, from his sister, “oh my GOD!”

I walked into the house and it was like walking into a scene from the Belgrade war zone. Blood was everywhere on the floor. His shoe sole was ripped up and his sock was red.

His hands were bloody and his foot was, too. It was as if the demon barber of Fleet Street himself had wandered into the home.

Turns out, one of the harmless-looking trees wasn’t so harmless.  In among the pines in the back was what looked like a simple tree whose category I hadn’t realized. When I looked at the branches after the aforementioned incident, I came to the realization that every branch was filled with one to two-inch thorns. One of those thorns had found the perfect spot in the bottom of my son’s shoe and ripped through . . . hitting his foot.

Turns out, his sisters had used all the peroxide so I was on the floor, cleaning his foot, worried he needed stitches.

After stopping the bleeding, staining socks, ruining his shoes and covered in blood myself, I covered the wound in gauze and medical tape – left over from a mishap with a can lid of my own.

This morning we saw the doc.  Turns out that it was a simple puncture. My use of antibiotic cream, washing, and cleaning had worked well and he was fine. The large number of capillaries in the foot (also scalp, hands, etc.) make things look far worse than they are.  I spent the evening cleaning up the war zone and washing towels, rags, and the floor. I had used a sick day to make sure . . . worried that he had ripped far deeper and the cut looked like it was really long. That had sealed up well, though.

So we bought new shoes, since these were now caked in mud and blood, looking like some new-wave version of a civil war boot, left over from the battle of Antietam.

But my son smiled, looked at me, and said “I knew you’d take care of it, Dad,” and against my better judgement, I smiled. After all, I forced him to do the chores.

Leave it to him to be the one to suffer the battle scars of daily life.

A Spectacular Day

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A Spectacular Day

How do you spend a day that everyone assumes would be really difficult?

I suppose, like I did, you’d take the day off just to be there for your kids and to handle whatever emotional time bombs might be resting in the wings, waiting for you to get close.

But this day started like any other. I got up, made breakfast, and took the three kids to school.

The only indication in the beginning that this was the day my wife, their mother, had passed away was the fact that I bought a dozen roses and put them on her grave.  I did it alone, after dropping the kids at school.  They don’t like going  to the cemetery anyway. It was beautiful morning. The cold breeze was blocked by trees and the sun was warming just the perfect spot by her stone on the row. I talked to her, in a private conversation I won’t recount here, and went home.

I spent the morning and early afternoon with my oldest daughter.  We had lunch, eating at a cafe near my house, and talked about school, movies, her friends, my work, like any other conversation.

This could have been a hard, terrible, sad day.  But when I asked my daughter if she’d seen video of her mother when she was a TV anchor she said “no.”  We brought up the video and she marveled at how she looked, how she was the very age my daughter is now…and the scary fact that her voice sounds a lot like her mother’s.

“It’s so funny, though” my daughter added, “because it doesn’t sound like her. She had a TV voice going.”  When another clip hit, one pre-recorded with her voice deeper my daughter’s eyes got brighter and she added “there’s the voice I remember!”

There were no tears, no glassy eyes, nothing.  She just smiled and liked seeing a part of her mother’s past she hadn’t seen before.

I made BBQ, cornbread muffins, and we ate until we were bursting.

Then we went to the carnival.

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We rode the Ferris Wheel three times.  We spun around and around. I rode a glider ride with my daughter.  We played games that are obviously fixed so that we lose and didn’t care.

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We rode a carousel . . . just because.

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Went down the super slide at breakneck speeds.  My son got queasy after riding something called the “Thunderbolt” too many times. I heard my oldest daughter screaming in delight constantly and smiling so hard her face hurt.

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We played, laughed and hugged and it was just . . . fun. It was going out late on a school night.

We rode the wheel again and watched the orange horizon turn to purple and electric blue and meld with the lights from the carnival. We bought cotton candy, caramel apples and licorice and went to the car . . . sitting and grinning as we went home.

