Friday, February 29, 2008

Refill Please

Last weekend, we took the whole family to the local theatre to see the movie, The Waterhorse.

We loaded up the family van, withdrew the kids' college fund from savings and headed for the cineplex. We were right on time, so Lady Di took the kids in to the theatre while I got the popcorn and root beer. The clerk asked if I wanted butter on the popcorn. My brain said, "Heck, yeah! Just fill the bucket 1/4 full with yellow heaven and let the popcorn settle down into it."

But my cardio system screamed, "We're going on strike, if you do."

The heart won the argument, so with dry popcorn and cold root beers in hand, I searched for my family. Number One Son was sent out to find me and lead me to the correct screen. One half hour later, I was holding an empty bucket and two kids pointing to their empty, open mouths. Lady Di looked over at me and shrugged her shoulders. She also held up a cup and shook the unaccompanied ice in it.

So Dad was off to the concession stand for a refill. That is one good thing about the theatre. This time, when they asked butter or not, I said to myself, "Since I am making this trip and missing some of the movie, I deserve a little butter."

"Load it up", I said and went to get a root beer refill.

As I walked back to our movie, I tried to eat all of the 'wet looking' kernels so the family wouldn't notice the grease increase in the bucket.

It must have worked because nothing was said and another bucket disappeared.

We all enjoyed the movie. Sweet Pea was a little sad at the end but made it through OK.

Both kids sat still throughout and that pretty much is the highest rating we give kid movies. The Waterhorse gets our four greasy thumbs up.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Red Carpet Treatment

Tonight (Sat.) was opening night for Number One Son's play, 3-6-9 Kid. 3-6-9 Kid is a hilarious musical comedy about World War II, Nazi Germany and the Jewish underground. Sounds like a light hearted romp, doesn't it? It was just like Schindler's List, except with music and dancing. Even though it was a serious subject for children's theatre, the kids did a very good job. Oftentimes, children's theatre is almost too comic and silly. It was refreshing to see some actual dramatic acting from some of the kids. The musical was based on a true story about a girl who helped POW's escape the Nazis during WWII. After the war she came to live in Minnesota until her death in August, 2007. 3-6-9 Kid was actually written and directed by a local artist.

The play wasn't all serious though. There were a few jokes, a few forgotten cues and lots of cute kids. Number One Son played a deputy in the village and had two lines. When the sheriff called his name, N1S was a little late coming on stage. When they called his name a second time he came racing out and slid to his spot like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. But he recovered well, delivered his lines and got the laugh.

The end of the musical had a large swing dance number involving all 76 cast members. Since N1S is one of the younger cast members, he was front and center. He also noticed where Mom and Dad were sitting in the audience so he was able to cover his face whenever we tried to take a picture.

When all the kids came out for curtain call, N1S was so caught up in the moment that he tossed his hat, Frisbee style, into the audience. N1S has a lot of fun on stage and shows no stage fright at all. He says he wants to be in more plays, so we will keep encouraging him to do so. It's a good way for him to make new friends and practice his friendship skills. He also fits in a little better, since theatre kids are a bit goofy and dramatic anyway. The stage seems like an environment where he can relax, be himself and also ham it up a bit. Mom and Dad can relax a little too.

Our children's theatre has a tradition where the cast members decorate boxes or bags to display in the lobby. At intermission, audience members can place little messages or treats in the actors' boxes. This was N1S's second play, so he used his box from last year and added a picture of himself to the box from this play. Eventually, his box will be covered with pictures from many plays.

When the play was over it was time for the paparazzi (parents) to go to work. Once the photo sessions were over, the family went to our own after-party for some Shamrock Shakes.

Life is sure hectic when you have a celebrity in the family. Next year, Sweet Pea wants to try out. She certainly is dramatic enough, but I'm not sure if we are ready for the diva treatment.

I've heard that guys often try out for plays to meet girls. N1S seems to have figured that out already.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

And God said, "Let there be light!"

Let me know if this has ever happened to you. The family and I were attending our Wednesday night church service last night. At ten minutes before the start of service, I made sure that both kids used the bathroom. On occasion, we have been caught in the middle of service to attend to a bathroom emergency. And since we usually sit towards the front of the church, it is a long walk past the knowing looks of the congregation to the back of the church when one of the kids has to go.

