11.12.2018

ONE MORE CANISTER OF COFFEE.

HIM.


Daddy?
he asked.

When you're a sumo wrestler, is it legal to yank down the other wrestler's underwear?

Well,
I said.
I do not know the answer to that question. But it is my favourite question of today.

And it remained the fave.

___

One of the things I love about this boy is the range of his interest, the depth of his curiosity, and his ability to throw himself in equal measure into both physical pursuits and mental ones. To go from racing around the house like one of his current heroes, Jesse Owens, and then go to crafting stories and artwork like his current hero...now that I think about it, I am actually uncertain as to who his current inspirations are. Although he has enjoyed Vermeer as of late, and done his own version of the Girl with the Peal Earring. It's entitled Boy with the Pearl Earring.

Currently bouncing around reading three different books on reptiles, a bio of George Washington Carver, and the Roald Dahl classic Matilda.


___


HER.
Endless, boundless energy, bottled up like human nuclear fusion, with a spirit free and wit to dagger Oscar Wilde.

We have found a shared love of film. I love it so much.

Some families have stringent screen times rules. That's great. To each their own. But I guess in ours...we use what we use when we need what we need, and what we watch, we watch together. A shared and communal experience. Of course, that does not include Becca and I watching Amazing Mrs. Maisel or Designated Survivor after hours.

We're currently watching Spielberg's Lincoln. Already a lengthy story at 2.5 hours, it's turning into a four-hour epic with our frequent stops for explanations and discussion about what's happening.

I like how he focuses on the last months of the Civil War and shows the agony he faces in trying to balance, politically, the conjoined horrors of 1) ending the war and 2) ending slavery; knowing that they're intertwined and that timing will be everything.

There's a lot to explain and talk through. Habeas corpus. The nature of the Republican and Democrat parties then versus now.

You mean...the Republicans were the ones who were fighting to end slavery?!

Yep.
I said.
That's how it used to be. Lincoln's party. Ain't his party no more. No way.



___


HIM II.
These are today's treasures that brought him joy.

Gonna get on a high horse here for a sec: remember this image as Christmas approaches, fellow citizens and parents.

This is joy.

An empty canister of coffee to collect outdoor treasures in. A water bottle. A hat to keep semi-warm from the biting Gorge winds.

Joy. What do you need?



___


THEM.
A little of this, a little of that, and one more of this.


Post-race. She came in first this time around with a time of 28.23 seconds around the house. But silver is honorable as well. 33.07.

And there was one disqualified for not finishing. Or starting.

11.07.2018

A WEDNESDAY : SO MANY MEETINGS.

Prologue. 

People who know stuff about things say it's good to make lists and to state, in writing, what's important in terms of accomplishment for the day ahead.
  1. I hope to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, from first sip to last, while it's...hot. 
  2. I hope to get through the morning without having to clean poop off the floor. 
  3. I hope to - 
(There is screaming coming from somewhere.)

I'm needed. Somewhere. My hiding place isn't good enough.



Chapter 2.

What's your day looking like?
I ask,
as I peer at the bearded face on the screen while I spoon coffee into a French press for rebrew. Or re-rebrew.



He tells me. There are meetings and performance reviews, photo shoots and logistics planning, equipment checks and personnel protocols.

What's your day looking like?
he asks.

Oh,
I say.
Meetings, a lot of meetings about different stuff, and maybe I'll make some lunch sometime, if I can find food. I'm gonna go reheat some coffee now. Good luck with your stuff.

Thanks,
he says.
Good luck with your meetings.

Love you.
I say.

Love you.
he says.

If I'm not in a meeting,
I say,
I'l call you in five minutes.

But I am, so I can't.

So many today.



Chapter 3. 


What are you doing?
I ask the littlest one, I think he's not even two yet.
Why are you standing outside your brother's room with a pencil stuck in the door handle?

Brina.
he says.

("Brina" is what he calls his brother; a derivation of "Johannes" and "brother." Perhaps?)

Are you trying to pick the lock to his room?
I ask sternly.

