Saturday, February 28, 2015

Super Why







In a lot of ways, I consider myself extremely fortunate. I have an amazing wife, three great kids, a chorus of wonderful individuals, a quartet of my three best friends here in Pittsburgh, and a supportive family. My job is filled with good people, and they think highly of me and give me responsibilities that have challenge and merit.

One of the biggest ones? My children have never developed the "I'm too big for this" crap. I've never had to convince any of them to play with whatever toys are available, and any play area - even when meant for little littles - is fun for all three boys (with careful supervision and instruction that they are to be with their baby brother at all times).






This morning, the characters from the Super Why TV show showed up at the Mall at Robinson, about forty minutes west of us. We drove down, waited for a half hour in line, and took a nice picture of the boys with them. It was worth it, and all had fun.

Right now, we're playing in the small kids play area. 1 and 2 are following 3 around, and they d manufactured a super hero rescue story to keep themselves entertained. I've only had to step in twice: once when a couple of twelve year old boys knocked over a couple of babies while roughousing, and once when the boys started to fight.

I'm just thinking of how difficult it would have been to do this, if 1 and/or 2 had decided that they were too old or big to meet Super Why or to play together.






I'm lucky.


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Friday, February 27, 2015

Back to School, for a day




Today, I had the unbelievable honor of speaking for an audience of music educators on behalf of the Barbershop Harmony Society. I gave a mini lecture on the benefits of singing barbershop in their classrooms and a listing of the resources available to music teachers from both the Barbershop Harmony Society and Sweet Adelines International. It was wonderful!

It was a bit of a hike: about two hours north of town, so I got a nice, early start. I arrived at around 9:30 and took some time to set up. As the people there are techies also, I wound up using their Apple TV to play the video and audio clips that were part of my presentation.

Kay Seymour, the director of the Pride of Toledo chorus, was my co-presenter, and we worked fabulously well together. She spoke on the history of SAI and what barbershop was and what the function of the four parts was. She spoke about the educational opportunities available from SAI.

I spoke about the BHS and what they could do, starting with singing a tag (Kay was thinking about teaching a tag and, in a case of "great minds think alike," we both picked the same one), and continued with playing a video from the BHS about how great barbershop is. This video included footage from the midwinter convention last month, which was literally hot off the presses. I then skipped my stuff that echoed Kay and told about the various places to go to get free music and support for their programs.

Many, many sincere thanks to Steve Luxbacher for 1) inviting us up to speak; 2) making it so easy to present; and 3) having cookies and coffee available.

Many, many sincere thanks to Kay Seymour, for being so incredibly easy with whom to work and for being a great mentor and friend.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sleepover!




So, we've been having some issues with our garage door punchcode thing: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and I haven't had any time to look at it. Normally, it's not an issue.

Tuesday nights, I have chorus rehearsal and The Wife has orchestra rehearsal. That's Grandma and Grandpa Night for the boys: after violin lessons, they go to G&G's house for yummy treats and fun and games and playing. Grandpa piles them into the car, and they come home, use the punchcode to enter the garage, and eventually get into bed. Last night, that came to a screeching halt before the final step when the garage wouldn't open.

So, Grandpa took the boys back to his house and tucked them into bed. I found out about this at the end of rehearsal (not that I could have done anything about it, being an hour away and the director of the chorus and therefore in charge of the rehearsal). The Wife had I had a brief consultation, and she decided to pack bags for the kids and just spend the night there. While I love my in-laws, I much prefer to spend the night at my house.

So, I stopped over and kissed the sleeping boys before heading home, crossing paths with The Wife about halfway, talking on the phone with her for the duration of the trip. I got home to an empty, dark house, did my nighttime ablutions, and went to sleep: a dark, dream-filled, completely uninterrupted seven hours of sleep. Best part, even moreso than the sleeping: I got to put my car in the garage!!!

I got up this morning, had a nice, leisurely breakfast and shower, and hopped into a warm-ish garage, started my car right up, and went to work. It was glorious.

Don't get me wrong: I love my family and missed them. But, for a night, it was wonderful.


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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Do You Want To Build a Snowman?




This winter has been a crappy one for playing outside in the snow.

When it's snowed, it has generally been immediately followed by several 0 degree days, which are too cold for little people to go outside. Or, the snow has turned into rain, and it's taken juuuuuuust enough of the snow off the ground so that they can't play well. So, we have only been outside in the snow two or three times.

Yesterday was a "cold" day. It was around -6 degrees when I got up in the morning, and I never even tried to go to work. I just worked at home instead. It steadily warned during the day, and it reached around 25 degrees by the end of the day. It was supposed to snow last night.

We stayed at grandma's house last night to make it easier. The Wife had work, and the boys and I went to a Pittsburgh Symphony kid's concert. More on that later. It started snowing somewhere around 5am, and by the time we got through the concert and got settled back home, it was warm enough to play outside.



