Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hey Gramps!

Happy Birthday to me!
Cha, cha, cha.
I live in Minn-ie.
Cha, cha, cha.
I look like a monkey.
Cha, cha, cha.
Cause I am For-tee!
Cha, cha, frickin' cha!

Actually, my birthday was last week but you tend to get a little behind when you're as old as I am. On Saturday, Lady Di surprised me with a birthday party at a local restaurant. My folks and my sister's family came in for the weekend and I thought we were just taking them out to eat. At the restaurant I discovered twenty-five extra family members waiting to sing Happy Birthday to me. It was humbling and heartwarming to see so many well wishers. Or maybe they all gathered just to see how much wear and tear forty years had inflicted on me.

Our group was so big, the cake Lady Di brought wasn't enough. So she sent our nephew, Kubes, out to get a backup. This is what he brought back.

In case you can't read it, it says, "Looking Good Kubes Happy Birthday". Did he just get a cake telling himself how good he looks? Or maybe it was supposed to read "Looking Good From Kubes", and he just didn't want to pay for the extra frosting. Regardless of the message, the cake still tasted great after a huge Mongolian grill bowl of meat and vegetables.

After eating, the kids helped me open my many nice gifts and luckily they were either golf or book related. No embarrassing gifts meant to augment or improve what time has diminished.

Well, now that I've reached the big 4-0 I suppose I will have to get used to some different routines. I will have to get more fiber in my diet now so I will start drinking more Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat. Throw in a couple ibuprofen and chase it with a shot of Geritol and I will be ready for the morning. I can spend the afternoon at the Cane Emporium and then drive the Cadillac home on the freeway at 53mph. Then I can enjoy supper at 4:30 in the afternoon and finally get caught up on what Matlock is up to.

Well, it's almost 9pm. Time to put on the night cap, put the teeth in the water glass and set the alarm for a bathroom run in two hours. Can anyone help me turn off this Internet, Google, dot e-mail doo-hickey?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

With a Little Bit of Luck

So far this spring is starting off well for me. Lately, the weather has been nice but not nice enough for the grass to grow. That is lucky for me since the mower and snow blower haven't rotated spots in the garage yet.

The most positive thing about this spring is, I already have played nine holes of golf. With young kids at home I have been averaging about three rounds of golf per summer for the last ten years. And I never get to start before June. But this year's early start has me hopeful about increasing my average rounds per year.

Last week I was lucky enough to have a day off from work. My luck also extended to my neighbor (we'll call him Eric, mainly because that's his name) who just happened to have the day off too and was yearning to knock a few golf balls around the pasture.

The weather was perfect even if the golf course wasn't. Our dry spring has delayed the grass from growing. This actually helped my game though. Less grass meant more roll for me. And since my drive usually mostly rolls on the ground, the more roll the better. More luck for me.

The greens were a little hard and the wind was blowing against me on every hole, though. I'm sure I could come up with a few more excuses if I really wanted to.

Even though luck was on my side this day, it didn't help my score too much. That's OK though. Even the worst day of golfing is better than the best day at work. Here is our scorecard for the day.
You may notice something strange about our score card besides the futility. The score doesn't quite add up. Now, I have golfed with people with creative math skills before, but they usually would miscalculate their score to appear lower. My good friend Eric actually added extra strokes to both of our totals. And he even added more strokes to his own score than to mine. My luck is just piling up. Eric probably has some master plan involving artificially inflated handicaps to give us an advantage at the end of the year tournaments. The sorry part is that my handicap usually inflates itself naturally enough by the end of the year. Anyway, it was still nice of Eric to let me win one game this year.

Now, I can't wait for the next golf outing. I know a lot of things to not do next time. Number one on the list is, don't hit the ball as many times. Hopefully, I'll have as much luck as this time. If I do, I'll post another scorecard. If I have less luck, the scorecard will probably get lost somewhere.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gold in 2016!

Over the years our kids, like many I'm sure, have on occasion been called, Little Devils. Well, now they have graduated to a new level of deviltry. They have both joined the Sea Devils swim team.

Sea Devils is a swim club that trains and coaches kids to race. At registration, each child received an in-pool evaluation to place them in proper levels. Then Mom and Dad got soaked with all of the swimming equipment needed. I thought all you needed was trunks and water to swim. Apparently, you need a mesh bag, goggles, swim cap, nose plugs, snorkel, fins and Aquaman action figure. And water logging swim trunks have been replaced by sleek spandex jammers. Before leaving for Number One Son's first practice, we asked if he was ready to go. He answered, "Yup, I've got my jammies on." N1S got a chuckle out of himself with that one. I'm glad he said that at home and not in front of his swimming group.

Sweet Pea has all of the same equipment except she needs to wear socks with her fins. Her feet are just a little too dainty to keep the fins on. But when you swim like a fish it's a miracle she doesn't swim right out of her suit. She is one level lower than her big brother, but it won't be long before she is moving up.