Uh-uh.
he says continuing to fiddle with it, failing.

I am proud of you for your resourcefulness...
I say, raising my voice so it will carry throughout the house for the next part.
...and this is a reminder to your older siblings that you will try and copy everything they do. Including picking locks.

Brina.
he says.

I'm gonna help you out a tiny bit,
I say, roughly yanking the pencil out of the lock.

I open the door.

No!!!!!
his older brother shrieks.
This is my room!

It's his room too,
I remind him.

Well, I was here first.
he says.

You guys work it out,
I say as I shove the youngest one in and pull the door shut behind me.
I'll be back in a while. Gotta cup of warm coffee to reheat. And then we'll have a meeting to discuss this incident.



Chapter 4. 

Do people actually vote for him?
Magdelana asks as the video ends.

Yes.
I say, putting my phone away as we close out the meeting at which we discussed the previous evening's election results.
People actually voted for Brian Kemp. And now it looks like he's going to be the next governor of Georgia.

You mean he won?

Yep.
I say.
As of last night, looks like it.

But he was pointing a gun at a teenager in the video!

Yeah,
I say.
Some people think those things are funny. And some fathers don't know how to have good conversations with their daughters, so they make up for it by trying to act all tough and wave guns around and act like girls are precious little dolls that are going to get broken unless they jump in and threaten boys with a gun.

Okay...
she says.
But he was also driving around in a big truck and saying he's going to get illegal immigrants...and people still voted for him?

Yeah,
I say.
Many of the same people who voted for Donald Trump.

I do not think Brian Kemp should be a governor.
she says.

Amen.
I say.
Meeting adjourned.






Chapter 5.

One of you is going to take a nap,
I order the class.
And the other two are going to sit in on a meeting of how the Dutch, French, and English colonized the Americas. I will be leading the meeting.

What about the Spanish?
one says.

We're done with them.
I say.
There's a section I wanna get to before Thanksgiving. Who remembers the second permanent English settlement in the Americas?

Jamestown?
one says semi-excitedly.

Wrong.
I say.
That was the first. Think harder. Remember, we're in the 1600s now.

They think harder, but they fail.

Plymouth.
I sigh.
Plymouth was the second permanent English settlement. They came for what reason?

Gold?
one says.

No!
I say.
How can you not remember this?

I berate them viciously before returning to the topic at hand: religious freedom.

Because,
I scream at them to make sure they remember,
PEOPLE SHOULD BE FREE FROM PERSECUTION!





Chapter 6. 

Do whatever you want,
I say.
But put back whatever you get out. And don't get injured badly. Understand?

Uh-huh!
he meets my expectations with cheerful eye contact and agreement, and


heads off to practice going down the slide backwards while holding a fistful of freshly-sharpened  colored pencils in each hand.

As a treat,
I yell as he tumbles down,
if you don't get hurt too badly and don't get any poop or blood on the couch or carpet or clothes, then maybe I'll let you use one of my typewriters later!



Chapter 7. A meeting of nebulas. 

If you can tell me,
I announced,
what happens when a cloud of gas and dust are floating around in space, and gravity starts pulling them together and pretty soon the core is super hot and there's two types of a certain molecule starting to fuse together...if you can tell me what they're called, then I'll cancel the rest of the meeting.

What was the question again?
one says.

Hydrogen.
I say smugly.
Hydrogen atoms. Two hydrogen atoms slam fuse together and form helium, and this reaction at the core is what provides the outward pressure to hold off gravity and keep a star stable for as long as it's alive, which may be somewhere between a million and ten billion years.

You didn't even let us try answering!
they complain.

Well, you should have been more prepared for the meeting,
I say confidently as I smoothly segue to the next point.
Like a star getting ready to die. What happens when the hydrogen goes bye-bye?

More fusion?
one guesses.

NO!
I scream.
Now the star is dying! But how gloriously it's dying! Don't come to a meeting unprepared next time!





Chapter 8. 

Daddy!!!!
someone screamed.

There's poop on the floor!

See: Prologue, Number 2. Pun intended.




Chapter 9. 

