A rude awakening. Repeat daily.

Well, my summer vacation was fun while it lasted… but today was back-to-school Day #1 in our house, so my leisurely mornings came to a screeching halt around 5:28 a.m. E.D.T.

Three teenagers (and one or two adults) trying to get ready every weekday and catch a bus.

Compounded by the fact that we have only one functioning shower at the moment. Packing lunches (my wife does most of that), signing permission slips, finding lost sneakers… every morning is an adventure.

This too shall pass. Our oldest will be heading to the dorms in a week, with the others soon to follow. Five years from now, I’ll be wistful about our early morning reveille.

But right now I’m just a wee bit tired. One down, 179 to go…

 

And now, in honor of my morning alarm, a new song from The Alarm

Dad fail

I have four kids, yet the only one who occasionally reads my blog is my daughter Leah. We were on vacation last week, so I took a vacation from posting. Big mistake. Because Leah’s birthday was last week. And she pointed out to me that I blogged about Peter’s birthday, and Andrew’s birthday, and Gabriel’s birthday, but not hers.

So, better late than never…

Leah turned 15. She’s 6 months away from getting her driving temps, which just boggles my mind. I still picture her as just a few years removed from this shot:

Don’t worry, she got braces.

In addition to being my only blog reader, she’s also the only kid who, when we’re in the car, puts up with my weird bands with weird names who play weird music (the other kids immediately switch the station to hippin’ and hoppin’). She actually likes Car Seat Headrest, and thought it was cool that Craig Finn of The Hold Steady played a house concert at our place. On the drive down to Florida last weekend, we took two cars (wife and kids are staying two weeks, I’m back at work) and the AC went out on one of them. So I got up early last Saturday morning and drove it from our hotel stopping point in Troy, Alabama (so scenic!) to a dealership that was on the way to our final destination, while my wife and kids headed straight to the beach. Here’s a text exchange with Leah:

I didn’t text and drive, I used speech-to-text.

I love her empathy and her sense of humor. And she also crushed it at school this year, coming up just shy of straight A’s (darn you, Latin III). I pointed out that her birthday was her quinceañera and she immediately broke into this song:

Apparently this song clip has become a meme with the teen set. So I’m learning from Leah.

So sorry I let you down, my darling daughter. Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being you.

 

The Mother and Child Separation

Normally, I don’t like to mix posting and politics, but the latest immigration tactics (nay, antics) of our Demander-in-Chief have taken this beyond a political issue. It’s a human rights issue.

“Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

— Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement.

I’m equal parts angered and saddened. I have “zero tolerance” for this b.s.

As per usual, the fantastic Hitting The Trifecta blog has found the perfect way to express (in a much more eloquent way than I could) exactly what I’m feeling. Author Rickey Dobbs has a way of breaking down complex issues in an engaging, typically satirical way. This most recent blog post absolutely nails it on separating kids from their parents. Please read the entire thing. But if you can’t, this wrap up should bring it home nicely:

If WE are going to do this (yes, “we” are doing this, my co-owners of this representative democratic republic), we’ll need to gather the niños into places where we can keep track of thousands of them all at once. To that end, we’ll be concentrating all of them into some outpost, or maybe a camp.

Gosh, no, it’s not a concentration camp or anything like that! How offensive! *clutches pearls, then realizes I accidentally wore my pearls to work.

But understand: those kids just hoofed it across the harsh Mexican terrain, risking their very lives seeking freedom from unimaginable violence. So, it’s safe to say they’re a scrappy bunch! Because of that reality, we’ll have uniformed men with guns to make sure the kids don’t scale the ten-foot fences that surround their cages.

Word will – and already has – spread to the next incoming “waves” of immigrants that there’s a really shitty patch of territory between the Rio Grande and the Canadian border. If you’re a “got-damn furrner” and you get caught in that 1800-mile expanse, abandon all hope all ye who enter. Oh, and abandon your dreams…especially those “American” ones.

But oddly enough, fully knowing the inhospitable environs that await, they keep coming. They risk losing their children for a tiny chance at giving the kids a better life than is possible at home.

You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” And no one tries to cross the border, via asylum or otherwise, knowing they’ll likely lose their children, unless the alternative is uniformly worse.