It is a perfect, living metaphor, you see, for what our lives have become. We look at the woman we all love . . . for we still love her. That will never change. We don’t really get over losing her, we live with the memories. Those memories were painful, stinging us four years ago with every daily remembrance. It’s a tribute to the love we have for her that those memories now are fondness, remembrance and caring. We smile in her honor.

But those memories are what we have left. While she remains where she is . . . we continue to live. It’s the best thing in the world, by the way, life. Sure, it’s just a local carnival . . . but I dare you not to smile when you hear the screams of delight from four kids all shouting at once.

If you listen close enough . . . you can hear the delight in their mother coming through when they mix together.


Dinner Conversation

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Dinner Conversation

I’ve been asked before why I value the occasions when we can have dinner at the table.  I don’t do it every single night, but most nights when I can get the homework cleaned off the table and the kitchen cleared out we do.

I don’t just value the fact that we’re together.  It’s not just that we choose music and have that going rather than the television.  It’s not even that we have the people all in the same room when my daughter has a tendency to put her headphones on her ears and disappear into her room.  It’s more that we talk about what happened during the day.


Today it was very important.  My son, who is shy, a bit off-putting at times and awkward sometimes in social settings was having issues.  He’d had some behavioral problems and gotten in trouble in the past.  Some of those were his fault.  Most of them weren’t.

Today, though, I came to realize that my pushing him to hold off, not react, be as calm as possible, wasn’t always the best method when reacting to others.

The dinner conversation was important today because my son, who takes the bus home every day, was being bullied by four boys who sit behind him every day to bother him.  He said something to the driver one day, but that just made them angry. He wasn’t going to say anything to me about it, he wanted to try and just ignore it.

“Tell Dad about today,” his sister informed him as we sat to eat.
“Oh…well, I’m calmer now.”
“You weren’t earlier. Tell him or I will,” his sister said.
For his sister, who is constantly irritated by her brother, to be worried I knew something was up.
“Well…these boys have been trying to get me angry all week.  They put their phone on speaker, full blast, and tried to stop me doing my homework first.”

My daughter grew irritated and interrupted him.

“I told him to tell you because it’s not that…it’s that they’re bullying him now. They’re hitting him and doing other things.”

I looked at my son.

“They hit me in the back of the head. They kick me under the bus bench. They band together, so when the driver asks, they all defend each other and it’s my word against theirs.”
I looked at him, calmly. “You know you don’t have to put up with that.”
His eyes got glassy and he said he tried all the things I told him: ignoring them, trying to go away, telling on them at the very end.  It just made it all worse.

“Stand up to them,” I told him. “Tell me first and if it continues I’ll go to the school myself. But you don’t have to put up with that, son.”
He looked encouraged.
“Don’t start a fight, I’ll never want that, but you don’t have to put up with it. Yell, shout, embarrass them, whatever. Stand up to them.  They’ll back down.  if they don’t…I’ll make sure something happens.”

I told him how he’s now years past when he would get in trouble and in a different school.  He has no reputation, had no problems, has not hit, scratched or annoyed anyone.  He tends to keep to himself and he likes it that way.

“My friend helped me,” he said.  “When they kicked my leg she grabbed their leg under the bench and yanked the kid forward off his seat.  We both laughed.”

I looked at him, smiled, and his sister put it best:
“I like her.  She’s a good friend. You need to keep her!”
“Yep,” my son said, “she’s a good friend.”

By the end of dinner he had stopped worrying about the bus, they bullies, the school or any of it. He knew he could handle it. Talking about it helped. He had my support, which he always knew but was glad to hear it said out loud.

I gave him a hug and his brother looked up and said “if it gets really bad I could just punch them.”
“You probably shouldn’t do that,” I said, not wanting things to escalate. He, instead, was more logical.

“Yeah…guess there is four of them. I don’t think I could take more than two.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Glad to see you got the lesson in our conversation there,” I told him.  I swatted his behind and sent him off to do the dishes.