Tag Archives: children

A Change in the Plot…

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A Change in the Plot…

Every story has its twists and turns.  Our story certainly began with a major twist at the beginning with the passing of my wife.

The plot here, in my musings, writings and thoughts will take a shift as well.

A couple years ago – something I detailed at one point both here and on the parenting site Good Enough Mother – I had a long and detailed discussion with my oldest child.  In that conversation I told her a simple piece of advice, something I had been given more than once:

Do something you love.  It may not be your dream job, it may not be the job you expected, but do something you love, something you want to do, something that doesn’t feel like work.

Be passionate.

I had no idea at the time that my daughter would then turn those words around on me.

“When are you going to do that, Dad?”
“What?!”
“You have had a slew of material sitting there, songs written, demos started . . . when are you going to record that stuff?”

I, of course, was stricken dumb; totally inarticulate.  Before I could give excuses – the common ones:

“Don’t use us as an excuse, Dad.  And don’t try to say it’s too expensive.  If you are truly passionate about the music you write and play then you will find a way!”

I was a finite and definitive statement that ended with punctuation that said, without words: “there’s no argument here, you’ve lost this battle!”

So this, after two years of honing and writing and second guessing, is the next step.

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Since that conversation, I’ve joined up with one of the most talented group of musicians – on par with my younger brother Adam Manoucheri (see his new record Aquadog)  – and we play when we can.  We call ourselves the “Ain’t Got No Time Rock and Blues Band” because, frankly, none of us have any time.

These musicians became the core of what will become my first ever solo LP.  Rehearsal begins this week.  We hit the studio at the end of March.  This isn’t a quick process, we have to learn the songs and then I’ll book the next session.  I have nearly a dozen songs and it may turn into more.

It is simultaneously the greatest and scariest thing I have ever undertaken.  Not because I worry about the band, they are the least of my worries.  This is my material.  Much of it came after the passing of my wife and has a dark edge to it.  There’s a lot of acoustic material.  Then there’s the stuff that shows the shift in my life, the happier tones, the melancholy of a trying to find love again and the happiness and joy when it comes.

There are ballads and straight rockers and it’s all me . . . no producer, no brother to tell me I can do better, it’s me.

It’s practicing what I preached.  Nothing worth doing is ever easy.

So over the next many months, most of my posts will be chronicling the trials, tribulations, joys and successes as well as failures in trying to record my first record alone.

As Upworthy would probably put it: “A single dad told his daughter to follow her dreams. Look what happened when she told him to do the same!”

Be careful what you dream . . . you might just actually be chasing them.

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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.

Standing on Shaky Ground

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Standing on Shaky Ground

The picture is appropriate for the title, I think.  There’s a kid, standing on a group of large rocks, the soil underneath made less stable by the wash of water that has just run down the creek.  My son was trying to cross and simultaneously keep his new shoes clean and avoid falling into the water.  The ground is shaky and unstable.

It is a metaphor, by the way.

That same boy has had myriad problems at school this year.  The bigger issue isn’t what’s going on with him it’s what his father can or cannot do about it.

I have twin boys.  One is a complete extrovert, a flirt, on student council, can talk to even the most silent and stoic of people.  The other is an introvert, shy, reserved, likes movies and video games and would prefer to run around acting silly to running on a football field and getting tackled.

The lack of athleticism, or for that matter, the complete lack of interest in athletics at all, leads to problems.  In an area where soccer, football, baseball and basketball are staples and kids are enrolled in early leagues, rec leagues, competitive leagues and . . . oh yeah, the regular school teams . . . he is the odd man out.  I don’t honestly believe he’s not able to do any of the stuff it’s that a) he cannot stand when he isn’t successful instantly so screws around and b) the other kids ridicule him constantly for being unable to play at their level.

This also leads to his getting bullied at school.  He’s been hit, had his PE clothes stolen (twice) and his water bottle taken, lunch taken away and eaten, and been made completely miserable.

I have to say here that I understand what he’s going through, though nothing like the degree he faces.  When I was little I was sick a lot, had asthma when it wasn’t really a known illness, and truly didn’t have as much athletic ability.  I played basketball and tried to play football, but I actually enjoyed it.  I was made fun of because I would talk about things that fascinated me but they just didn’t fascinate anyone else.

My son would be happiest if everyone just left him to himself.  I wasn’t that way, I actually did want to play with the other kids and play basketball and such.  When it came to that I wasn’t the brunt of the abuse my son gets, I did try and wasn’t as upset when it didn’t go well.