We are going to have a little chat.
I announce.
I told my brother I had meetings, plural, so we need to have at least a couple so he doesn't find out I made it up to sound important. So we are going to have another meeting.

Can we wrestle instead?
a boy says.

No.
I say.

But then it turns into a wrestling meeting, and I am injured during this meeting.



Chapter 10. 

We will take a break from meetings,
I announce.
And do some racing. I will time you.

YES!
one says.
The other grins confidently. She is wearing sandals in November.




Chapter 11. "I am ready to face any challenge that might be foolish enough to face me." *

It is bedtime.
I say firmly.

Can we just watch a little Pocahontas?
one pleads.
It would be educational, and it really helps us to learn another perspective about the English settling of the Americas!

No.
I say.
And if you're not asleep in the next thirty seconds, Thanksgiving may get canceled and we'll have meetings instead.

Becca and I sink into the purple couch together and snuggle up with a sigh.

Should we go get lunches ready for tomorrow, or do dishes, or have a meeting about finances?
I murmur?
Or should we watch The Office?

Uh-huh,
she says,
as her eyes close.

A lot of meetings. Can't wait to tell Jonny about them.



___

*Chapter 11 title : courtesy of Dwight Schrute

11.02.2018

THE WEEK BEHIND : Duplass, Sedaris, Norsemen.

Things that are uncountable:
The number of times a week Donald J. Trump lies, throws somebody under the bus, empty-brags, or embarasses the office of the Presidency.

The number of times a week our youngest son commits an act with great forethought and deliberation while simultaneously announcing what he's doing with a repeated series of "Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Uh-oh..."

Accidents happen.

Speaking of accidents: serendipity was a spelling word on our daughter's test today. So it seemed like we should watch the trailer for the 2001 Kate Beckinsale / John Cusack rom-com. So we did.

Cocaine green.
What does your child salivate over for a snack? Let me tell you about our two boys: separated by six and a half years, united in their hilarious addiction to frozen peas for a snack. Yeah. Frozen peas. The green crack snack.

Halloween happened.
A cowgirl. A teenager trying to act all cool. A panda. Or a cow. Hard to tell.

They made a sugar fortune and have enjoyed little of the bounty; fortunately we do not have a security system effective enough to keep me out of their hard-worked for treasures.

Ejvindr has spent the last two days organizing his candy into various buckets, backpacks, and bags. Over. And over and over and over. It has not been communicated to him that there's candy inside these brightly wrapped little objects. Also, learning what candy is has not been part of his education yet, so he is playing with something and has no idea what's actually inside. If he only knew. I have forbade the children, under penalty of throwing away all candy and frozen peas, that he is not to learn the identity of his toys (i.e. candy). Yet. Not yet. The floodgates will open someday. But not yet.

Also, my little sister the older made some pretty nifty costumes for her fam. Straight from How to Train Your Dragon. Pretty cool, pretty crafty.

Standard time.
The clock changes this weekend. Standard time, I think. Fall back?

Phone numbers have seven digits because - at least in the days when people needed to remember phone numbers - seven is the number of digits that most people can carry in their short- to mid-term memory. That's doable. Know what's hard?

Remembering one thing when there's a total of two options. Like : just take a left at the stop sign.

You start second-guessing yourself. I don't take a left, right? Right is right. Not left, right. 

All of a sudden a simple thing becomes extraordinarily complicated. Such is my life. Complicating simple tasks and simplifying complex ideas.

My mom, two books
Several months ago, my mom gave me two books within a couple weeks of each other.

One is called Like Brothers. It's by the Duplass brothers, who really are brothers and filmmakers. It is inspiring and wonderful and these brothers love each other so much, like I love mine.

The other is called Calypso. It's by David Sedaris, one of my favorite writers, and it is dark and hilarious and he writes about his husband and family and all the love and frustration he has in his interactions with them. Also, he talks about American phrases he loathes, such as : it is what it is.

She gave them to me because she thought I'd like them. She has a knack for that. Giving books that somehow are there when I need them. I needed these ones.