 Of course, our government doesn’t have to take your kids if they catch you. We don’t have to make your arduous, desperate life worse than it already is. We do it because we’re America in 2018. There’s a rabid, deplorable electoral base that needs red meat, and you’re wearing red meat underoos. We’re a nation of uneducated playground bullies who elect even bigger uneducated playground bullies, and we always punch down.

And sorry, José. You are both geographically and socioeconomically down.

All of this is to make it clear as day, brought to you by white resentment, economic insecurity, and rich guys who profit from both:

The America of which you’re dreaming is just lighting and camera tricks. It’s not available for you, scapegoats. It’s barely available for us. We are simply making the age-old American reality abundantly clear: you and your family are, perpetually, one generation too late.

 Lo siento, amigos.

So true, so sadly true. The link above in the Hitting the Trifecta blog post is to a wonderful poem that you simply must read. Now! Here are the final lines:

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

 

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

Fred Rogers is having a moment, nearly two decades after his show signed off.

Tom Hanks is set to play him in a movie. A documentary about him called Won’t You Be My Neighbor opened in select cities yesterday. Maxwell King has written a book that is due out soon called The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. This article from The Atlantic website pulls from that book, and demonstrates the care that Fred took in scrutinizing every word that he and his fellow cast members ever spoke on the show, to make sure it was right on target for his target audience of preschoolers.

The writers even coined the term “Freddish” to describe the language. Here’s a great example from the article about how a simple line could morph:

Per the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating into Freddish:

  1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​​​​
  2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.
  3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”
  4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.
  5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.
  6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.
  7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.
  8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.
  9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.

Tons of folks have parodied Fred Rogers, most famously Christopher Guest (with Bill Murray as the bass player) and Eddie Murphy (see below for videos). But the original Fred was a wonderful, caring teacher to generations of kids… and adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special delivery

My 18-year-old son is retired.

He just gave up his paper route, after six long years. It was a weekly neighborhood paper, covering community council meetings and the local high school sports teams, mainly. The job wasn’t a very lucrative gig, when you consider the time spent bagging the papers, delivering, and then collecting payments once a month. But it provided him with some folding money once his Tooth Fairy days were over.

Nice panel van, Mister!

Other than our summer vacations, he delivered every Wednesday for six years. If “80% of success is just showing up” then his route was great career training.

As you might guess, his subscriber base (average age: 72) was dwindling. Sometimes quite literally dying off. In the internet era, no one reads the paper anymore. Heck, half the population doesn’t even know what a newspaper is.

They don’t even get the gossip rags anymore.

Don’t worry that our son will get lazy. He’s still working. In fact, he’s still in the delivery business. But instead of papers, which very few people care for anymore, he’s delivering something everyone likes to consume:

 

 

The other Memorial Day

Today would’ve been my dad’s 87th birthday. Hard to believe it’s been more than eight years since he passed away. He’s still with us in spirit.

Herb (yep, that’s his name) served in the military during the Korean War… and pretty much hated every minute of it. The “command and control” structure fit him like a hairshirt. (Gee, wonder where I get my rebel streak from…) Besides, his biggest battles were yet to come. Watching your wife succumb to leukemia. Moving your four kids to Arkansas. Struggling to get by. Fighting depression.

Not all heroes wear suits. Or fatigues. Sometimes they wear horn-rimmed glasses and polyester pants and thrift shop shirts. And they love their kids, and raise them the best that they can.

Happy Birthday, Pops.

Sweet summer freedom

Today’s the last day of exams for my “rising senior, rising sophomore and rising 8th grader”… which means they won’t be rising at the crack of dawn for a few months. I’m sure they’ll celebrate in typical movie scene/music montage fashion this afternoon.

Well, they’re not the only ones who are celebrating. Daddy is delighted too! Summer vacation also means freedom for me:

  • Freedom from having to wake up 20 minutes early to squeeze in a quick workout (kettlebell swings in the basement – sun’s not out, guns not out)
  • Freedom from trying to wake three teenagers at 6 a.m. (there’s not enough blasting powder in the entire world)
  • Freedom from the headaches caused by the four kids/two bathrooms challenge (it requires a greater degree of planning and precision timing than the D-Day invasion)
  • Freedom from making Peter’s chicken and brown rice lunch (and freedom from our dog staring at me with those puppy dog eyes while I cut up the chicken).
  • Freedom from 26 “hurry up or you’ll miss the bus” warnings per morning (plus or minus 10).
  • Freedom from driving my daughter to school when she ignores the 26 warnings and misses the bus. Which means I have to miss my relaxing reading-filled bus ride to work, and instead I have to park 15 minutes away from my office. (Actually I could park closer but I’m too cheap to pay.)