My dilemma is the fact I don’t know how to help him.  He hit the point of it not being safe and he’s had one situation rectified.  But how do I give him the tools to get better?  How do I inform him that people like this are going to be around all his life?  I tell him, but how does he see and realize it?  Does he learn guitar more and more and show them up in a couple years when he’s screaming a solo like Marty McFly in Back to the Future?  Does he ignore it?  Do I get him boxing and build up his muscles so he can stop them in his tracks?

What we came to in a middle ground was he has to be comfortable with the solution himself.  He can certainly run and work out with me and get stronger.  He needs more confidence, which is something I didn’t have myself at that age.  It’s jr. high.  Nobody has confidence.

In the end . . . it’s as much about my finding my way with him as it is him trying to survive the battlefields of middle school.

That may just be the scariest part of all.

Another Year

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Another Year

I noticed just today, as I got an alert that there was a bunch of traffic on this site . . . that I haven’t written here in awhile.

Let me explain, for those who might subscribe, or want to read, or the less likely few who might wonder “why?”

There’s a pretty simple explanation.

I haven’t really needed to write.

This isn’t some epiphany, I haven’t had a resurgence of religious fervor or fallen down a well or freaked out or anything.  I’ve simply not needed to do it.

I started writing here, I’ve said before, because it was honestly helpful.  Think of it as an online journal, a way to express the really good, really bad, and in-between when I needed to get all that feeling and reality out of my head so I could move forward with my day.

Most of the things I’ve written, some of it more than four years ago, came from the darkest part of my life up to this point.  I was grieving.  I would run at 1,000 mph with the kids, cooking, cleaning, laundering . . . and then they would go to bed.

…and all was silence.

The only thing left were the voices inside my head, the worries, the memories, the grief, and the panic.  They all swirled around.  When the kids wouldn’t listen; when there were bad grades; when I had to face punishments and there was no one left to back me, just me.

8:30pm through midnight were the worst hours of my life and the times I wrote, every weekday, about what went on in my household.

But as I said, a strange thing has happened.  Maybe not strange, wonderful perhaps.  Joyous? Loving?

This coming year, 2016, will mark a year where there has been more happiness than disappointment.  Not as many screw-ups and nowhere near the panic or disappointment that were there.  Tears that are shed come mostly from laughing so hard.  When letters, cards, pictures or other things of my late wife appear they’re happy memories, not bad ones.

So 2016 comes and we have made plans, have been moving, thinking, and creating.  College beckons for one kid, graduating college is on the horizon for the following year too.  My boys are reaching out and doing more than they ever had before and doing it separately.  Student Council, Academic Clubs, guitar, reading, writing, basketball . . . all my kids are doing amazing things, things that I didn’t anticipate.

Things we hadn’t done before.

The year is a new one, and it’s a blank canvas.  It’s an empty page awaiting the first grey and silver smudge from the pencil as it hits the paper.  It’s waiting for us to tell the story . . . and it will get told.

But it doesn’t always get told for all to see.

As much as I wrote it was never everything that happened in our home, that would be impossible, impractical, and self-aggrandizing.

No . . . this last year has seen something extraordinary.  It saw us all becoming the people and family we are today.  It saw us being influenced by the past but not living within the past.

A new year holds so much promise . . . we just have to live up to that.

After the last year?  We might just be able to do it, too.

Going on an Adventure!

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Going on an Adventure!

Once in awhile you have a day that’s just filled with crap.

Seriously.

I mean . . . people tell me they’re jealous because I took a day off the other day.  “A bad day off is still better than a good day at work, right?”

That’s probably the case, I suppose, but I wasn’t looking forward to this day.

The boy up there had two dental appointments for his braces…which then turned into three.  I started dropping off his two siblings at school, picking him back up, hitting the road, and going to the orthodontist.  They took off his retainer, said they saw a spot on a molar . . . so we set an appointment for the afternoon at the dentist.

So we had time to kill.  We were too far from home to go there . . . we’d just have to turn around and go back.  So we decided to make the most of our day, just me and my son.  We got hot chocolate (okay, mine was coffee) and looked at books at a Barnes and Noble nearby.

We had lunch and ate waaaay too much.

Then we found this mall adjacent to the too-busy and crazy shopping mall.

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We found a fountain, synced up to the music, and my son got up and acted like the conductor.  (There’s video, but couldn’t get it to upload, sorry!)

IMG_5884We sat on benches, he on a butterfly, arms apart, acting like he was flying.  It was adorable.  I laid on a bench of leaves and said “I’m a leaf on the wind…” and told him my nerdy friends would be the only ones to get the reference.