Things I hate
Walking across a kitchen floor in my bare feet and stepping in breakfast cereal that some idiot has spilled.

Things I hate more than that
Walking across a kitchen floor in my socks and stepping in sticky rice that some idiot has spilled.

Things that weren't horrible
A) I didn't tip my riding mower over when I made a poor decision to take it diagonally across a hill.

B) A cloud of particular interest flew by around 11am.

C) My dad called last night and said this:

Joey, find the show Norsemen on Netflix. Just watch fifteen minutes. I think you'll be glad. 

I did so, because he's my dad. And I could tell it would make him happy to know that I'd checked it out. So I did. I watched it, as did Becca, until she fell asleep.

I laughed so good. One of the funniest first-episodes of a show I'd seen. He was so right. I can't wait to watch it with him.

The phrase "Python-esque humor" in television is a little like saying "Beatle-esque sounding" in music. It's so diluted it means little anymore. The reality is, we should agree that pretty much all good pop music and rock and roll owes a debt to the Beatles, in the same manner that pretty much all droll and properly-offending television programmes owe a debt to Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, and the crew.

Norsemen, after one half hour episode, has the Python spirit. Its own tone, its own thing for sure, but a proper entrant in the well-done, played-straight classic telly shows.

D) Becca made a really savory, chunky, spicy soup for Friday supper.
E. Magdelana has been baking up a storm. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, all sorts of delicacies.

Things I got worked up about this week and might have given long monologues on as a result

  1. The Renaissance. Yeah, the one that started in northern Europe in the 1400s and was a big factor in the ensuing Age of Exploration, for better or worse. Probably worse for the 80-90% of indigenous populations that were wiped out as a result. 
  2. How much more I like Hungarian composer Franz Liszt than Hungarian composer Bela Bartok.
  3. Prime factorization. I got into a bit of a competition with Magdelana as I got engrossed in one of her lessons. Addicting. Quick: prime factorization of 27. A: 3x3x3 Ready for the next one? Try 428. 
  4. Primogeniture. The concept of wealth and land being passed to the oldest son and its impact on Spain and other European countries as they ran out of land and needed to find more somewhere...hello, Americas! 
  5. There's other stuff. I get worked up a lot these days. For example, I got worked up during the last two innings of one of the World Series games. That was the only baseball I watched all year, but true to form, Johannes, that precious angelic long-haired lad, wanted to know why I was so obsessed with baseball and why it was more important than tucking him in. 

"I guess you'd rather watch your baseball than lay by me,"

he said as he trudged off to bed.

What a masterful guilt trip. I typically loathe them, but you gotta give props where they're due.

Again: two innings of the World Series. I think the Sox beat the Dodgers. 




I worked this week, on my work days - and nights - in the dungeon.
Because that's where I work. It gets cold, and I saw a lot of rain through my dirty cracked window at the top of our mountain.

Listened to a bunch of Chvrches and a lot of Liszt this week.

We are alive, and there is love. We have love, we have loud music, and we have a lot of art supplies. And each other. So another week in the life ledger.


My little sister, the littlest.
She sent me a text this week in response to something I wrote, and her response included these two lines:

"...reading what you write feels like another way to breathe."

and

"I love how sparingly you use commas."

I love, I love it, I love her and I love that she observes and articulates what she observes. It matters.

It means so much to have someone acknowledge and respond to what you do when you do something that you care about.

10.19.2018

TEN HAIKU ON A FRIDAY NIGHT.

Woke early, no kids.
Well, sleeping kid next to me.
Pee spot on bed, gross.

Please, please, keep sleeping,
I whispered; all of you kids, sleep!
Prayer answered, No!

Up they awoke, loud.
Day begun, no quiet time.
Wife to work, take me!

Breakfast, make it kids!
I yell. Not joking, do it!
Then chores, I scream loud.

School starts prompt at nine.
Noah, math, astronomy.
One kid naps with books.

Bartok plays background.
I still like Liszt a bit more.
Hungary music.

Snack, snack, a boy cries.
Okay, frozen bananas,
and some peas too, there!