So as Number One Son and I entered the bathroom, a couple of other men were just exiting, leaving N1S and myself alone in the bathroom. We each took a stall. When N1S was finished, he went to the sink to wash his hands. After drying, he went out the door and out of habit, turned the lights off on his way out. That left me sitting in the complete dark. No windows, no emergency lights, no fancy church candles, complete blackness. To make matters worse, the toilet paper wouldn't unroll and I couldn't see where the end started. So I tried scratching all around the roll to find the end of the paper with no success. I knew church would be starting soon, so I gave the roll a vicious Price Is Right Wheel spin. That worked but I now had half a roll of paper on the floor. Just as I solved my paper problem, someone came into the bathroom and turned the lights back on. He was probably puzzled as to why the lights were off, but I'm sure he was even more confused when I came out of the stall a minute later.

I'm glad we both upheld the 'guy rule' of keeping our eyes down at all times in the bathroom. Hopefully, he didn't recognize me as I power walked to the sink and ducked out the door.

When I asked N1S why he shut off the lights, he said he didn't even remember doing it. I guess I will have to start bringing a flashlight to church.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sonny and Share

With Valentine's Day over and the weather still cold enough to freeze your nose hairs, what is there to do now? I guess you open your kids' valentines with them and inspect (confiscate) their candy. They each got quite a few suckers, and gummies. They also got a box of hearts each from Gramma. The chalky hearts with the pithy love messages that are sometimes smeared or misprinted. I think the reason these hearts are marketed by the box is so they can sell as many as possible before people realize that they taste terrible. I don't think I've ever seen a box completely empty. Even if someone actually likes this terrible candy, there are always a few pink hearts that get thrown away with the box.

I tossed the pixie stix, taffy and poison hearts aside to evaluate the chocolate haul. Each kid got a small Hershey bar and a couple of Kisses from their classmates. I guess Valentine's Day just doesn't measure up to Halloween's chocolate collection. Luckily, Gramma, sent four fun-sized Hershey bars for each child. So I decided to play my Dad card and teach the kids a little lesson on sharing.

I pointedly asked, "I wonder who is going to be a good sharer, and share their chocolate with Dad?"
No response.
"I said, who is going to share their chocolate with DAD!"

Sweet Pea then slid her box of toxic hearts over to me and said, "You can have these, Dad. I don't even like them."

I then had to clarify, "No, I said who is going to share their chocolate with me?"

Number One Son then held out one of his bars and pulled it back when I reached for it. He laughed at me and then eventually gave me one of his chocolates.
I praised N1S for being a good sharer, hoping that Sweet Pea would notice. SP noticed and piped up, "Am I a good sharer too Dad?"

She was now set up perfectly for my Dad life lesson. "I'm sorry SP. You only shared the candy hearts that you don't even like. You have to share something you like, to be a good sharer.", I explained.

I left the room for a minute and when I returned, SP informed me, "I guess I really do like those candy hearts, but you can still have them."
That little stinker found a way to be a good sharer without giving up her chocolate. I can feel my Dad powers weakening.

On a related note, we went to the high school basketball game last night and N1S wanted to sit with one of his classmates. This is a pretty big deal for him and us. He usually doesn't show much interest in what others are doing and sometimes struggles to socialize with his peers. We also know that this is a sign that he is growing up and not our little boy anymore. But last night he made us proud. He took his popcorn with him to sit with his friend, M, and he even shared some with her. I wasn't sure if he would offer or not. Fifteen minutes later he came bounding up the bleachers toward us.

"Can I share a sucker with M?" I couldn't say no. I gave him fifty cents to buy a few suckers and he let M choose which one she wanted.

Interacting with his peers in this way may seem pretty normal for third graders to act, but N1S has had to learn the tools used in social situations. We have been trying to go to places where we feel safe to let the kids go a little and give them a little more freedom. Church and school events seem to be a good fit to let the kids grow. Plus, events like these show the kids fun things to do as a family. They are good for the school, community and us. As the kids grow, they will be comfortable participating on teams and in groups and have some pride in their school, community and themselves. It's not easy for Lady Di and myself to let the kids go. We want them to stay small and sweet forever. But when the kids experience life in such positive ways, it makes it somewhat easier to watch them grow up.

All a parent wants for their kids is for them to grow up happy and prepared to live life on their own someday. I don't want it to happen any faster than it is happening now. We have to enjoy the kids in the present, because the older they get, the faster time flies. We just have to make sure they have enough chocolate.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Be Mine

Since we are in the season of love, we honored a timeless holiday tradition by taking the kids out to choose their Valentine cards. You can no longer just get a Valentine assortment of old jokes and puns. No more "Bee my Valentine" with a picture of a bumblebee. Gone are the arcane expressions "You Send Me", and "Oh, You Kid!"