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We took a photo of this strange, almost inappropriate dummy, with the apron’s bow strategically placed to cover the most delicate of areas, I suppose.  I posted a picture of it, said it “cracked me up” and took ownership of the pun.  It wasn’t until a day later that a Facebook friend told me they worked for the store – Sur La Table.  We jokingly called it “tushiegate” and they had the dummy tactfully re-dressed, so to speak.

My point to all this is . . . we could have, say, drank coffee, been bored, but instead we had fun.  Not often do you get a chance to be just with one of the kids an when you do don’t squander it.  We had a blast.  We ate too much, had cookies from a tiny little kiosk in the middle of the plaza, and then wandered around, bought Christmas presents, and wrapping paper.

So when it came time to go back to the orthodontist things weren’t all that bad.  In fact, we were a little sorry the day was over.

But it’s part and parcel to how we do things now.  It’s not boredom that you have to overcome it’s actually your own mind and procrastination.

Once you get up and start moving . . . the opportunities just kind of present themselves . . . like a dummy wearing nothing but an apron.

Togetherness

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Togetherness

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

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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.

Forgotten Memories

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Forgotten Memories

Ever found something you didn’t even remember you’d lost? That was what happened to me the other day.  It wasn’t a watch or piece of jewelry or a favorite shirt or lucky penny or anything like that.

It was a camera card.

You know, those SD cards that you put in your camera?  In the old days you had film, negatives, prints, those all took up space and you might forget them but they were hard to ignore.  These . . . well, these were easy to lose and ignore they are the size of a postage stamp.

I found this card strictly by accident, I was looking for something completely different in my office.  I didn’t even know it was there, but having seen it on the top of a shelf I put it into my computer and there it was.

A series of photos, apparently taken by myself and my children, a combination of both for sure, that had tiny little twin boys and a pre-teen middle girl and my oldest…graduating 8th grade.

It’s interesting to see the differences in the kids.

The boys, certainly, have the happy ignorance of youth.  The girls have that giddy smile of transition that you get when you’re not old enough to care about the homecoming dance or who’s dating whom or whether you look good enough in that outfit.  (Okay, the oldest did, but the drama didn’t come until much later)

The hollowness of grief isn’t visible here, either.  That’s not to say that they bear some major burden or massive weight on their shoulders, that’s not true.  They don’t look that way today.  No…what they show here is the lack of instant and quick maturity and age that they developed in a matter of weeks or months after they lost their mother.  The smiles are carefree and sincere and without hesitation.

A couple things are evident to me from this.  The carefree smiles are back.  It took . . . whew . . . more than a few years to get here.  It took stability and knowing things are okay and that I’ve not completely screwed up to do it.  My daughter still asks when I get paid and if we’re okay financially, though, which is a throwback to when we were struggling.  That’s when their mother was alive, not after she passed away.

The other noticeable thing that saddened me a bit was what was missing from the photos.  Even if the kids had taken them two people are nonexistent: me and their mother.  I kind of understand why I’m not there, I was probably taking some of the pictures.  Their mother, though, hated her photo being taken.  I like to believe that if she’d known finding this card with her on it would have given me and her kids some pleasurable smiles she’d have allowed the pictures, though.

This has been the case with so many of the memories we find buried in boxes or on shelves…the real moments, the ones where kids are covered in frosting or taking a bath in the sink or running in the cold air . . . those are missing her.  It’s a sad reality that we don’t have her in there . . . the ones we do have are the sort of portraiture and staged photos.  Yet the ones we love – even from those sessions – are the outtakes where we all are smiling, laughing or being silly.

Still . . . it’s nice to see those smiles and realize just how far we’ve come.  Maybe that’s why fate put that card just where I could find it in the first place.

 

Amazeballs!

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Amazeballs!

(Yep, I did it. The uncool Dad thing of saying the current slang that was added to the urban dictionary. Deal with it!)

When’s the last time you did something amazing, spectacular, jaw-dropped speechless for your kids?

I don’t mean “I am (insert butler/maid/launderer/chef) for my kids” kind of thing. We all do incredible amounts of work for our kids. I don’t mean the daily grind. I also don’t include soccer practice, baseball, sports competitions, swim meets, school plays . . . none of that. I’m talking about something totally unexpected, off-the-map, hard to do, hard to find, hard to accomplish kind of thing?

I actually managed that this week. I have my share of real life. Guitar lessons on Saturdays. School clubs, student council, field trips, all of that. My daughter had an adventure for Homecoming that had me playing chauffeur for two days.