Today was not a sleigh riding day, apparently. All we did was make snowmen: big snowman, little snowmen, tiny snowmen, and huge snowmen. We had snowball fights as well. This snow was damp and packed incredibly well.

The Wife took The Baby home, and we stayed an additional 45 minutes before coming home. All were happy and not too uncomfortable, even though it turned to rain about midway through our outing.

Best part? No tears. No fights. No anger. Just fun and companionship.



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Friday, February 20, 2015

Pitch Perfect




Wednesday night, I had quartet rehearsal at my house. The Boy was sitting in the lounge chair in the living room, listening a bit but mostly playing on The Wife's iPad. We were singing songs in Bb and Ab, which relevant to this story.

We were shifting from an Ab to a B song, and I remembered a story TheWife had told me. I said, "The Boy, sing your A string." He thought about it and did. I said, "Now go up to first finger B and sing that." He did. I blew the pitch pipe, and he was dead accurate with the pitch.

Go figure that the kid with hearing damage is the kid who inherits The Wife's perfect pitch.

At this point, we're pretty convinced he has it. Blessing and a curse, child.

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He's also reading music quite well. He's working his way through some of the string books we have lying around the house. This child is fearsomely intelligent.


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Thursday, February 19, 2015

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!




For Christmas, The Wife bought me soft, comfy pajama pants that were "A Christmas Story" based: they have the kid's face (glasses & parted hair) with the phrase "You'll shoot your eye out!" They're cute and extremely cozy, so they're a favorite now, when Pittsburgh is living like Anchorage. Yesterday morning, The Baby looked at them, thought about it, and said, "Daddy, is that Clark Kent on your pants?"

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The boys had no school today, and school was already called off for tomorrow because of the cold. Districts like Pittsburgh - which are predominantly bussing districts - don't do this extreme cold well. Nobody wants kids standing outside in this kind of weather, waiting for a bus. I feel worse for The Wife, who needs to juggle three children stuck in the house because of the weather all day. I guess it could be worse - we're not supposed to get any more snow, so she can go to the Toy Library or the JCC or the library or all three.

Maybe I'll work at home tomorrow.

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The Boy is really into the first book in the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. I'm pretty happy about that. They're cute, and have comic-like drawings. We read five to seven "days" at night. It's a chapter book, but a different format. Once this is done, I hope they let me finish the Bone books with them - there's only 20 issues left that they haven't read.

Yesterday, The Wife declared screen time to be over and ordered everybody to read a book. The Boy found one of the Calvin & Hobbes collections on our shelves and enjoyed that for quite some time. I'm cool with that.

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The only positive of yesterday's weather was that, because The Wife's choir rehearsal got cancelled, I didn't have to juggle a quartet rehearsal AND a handful of small children. It makes life that much easier.

Tonight is Flash night. I'll take the boys running at the JCC, then we'll come back and watch Flash after bath time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dueling Children

Yesterday, the boys had no school because of the weather. The temperature didn't hit the teens until late afternoon, when it started to snow. Ironically, it was worse today: slightly higher (5-6 degrees) with snow and ice falling, but there was no delay or anything. Consistency, thy name is not school. But, I digress.

We stayed inside all day, not the least reason was because our hill was nigh-impassable. I took a nap mid afternoon, but other than that, we watched tv, wrestled, played card games and board games, and read. I played a great game of superheroes with the younger two, and we vanquished Batman's and Flash's entire rogues gallery with minimal casualties.

The highlight of the day for me was playing Yu-Gi-Oh! with Little Bear. I dueled him earlier in the day and beat him quite soundly, using his deck (while he used The Boy's). After dinner, we had the most epic duel of his playing career to date.

It was momentous in its scope. It swung from me winning to him winning, to me, to him, until I finally pulled it off: on my very, very last card that I could have pulled before I would have run out (and therefore lost the duel). I got my strongest monster on the field; he pulled a tricky maneuver and banished it from the game. His strongest came onto the field; I strategically removed it from the game. Everything I tried, he countered. Everything he tried, I countered. Until the last move, when he had no defense remaining.

I am so proud of him. It's not every five year old that can play such a thrilling game. He studies his cards and has memorized their attacks and defenses and effects, and he dreams about combinations to use his cards.

I also hope not every duel turns out like this. He'll wind up winning just because of endurance.


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Monday, February 16, 2015

Too Cold to Move




From Little Bear: "The Baby's socks smell like peanut butter!"

Never heard that one before.

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Stuck inside the house today because of the weather: currently nine degrees by the widget in my journal program. I've been under the weather all day, which has fit with the general household hibernation feeling.

The Boy was up at 1am with awful belly issues, and The Wife stayed right along with him. I didn't notice, having a small snuggle buddy to keep me asleep. He was stationed on my chair all day today. We did go to Eat'n'Park with Uncle C this morning, but all of us ordered easy stuff instead of the usual crap.