Toronto stole bro.
No talk all day, busy man.
Change phone number, sad.

Becca calls, mid morn.
Eating snack, more leftovers.
Someone else's food.

Sunny, play outside
clean garage, Rachel call, feng shui.
Jim, Susan driving.

They eat with us, curry!
Photos from Iceland and more.
I want vacation.

10.17.2018

IT'S THE FUTURE NOW, SILLY.

One of the small triumphs in my life has been an ability to play around with constructs of time.

In concrete terms, the ability to be in a difficult situation and place myself outside of that situation, at a point in the distant future, and ask myself:

Will you someday think this is funny?


If the answer is yes, then it opens the possibility of choosing to laugh about it now. In the present.

The accompanying question, slightly less important, but interesting and relevant nonetheless, is:

If you were an onlooker watching this situation unfold, would you find it humorous?


If again the answer is yes, then it is worth questioning whether there might, in fact, be a modicum of humor to be found in the current situation.

That is the preface to what unfolded last night.

It's bedtime,
I told him, scooping him up after night-time rituals had been concluded.

No.
he said.

Uhh, yes.
I said, firmly holding his squirming body.

Book.
he said, using his minuscule meaty hand to grab my cheek and force a direct gaze into his eyes.

You want a book?
I asked.

Uh-huh.
he said.
Two.

You want two books?
I asked for clarification; his 21-month old enunciation of most words still a project in progress.

Uh-huh.
he said, pointing.

Okay, 
I said.
As a fellow bibliophile, I can respect that. Go ahead and choose two books.

I set him down next to one of the piles of books strewn around the bedroom he shares with a brother; there was more than one pile to choose from. He made his decision.

Uh, 
I said.
That's three books.

No.
he said.
Two.

Nope.
I said.
That's three books.

No.
he said.
Two. Two books. 

Incorrect.
I said.
That's three books.

No.
he said.
Two.

False.
I said.
Three books.

No.
he said.
Two.

That is simply not factual.
I said.
You're holding three books.

No.
he said.
Two.

I am right.
I said.
You are wrong. You're holding three books. But for the sake of getting you to sleep soon, I will allow three books on this one occasion.

Two.
he said.

I scooped him up again; a task made more uncomfortable with the three, or two books digging into my chest as he held them tight between us.

You wanna lie down in your crib now, or do you want me to hold you and sing for a few minutes?

Uh-huh,
he said,
lying his head on my chest, or rather, cranking his neck high over the corner of a book so he could sort of rest his head against my shoulder.

The titles of the books he beds with vary, but one thing is constant: they are hardcover.

I sang for quite some time, almost making it through a single verse of Old MacDonald had a Giraffe, when there was a clatter.

Uh-oh.
he said.

Did you drop a book?
I asked; a question to which I already knew the answer.

Uh-huh.
he said.
Two books.

Technically,
I informed him.
You now have two books. 

Book.
he stretched angrily in the dark for the errant literature.

Unfortunately, the moon was on duty and an errant shaft of light squeezed its way into the corner of the bedroom. The tiny pool of light was enough illumination to remind him of the many other book options he had.

Book.
he said, pointing to a completely different title.

No. No no no no and no. 

Book.
he said insistently, shark to blood, his desire for this book growing in proportion to my irritation.

That Richard Scarry book,
I said,
is a wonderful book, and I love it too, and it is also two feet tall. I am not rocking you to sleep while you're holding the big book. 

Note: this is not an exaggeration. It is literally two feet tall. And sixteen inches wide. I measured. My mom gave it to us years ago and it has inexplicably stayed intact, through many hurricanes of the domesticated wild child variety. It is a great book. And it is huge. Physically huge. I did not want to be gently rocking him to sleep while he was holding this giant book.

TWO MINUTES LATER.

Buddy,
I said, as I gently rocked him to sleep while he held the giant book.
This is so not comfortable. 

Two.
he said.
Two books.

I'm going to put you in your crib now.
I said.
Unless your brother is okay with you lying with him. 

He can lay by me,
his tired brother grammatically-incorrectly murmured from his bed five feet away.