This weekend I loaded the four smaller Manoucheris into the car and drove up to Portland, Oregon. It’s not because I like rain or the show Portlandia. (Okay, I like Portlandia, but I digress)

You need some back story here. Not Disney Phineas and Ferb backstory. There’s no “stand outside and be a lawn gnome” business going on here. (There’s actually a Wikipedia page of Heinz Doofenshmirtz’s backstories. Amazing! Google the lawn gnome, it’s worth the digression. We’ll wait here for you!)

………….

(Okay you’re back…)

My son has a soft spot for what is called stop-frame animation. He grew fascinated when I was watching a documentary one day on the director Ray Harryhausen. He is the man behind Clash of the Titans and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. My son sat, at age 10, and watched two full hours of the history of Ray Harryhausen. He has a scale model of the Jason skeleton as well as a t-shirt bearing homage to the late director.

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The technique is called stop-frame because you make a model, or puppet, or what have you and you move the model a fraction. You shoot a still frame of film. You move it a little more . . . and a little more. It takes 24 of those pictures to make one single second of a film.

My son decided to start doing this himself. Last Christmas I got him software that came with a web-camera that lets him shoot stop-frame cartoons. I do believe in all sincerity that making these little movies was a boon to my son’s mental health. He was having a really hard time dealing with the grief of losing his mom. The meticulous nature and attention to detail funneled his creativity and helped I am sure of it.

Some amazing movies are made with this system. One of the biggest studios now, a studio my son knows and loves, is called Laika. They have made the movies Coraline as well as The Boxtrolls, and ParaNorman. My kids love and have seen all these films.

Coraline, courtesy Laika Films.
Coraline, courtesy Laika Films.

I reached out to the folks at Laika and told them exactly what their films and what this kind of animation has meant to my son, and to all of us. I simply wanted to have my son meet an animator or talk to one or see the inside of their building, anything would be great. To my astonishment and utter delight they told me I could come up and see them and they’d give us a full tour.

Thus the trip to Portland, the city where Laika has their headquarters.

I kept why we were going a secret, other than telling them we were visiting their older sister. When we pulled up there was no indication where we even had arrived.

“Dad, this looks like an insurance company,” they told me, knowing full well it couldn’t be.

I cannot tell you what we saw. That’s part of the deal. No photos, no phones, non-dicslosure all around is the theme of the day. None of us cared a lick. We were happy to sign it.

My son asked a million questions, enthusiastically and almost giddy. The answers he got had the same level of enthusiasm and imagination. The fact that this little 12-year-old was on the same wavelength seems to have connected with the employees who took us around.

There is nothing to compare with that starry-eyed look of astonishment and excitement when your kids are truly youthful and imaginative and seeing something they’d never thought in their wildest dreams they’d experience.

So why do I tell you this? Am I looking for the “Coolest Dad Ever” award or something? No. This is my lesson to every parent because I learned it well: our kids work really hard not just for themselves but for us, too. When my son was grieving he tried to keep it from me or he tried to work it out even though he was terrified to face it and didn’t want to deal with it. It caused him terrible problems which hurt him and made me hurt as well. I couldn’t fix this problem. Some are just too big for a dad to tackle.  Yet he found this amazing thing that let him work out his frustration and grief and he worked it out as much for all of us as for himself.

So when the thought hit me that if I took the family up to visit their sister, we could stop in Portland maybe they’d let us say “hello.” Instead, this wonderful group of people at a major studio told me to come in and we’d get a tour. We’d not only get to see someone who works for this company . . . we’d see them in action.  I got an event that all four kids will remember for a lifetime. We saw magic – not film magic, though that is there. We saw imagination turned technical turned artistic turned . . . beautiful.

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“This would be the coolest place to work . . . ever,” my son whispered to me during the tour. I can’t disagree.

The folks at Laika told us “we need box office results in order to get the money to keep making these so we’ll need you to go see this film. Maybe see it twice!” It was a joke . . . but little do they know we were at Boxtrolls on opening day and we’ll be seeing Kubo and the Two Strings, their new film (I am allowed to tell you the title) next year, too.

Poster for Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika films, coming out next year
Poster for Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika films, coming out next year

Amazement. Sure my kids showed their amazement, slack-jawed, eyes glistening and floored at the imagination.

I’m not amazed at that. I’m amazed that a group of people who had no need to show us around simply said “come on in!”  I’m amazed at how lively and excited they were with us and the others getting a tour that day.

I’m amazed at the love and humanity of other human beings. That is truly wonderful.

(Yes…I resisted the urge to say “that was truly amazeballs!)

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!”
“Oh…”
“Oh?”
“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.