This year we had many 'cooler' choices for each child. Sweet Pea had to decide between Disney Princesses and Bratz. I'm glad she made the right choice. For some reason I just can't stand anything concerning Bratz. SP also had her eye on the Shrek Valentines which were Scratch and Stink. But in the end, the Princess glitter tattoos were the deal makers. I'm not sure, but I think the tattoos in the Bratz Valentines were for the lower back only.

Number One Son had a few choices as well. He could choose from Spiderman, Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean. N1S was pretty predictable. He has been in a pirate play, had a pirate party and loves to read Jack Sparrow chapter books. And of course, his valentines included pirate tattoos.

I hope the kids don't expect tattoos for every Valentine's Day or we may have some trouble when the teen years come.

When those days do arrive, I know that I won't have to weather the storm alone. I know that Lady Di will be right there beside me. That comforts me greatly. When I see all of the loneliness in the world, I realize how blessed I am to have someone to share my life with. Someone to support me and challenge me. Someone to listen to me and laugh with me. I treasure all of the small moments we have together. Just sitting together on the couch, under a blanket, watching the news fills me with a content, warm feeling of belonging. We were meant to be together. I feel very fortunate that we found each other, and I'm looking forward to the next thirty to forty years of small moments. That many small moments add up to a pretty full life. Thank you, Lady Di, for filling my life with love and happiness. I love you.

Happy Valentines Day, and thanks for Bee-ing my Valentine.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ashes to Ashes

Last Wednesday we were driving to church for Ash Wednesday service. Number One Son was excited to tell me all about what he knew about Ash Wednesday. It's kind of his thing to want to remember all about certain dates and the traditions that go with them. When one holiday ends he starts preparing for the next one.

So as we were driving, he was telling me that tonight the pastor was going to put ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. He then went on about the ashes being from palms and lent is starting and then palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter,....etc. I had to cut him off before he got to Flag Day.

Sweet Pea was uncommonly silent during all of this. After a few minutes she sheepishly said, "I don't want Pastor to put ashes on my forehead."

N1S immediately piped up, "Why? It doesn't hurt."

I asked, "SP, do know what ashes are?"


I explained that ashes are just like dust.

She seemed relieved to hear that. I asked her what she thought ashes were.

She said, "I thought Pastor was going to put those ashes on our heads that we leave there for a long time and they burn a cross into our foreheads."

"What kind of church do you think we go to!?"

I had to wonder, when did she ever see anything like that going on in church? I know some kids think of going to church as torture, but I didn't think they were being literal.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Super Movie Sunday

Super Sunday came and there was much excitement and anticipation at our house. Well, Number One Son and myself were excited. Sweet Pea and Lady Di, not so much. After church, we literally had several hours to wait for the game, so we put in a movie to watch. Which movie did we watch? Only the best movie to ever come out of the eighties.

Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Cool, I know. I loved the Indiana Jones movies as a kid and wanted to relive some of my youth. I also wanted N1S to experience the Jones movies to get caught up in case he wanted to see the new one coming to theatres soon. And if he does want to see the new release, I know someone who will want to see it with him.

To me, the Indiana Jones movies are perfect for a nine year old boy and a thirty eight year old boy. Even Sweet Pea eventually got into it. I did have to warn them both that there was some shooting and bleeding, but it was not real and they are only actors. I forgot to warn them about the men with melting faces at the end of the movie. It's OK because Sweet Pea said she closed her eyes for that part. Number One Son only said it was 'Cool!'

When the movie was over Sweet Pea was excited to tell Lady Di all about her favorite part.

"I liked the part when Junie B. Jones found the snake in the airplane.", she related. That actually was the third time she had referred to Indy as Junie B.

Oh well, I'm just glad she sat still for two hours. And she did enjoy much of the movie. Maybe I will be able to take two kids to the theatre this spring.