We filled the day with a Yu-GI-Oh! marathon and some board games, some card duels, and some super heroes and bad guys. I got some work done on my presentation, which is the end of next week and coming quickly. Next trick: finding four or five short videos to play for the assembled educators.

The boys were supposed to have school today. Not really sure why they have school on President's Day, but whatever. The cold cancelled everything - by 9:00, the temperature still hadn't reached as high as 0 degrees F. Little Bear took a nap, curled up half on the couch.

It is currently snowing, meaning tomorrow will be interesting.


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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lazy Day




Today was a "cold" day: we stayed inside and didn't move much from the couch for the day. We tried around 1 to get to Grandma's house, but we could not make it up on top of the hill. I took multiple naps, which goes right along with the sore throat I've developed. Blech.

Last night, we watched the end of Star Wars, and 2 & 3 fell asleep. So, since The Boy was awake, we watched Guardians of the Galaxy together. He really enjoyed it, and he had been bugging me for a couple of months to watch it. The language was a little more colorful than we would prefer, but that's fine. We'll deal with that when we need to: like when he yelled, "G-d damn it!" when Little Bear made a good move in a card game today.

We did eventually make it to Grandma's house, which was great because Uncle C is in town. The picture is Little Bear snuggling with me while we watched Yu-Gi-Oh! earlier today.


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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Space Movies

Watched "Star Wars" with the boys. 2 & 3 fell asleep. So, we decided to do something a little special: Guardians of the Galaxy, which is the most grown up movie he's watched. His response: "I'm so excited I farted!"

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We're snowed in right now. I tried to make it to the JCC to run, but we got halfway there before turning around and going home. Too much ice.

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There is something wonderful and beautiful about my little bear, sleeping on my lap. What a snuggle man.


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Friday, February 13, 2015

Talent Show and Birds and the Bees

Tonight, The Boy and Little Bear are playing in their school talent show. Last year, I missed the talent show because of an early chorus retreat. I'm excited about the whole thing: The Boy is playing "Go The Distance" on his violin, and Little Bear is playing a song from the Suzuki cello book. The Wife is accompanying them on piano. I'm in charge of The Baby and videotaping, both of which I can handle. From what the wife says, this should be a very cute evening: there are kids who sing, who dance, who play different instruments, and a few Stupid Human Tricks, to quote the old David Letterman sketch.

(No, I'm not saying your kid's trick is stupid. It was a bit on a late-night talk show. Look it up. Some of the stuff was pretty cool.)

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Last night's Flash episode was the weakest of the season, and none of the kids made it through the entire episode without falling asleep. The most uncomfortable part was the date between Barry and Linda Park (who was dating Wally West - Barry's nephew and Kid Flash - in the comic, which is weird enough), which ended with him shirtless and popping up from behind a couch. Little more kissing than I really wanted to watch with my children - I don't want to have the discussion about the birds and the bees with a 7, 5, and 3 year old.

Not that I'm against having that discussion - I just would prefer to have it a little later. And one at a time. And not while I'm trying to watch one of my favorite current shows. And not when I'm planning on going to bed soon after the show. Give me a little time to breathe and for the discussion to happen naturally.

I wonder how the discussion will go. I honestly don't know what general viewpoint I'll espouse - other than, don't get her pregnant, and don't play snugglebunnies just for the sake of playing snugglebunnies. I don't think the "wait until marriage" thing is particularly relevant in modern American society. I mean, if you can, and if it's important to you both, then more power to you. Ms. Right is more important than Ms. Right Now, I guess, and you can really make memories that you'll regret if you settle for the wrong person. Then again, we've all done that, and we all have our embarrassing, squeemish memories that we'll take to our graves.

Granted, most of THAT won't come up until later. Most likely, any questions will be the generic clinical, "Where do babies come from?" questions, which has an easy answer. "Amazon.com."


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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Superheroes

Superheroes were played, and villains were vanquished. I fought as Green Lantern, with Batman (The Baby), Superman (guess), and "Cars-man" (The Boy wearing Cars movie pajamas), then I fought against them as the Red Skull. It was pretty awesome.

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The boys ran a solid 12-minute mile at the JCC tonight. That's a pretty darn good pace. Considering that I tend to run 10 minute miles on flat ground, they're not far off of my pace. Sigh. I knew I was going to be passed by my kids, but I thought I'd have a few years first.

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Flash night tonight. Not the most exciting episode, so all boys were asleep before the end of the show. I'm not going to move them for a minute, because snuggling small boys is what I do.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Games




Monday night I was met at the door by Batman (The Baby) and Superman (Little Bear), who really wanted me to play superheroes and bad guys with them. Specifically, they wanted me to put on the Red Skull mask & outfit and be vanquished by the World's Finest. As much as I hated to do so, I declined; I had about twenty minutes from the time I walked in the door to eat, clean up, and leave for quartet rehearsal. Yesterday was chorus rehearsal, which means that I'm not home until 10:30PM or so, so I won't actually see them. Tonight I'll make a special effort to play with them before we go to the JCC to run.