I know it’ll end all too quickly, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

 

 

 

Stay classy!

It’s Graduation Day for our oldest child.

Seems like just yesterday he was a toddler, and we were signing him up for preschool at the church down the street.

He’ll be leaving the nest in a couple of months, but he won’t be venturing too far from home. He’s attending the University of Cincinnati (dreaded basketball rival of my alma mater… kids are such rebels) to study engineering. I’ve talked to several folks who have either been through the program themselves or have kids who’ve gone through it, and it gets rave reviews. And as my friend Art (who was my college roommate) says, “college can be as far away as you want it to be” – meaning just because you’re going to a school that’s 10 miles from your house doesn’t mean you have to come home every weekend… or any weekend for that matter.

He’s a great kid. He’s smart, kind and a hard worker. He’ll do just fine.

 

 

All That Jazz(ercise)

On Saturday, I attended a Jazzercise class for the first (and perhaps only) time in my life. My wife has been an instructor for nearly two decades, and on Saturday they had a “bring your sweetie” strength training class. So basically it was me and all the other spouses/significant others of the instructors and a few class regulars.

                                                               Team shirt.

My wife has been asking me to attend a class for many years — the answer was always a resounding “no way!”

But some of the other spouses/boyfriends have attended classes occasionally — I call them “curve-wreckers” — and I hear all about it for months. Because it was Mother’s Day Eve, I finally waved the white leg warmers of surrender.

Not me. Not Jazzercise either.

Also, I was promised there would be beer afterward.

Here’s what I learned from my adventure:

1. I am the most uncoordinated human being on the planet.

2. “Jazzercise” may sound like something your grandma does at the senior center, but it will kick your butt. And your pecs. And your abs. And every other muscle area in your body. It’s like P90X, set to music.

3. They really need to update their name… because I didn’t hear a single jazz tune. It was more like a “hot hits” radio station.

4. Beer tastes better after a workout. If I keep going back, maybe I can have both kinds of “six-packs.”

5. Happy wife, happy life!

 

 

 

E.T., don’t phone home

My son’s Algebra teacher is also my new hero. Here’s a note she sent out to parents of her students:

Parents –
I have “preached” from the beginning of the school year, in August, that cell phones are not to be out during class unless I have given permission.  Most students are having no problem with this as I allow them to take the phone out to take a picture of a homework screen on the Daily PowerPoint or to use an app for making note of the homework assignment.  Most students can put their phones away after completing the task.
Apparently my long-term sub was a bit more lenient about cell phone use and some students seem to feel his policies still stand.
Noticing this after my return on Monday, I let students know that my policy still stands.  But, I had to confiscate phones from students today.  My policy is stated in the Policies, Procedures and Rules document all students received from me in August.  It is also posted on Schoology.  It refers you to the Student Handbook for the school’s policy on cell phones.  The pertinent section is on page 12.  The Student Handbook is on the school website – www.walnuthillseagles.com.
I’ve heard all the excuses: it’s my mom letting me know that she’s picking me up after school; it’s my grandma telling me she’ll be coming to get me at a certain time for a dentist appt; it’s my friend letting me know what we’re doing this weekend, and on and on it goes. I even had a student tell me (as their phone was actually ringing), that they needed to take the call.  Did I mind?!
If as a parent, you feel it is more important that your child is always checking their cell phone for a message, please let me know.  I will not repeat instruction, during class or at a Help Time, for students who choose to use their instruction time for cell phone time.  I feel they can last 50 minutes in a class, then check for messages on their way to their next class.  We often finish with a few minutes left in the bell and I haven’t minded that they pull their phones out then.
Emergencies should always come through an office.  I cannot release a student without office notification anyway, so letting them know about something through a cell phone message isn’t the proper or most expedient way to retrieve your student from school.
I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this.
Thanks so much,
Mrs. Burris
 I love it! Her class is the high school equivalent of Luke’s Diner on Gilmore Girls: 

I love the closing lines the most: I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this.