The movie ended just in time for pizza before the big game.
For the record, N1S predicted the Patriots to win 9 to 6.
SP forcast the Patriots to win 6 to 1.
I guessed the score to be 32 to 13 in favor of the Patriots.
I guess we were 0 for 3 on who won, but the kids were definitely closer to the final score than I was.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Dancing Queen

Last Friday, I went out on a date with a very special lady. Sweet Pea invited me to escort her to the Dad-Daughter Dance. Sweet Pea was so excited to go that she talked about it non-stop for two weeks. We also got a lot of milage out of using the dance as a behavior modifier. If SP didn't want to eat her green beans, all we had to do was ask her if she still wanted to go to the dance. Leverage is such a great parenting super power.

When the big day arrived, I couldn't wait to come home from work. While I was at work, SP was busy too. And when I say SP was busy, I mean SP and Lady Di were busy. Lady Di called me at work three times to remind me that I had to come straight home to get ready for the dance. I think she was just as excited as SP.

After school, Lady Di took SP to the nail salon. I guess they were having a kindergarten dance special, because Lady Di said it was full of little pixies. Then they went to get SP's hair done with curls, sparkles and a butterfly to match her dress. If you want to see more pictures of Sweet Pea, you can visit 'Life is Good'. I'm glad Lady Di told me to wear my sport jacket, otherwise I would have been embarrassingly underdressed.

Once dressed SP and I went to Perkins for our pre-dance meal. It was nice to sit with her, just the two of us, and talk. Being a five year old girl, she had plenty to talk about. She even managed to squeeze in a burping demonstration for me. What a fancy girl.

We then went to the elementary gymnasium decorated with lots of hearts, cupids and all things pink. There were probably fifty or more Dad and Daughter couples attending. Over fifty kindergarten girls in princess dresses, squealing and giggling the night away. The night started out with all of the Dads singing a Valentine song to their girls. Then we got down to dancing. And we really 'got down'. We did the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance. And a dance SP liked to do where she held my hands and slid her feet between my legs and have me pull her up again. This was a workout for an old guy in a suit.

We had a couple of welcome breaks to draw for door prizes and drink punch. There was also a snack table with a fancy white table cloth. On the table were meat and cheese sandwiches, Valentine cookies, pillow mints and a bowl of cheetos with a fancy spoon. Very elegant.

We both had a great time, and were exhausted when we got home. I was hoping I wouldn't get a sugar cookie/cheeto hangover in the morning.

Thank goodness I had Lady Di watching out for me. I had no idea what to expect at a Dad-Daughter dance. Lady Di was the one to get us both dolled up properly. I certainly didn't have a clue that there would be a formal dress code. Lady Di also suggested going out to eat before the dance and make the night a special one for us. I wasn't even smart enough to know to get a corsage for SP. Lady Di was really on the ball and her efforts really made the night a magical one for both of us. I hope she can experience as much fun at a Mom and Son dance sometime.

I'm glad our FYCC community group supports events like these. This will be a memory that I will keep for many years to come. Since we had so much fun for SP's first dance, I want to be her date for every other dance that she attends. I'm her Dad and that's final. I know I will probably only be her date for a few more years, but as she grows up, I hope she will never feel embarrassed to dance with her Dad.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Singin' In The Snow

Number One Son had his third grade winter vocal concert last night. He had lines to say and everything. He spoke them very well. I'm glad he got to stand in the front to deliver his lines, because that was the last time I saw him during the concert. As it turns out, we had chosen seats that lined Number One Son up directly behind his music director. When the kids finished a song, we got to glimpse our son while the conductor stepped aside to allow the choir to receive their applause. Then the beginning of the next song would bring us all back into hidden alignment.

So since I didn't get to see much of N1S, my attention strayed to some of the other kids. One boy in particular was very entertaining. He stood on the end of one of the risers and didn't look at the music teacher once. Instead, he faced his parents directly in the audience and performed his own creative dance for each song complete with Jim Carrey type facial expressions. Even Sweet Pea noticed him and laughed out loud a few times. He wasn't too bad either. Very expressive and creative.

The concert turned out to be nice and short. Just long enough to enjoy what the kids had learned musically this year, and just short enough to avoid one of Sweet Pea's, 'I'm so bored' solos. Afterwards, we stayed to talk to N1S's music teacher and a few of his other teachers who were there. While Lady Di was talking, N1S sat down to a piano that was nearby and showed off for some of his friends.

We then went out for dessert to celebrate. The kids got sundaes and Lady Di and I split a piece of peanut butter pie. Of course, both kids asked for a taste. Sweet Pea's eyes got big after her taste and she said, "I've got to order that next time!"
Isn't it great when you can be inspired by music and peanut butter in the same night?

Stuff About Me

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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.