Weirdly enough, due to an event at the temple, tomorrow night is a whole-family-is-home night, once The Boy is done with his chorus rehearsal.
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The boys have started making their own Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. It's really cute. They're drawing pictures and trying to come up with effects and levels and things like that. Of course, everything is grossly overpowered. Considering that the average attack strength of a card is around 1700 or 1800, Little Bear's warrior card with a 60,000 attack is not the most reasonable card. When they find out the programs and websites that will let you print out your own cards - using "official" templates - I think their brains will explode.

It's still cute. Little Bear sits with his deck while he's watching television, drawing cards and playing a phantom game against an opponent. His dreams - that he tells me about in the morning - have changed. This morning, I was dueling him inside the television show. Yesterday, he and The Boy were dueling together, fighting two bad guys. The fact that this is catching their imagination really catches mine!

The amazing thing about children: their new discoveries of something sheds a fresh new light on it. Their enjoyment of the game allows me to enjoy it vicariously. This morning, they decided to duel each other before breakfast. It promotes critical thinking, strategic thinking, reading, talking, spending time together.... it's all a positive.


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Monday, February 9, 2015

Bear Hunting

Yesterday, I got home to find The Boy doing fairly well. Best guess was that he ate something that disagreed with him at the birthday party, and since his digestive system is a bit of a mystery.... GI issues. Voila! Grandma and Grandpa (well, Grandpa because Grandma still has that broken leg thing) cooked us a nice lunch, and we went home to enjoy the day

Since it was pushing 60 degrees, we pumped up the bike tires and sent them to riding. After about fifteen minutes, Little Bear disappeared in the house. Five minutes later, he hadn't reappeared, so I went bear hunting.



Same stomach issues as The Boy. Except for him, it was twice in about an hour, both times resulting in baths. Sigh.

Still, once that initial spurt resolved itself (pun intended), he was fine. At least it motivates me to thoroughly clean the downstairs bathroom.

We watched Jurassic Park with the rest of the afternoon. All boys were in bed around 8, and I followed soon after. This morning, I woke to find three boys in our bed.


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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Leaving Ohio Too Quickly

Last night, The Boy woke up at 11:30 and sprinted for the bathroom - and didn't quite make it in time. Poor thing had an awful stomach incident.

Everybody has belly issues like this one, but - if you've been reading my blog - you know that his tend to be special. I guess, as a cancer survivor, we're always to go respond a little differently and a little more thoroughly than we do for the others. Not that we're lax with 2 and 3; just that a belly issue is regarded as an annoyance instead of an issue of concern.

Flashback, 2013: belly issues lead to a four day hospitalization, which happened right around the contest weekend for my chorus. That was no fun at all.

The Wife let me know via text message. While it was an item of concern, she didn't feel it was important enough that I needed to get home at 3:30am. But, this morning, instead of watching a Dale Syverson coaching session, I went home to care for The Boy.

Fortunately, it seems to have been a one-off thing so far: just the result, maybe, of too many sweets at a birthday party. Still, we'll watch him carefully for a few days.


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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Yu-Gi-Oh!

Little Bear has taken to Yu-Gi-Oh! duel monsters card game like a fish to water. He studies his deck, and he has memorized the attack and defense stats and the exact card effect card verbiage. It's quite impressive, really. The Boy enjoys it as well, and the two of them have huge, epic duels, just like in the anime show. They keep score sometimes, and sometimes they don't. Other times they keep score in the middle. Doesn't matter.

I've got three different "decks" that I've put together, from the couple years that I played regularly. They like playing my decks, even though I usually beat them handily. Except, Little Bear whipped me in the first game I ever played him.

I downloaded a card list for our devices, and Little Bear has started reading about other cards. Won't be long before they're designing their own decks.

I like playing real games with them. They're smart kids with a quick wit, and the time we spend is nice bonding time. We're only a couple years (The Baby reading) before we have Family Game Night!!!


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Friday, February 6, 2015

Running

Yesterday, I took the boys to the JCC for another mile towards their Minadeo marathon. The hard thing about having boys so close together is the sibling rivalry is fierce. The good thing is that the sibling rivalry keeps them going when they'd like to stop.

They're good runners: they've figured out how to keep a nice, even pace, and we finish a mile in about 11 minutes or so - which is really not bad for a 5-year old and a 7-year old. If I could cut down on the crying for whichever kid isn't running well that day and gets passed by his brother....

The Baby doesn't want to run. He watches, cheers on, and plays with whatever toy he brings. I'm cool with that.


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