They each practice two evenings per week and, of course, on opposite days. N1S is on Tuesday/Wednesday and SP swims Thursday/Friday. Add that to Girl Scouts, dance and piano and that make a busy week. So, unfortunately, one activity had to be axed. SP reluctantly chose to take a break from dance.

So now all we have to do is book our daily 5am pool time for training for the summer Olympics in four to eight years.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't Forget To Breath

Last weekend we discovered an unlikely teaching tool for our kids. As you know, Number One Son has Asperger's and must learn most social cues and rules. This aspect of Asperger's can often make Aspies easy targets for bullies. Luckily, we have only had a few minor instances in which N1S was able to learn from a run in with a bully.

This weekend we rented a movie that does a good job illustrating what works and what doesn't when dealing with bullies. We rented The Karate Kid. For those who aren't familiar, The Karate Kid is a story about a youth that moves to California, gets picked on by the karate club in town, learns to 'paint a fence' and earns respect from the bullies by winning the karate tournament. Sorry for the spoiler but the movie is over twenty years old.

Movies like this are just right for our 6 and 10 year olds. It has a little adult language but only enough to remind our kids of what words we don't use. This movie is also good in that it clearly defines the bullies from the good guys. This distinction is often difficult for Aspies to work out for themselves in the real world. So we used this story to illustrate what happens when certain choices are made. N1S figured out most of the subtleties of the characters, but he still needed a little bit of direction at times. Like when Danny's girlfriend was mad at him. N1S asked me why she was mad. I safely deferred to Lady Di for the answer.

When Danny gets baited into a fight with the stronger and more experienced karate gang, it ends poorly for Danny. Some situations are good to walk away from. Later, when Danny sees an opportunity to play a joke on the head bully in the bathroom, he chooses to spray him with a hose. Again, it ends poorly for Danny.

However, we don't want N1S to look for every opportunity to walk away. We want him to recognize the signs of trouble brewing and not get baited into making bad choices.

The movie also illustrates the good choices Danny made. Such as not letting the bullies affect his relationships with others. He didn't let the bullies turn him into one of them. It also showed how Danny chose to do something about his situation and not just give up. He worked hard and trained and eventually earned the respect from the bullies.
This was a movie I enjoyed when I was in high school. The kids were amazed that I had actually seen this in the theatre.

The fun part about this movie is that we can now reference it to many other teaching situations. Now when I want the kids to do something, all I have to do is use my gruff, limited English, Mr Miyagi voice.

"N1S-san! Show me 'practice piano!'" "Breath in through nose, out through mouth."

"Sweet Pea-san!" Show me 'clean room!'" And then she answers, "Most important. Don't forget to breath."

Kidding aside, The Karate Kid is a pretty good movie to teach simple lessons about social interactions. Even though real life is one hundred times more complex, N1S will still need to be introduced to as many social situations as possible to learn the tools needed to make correct choices. Movies that involve good guys and bad guys are a safe way to instruct without N1S actually encountering a real bully. Don't miss an opportunity to plant the seed of learning.

We will have to search the 'Oldies' section of our video store again for another blast from the past that may help through another social situation. Maybe we can rent Teen Wolf for next time to learn how to react when our changing bodies grow fur and fangs. Any other suggestions from the eighties?

So now my kids, hopefully, will 'paint the fence', 'sand the floor' , 'wax on, wax off', and 'vacuum the carpet' without question, thinking that I may just be training them for the next big karate tournament.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Beauty Is In The Ear Of The Beholder

Music is in the air in more ways than one. The birds are starting to sing outside because of the warm weather. The kids are still being forced to sit in front of the piano 30 minutes a day to practice. And Number One Son's recorder arrived in the mail. I'm not talking about a tape recorder. I think some antique shops may still have one of those left. Otherwise, the ones that haven't made it to the landfill are at the museum.

The recorder I'm talking about is the black flute we all tried playing in grade school music class. Apparently, the school offers recorders for purchase complete with music book and CD. So now we can enjoy all of the squawky, whistley, ear piercery beauty of the recorder in the comfort of our own homes.

We get to hear Hot Cross Buns, Merrily We Roll Along, March of the Recorders and many more timeless (outdated) classics. If I can find a recorder book of Green Day songs, I'm buying it at any cost.

N1S has a certain advantage in that he has taken piano lessons for a few years and can read music. But even with this talent, his playing has prompted this plea from his little sister.

Everyone's a critic. I don't know where 'You are my king' came from.

N1S 'rockin' out on the recorder. I told him, "Chicks dig a guy in a band."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April Fool's Day

These are the fools of our lives

You'll notice one glaring omission from our display. I just couldn't find a picture of Lady Di that was embarrassing enough. Sorry, maybe next year.

Stuff About Me

My photo
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.