I gently maneuvered the little boy, his three little books, his one big book, two stuffed animals, blanket, and poker chips into place under the covers by his brother.

May I lie by you for a couple minutes?
I asked my older boy.

Yeah.

We laid there in silence, the only sounds that of the gentle night breeze outside the window, and the occasional non-stop rustling of the younger one practicing flopping from belly to back and back again, accompanied by a whispered monologue:

Book. Two. Uh-huh. Oh no! Uh-oh. Book. Baa. Baa. Baa? Uh-oh. Book. Two book. Uh-huh. Uh-oh. Moo. Baa. Moo. Baa. Baa! BAA! Woof. Two book. Mama. Mama. Uh-oh. Oh no. Oh boy. Oh no. Uh-oh. Moo. Baa. Two book.

His brother exhibited a degree of patience extraordinary for his eight years, but finally whispered in the kindest, gentlest manner you could possibly imagine:

Can you PLEASE stop moving around and talking? I'm trying to go to sleep.

His little brother, junior by six-and-a-half years, responded with how I imagine Winston Churchill might have responded if he was woken in the middle of the night by a door-to-door evangelist asking if he wanted to join prayer circle.

NO! 

he screamed in the night's stillness; six inches from his brother's face.

I literally watched in the blackness as atoms split and sound waves parted at the vocal blast.

Okay,
I said when my hearing had climbed back up to fifty percent or so.
It's time for you to be in your own bed.

I am bigger and stronger, so I used that advantage, the only one I had left, and found enough squirmy limbs and fat to get him in the air and launch him the five feet into his own crib. With a thud, he collapsed onto the flimsy - but super comfortable - mattress, with a sigh, a grunt, and another noise explosion that made me question whether a diaper change might be in order.

No,
I convinced myself internally.
What happens in his diaper tonight can stay in his diaper. Tomorrow's another day. 

I laid myself down on the floor next to his crib and reached through the slats to hold his grubby little boogery hand.

Book.
he murmured.

No book.
I murmured back.
Time to sleep.

No.
he said confidently.

I whisper-sung to him for a long while and almost made it to the second verse of The Ants Go Marching - that's the one where one ties her shoe - before darkness overtook my eyelids and I nodded off on the cold cold hard floor.

I awoke a great while later to feel the absence of that warm little booger-smeared hand. I panicked for a nanosecond before remembering he was in his bed prison and wasn't smart enough to escape yet, so he was likely fine. The moon was hiding, or taking a pee or something behind a cloud, so I could only listen in the chilly blackness.

I strained carefully to hear signs of life. One child five feet away, slumbering with grunty breaths. The other, the one in the jail bed next to me? Where is he? Is he breathing? Is he okay? Did he get out? Did he climb out a window? What's the matter? Why can't I hear anything? Should I turn on the light?

The moon chose this moment to make a starlet's entrance, gracefully sliding out from behind her cloud curtain and providing a spotlight for the scene in front of me; the actual curtains providing a proscenium for this nightly theatrical production.

Simultaneously as my eyes processed what was in front of me, my ears caught the whispering of a monologue not quite internal, but almost. A whispered murmuring, repeated, accompanied by the rustle.

The rustling of paper. Of paper turning. Paper pages turning.

The boy, sitting up in bed, in what had been pitch-black darkness, Braille-reading his way through Richard Scarry; reading to himself in a whispery monotone.

Book. Two. Uh-huh. Oh no! Uh-oh. Book. Baa. Baa. Baa? Uh-oh. Book. Two book. Uh-huh. Uh-oh. Moo. Baa. Moo. Baa. Baa! BAA! Woof. Two book. Mama. Mama. Uh-oh. Oh no. Oh boy. Oh no. Uh-oh. Moo. Baa. Two book.

He looked up and made eye contact by the light of the moon. He grinned big, and stood up wobbly with his book in the half-darkness.

Hi!
he said.
Hello! Dada. Book. Two book. 

I sighed, and took a deep breath, and thought of the distant future, when I will someday laugh.

Someday.