Friday, October 18, 2019

Cursive Words


I think we all want to protect our kids, to teach them right from wrong and hope our lessons stick. We lead by example. We monitor what they watch or how much they watch it. We hover and direct and guide and nourish. But there’s only so much we can do, right?

As a first grader, my kid is learning all sorts of new tricks. He’s reading on a high-level, doing his homework and even writing his own books. He’s hoping to have a book published on the same day mine is set to be published. That way we can celebrate together.

His behavior is … well, tricky. Mostly he’s fine. He throws the occasional fit and has the occasional bad day at school. Sometimes he'll ask me about a movie he’s hearing about on the playground. Apparently some of these first-graders are watching Chucky or It or at least pretending to have watched them. 

He’s also finding out all sorts of new “cursive words” as they’re called in our house. Words like jerk or suck or his favorite saying, Shut your piehole.

Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t let him go around talking like that. And I don't. I mean, it’s rude and disrespectful and he knows that. Yet, part of me goes all warm in the chest, thinking how well I'm doing. I mean, cursive words. How cute, right?  

Fast forward. He's in school. In class, sitting on the carpet as the kids are doing some sort of group activity. The teacher is well, teaching, while my son, by his own admission, isn’t exactly paying attention (say what you will about him but he is honest). 

From what he’s told me, here’s what happened:

My kid leaned over to his friend, a friend we’ll call Bryan. My kid said, “Hey, want to hear the naughtiest word in the world?”

Bryan nodded, because of course he did. I imagine his lips curling into a sly grin, eyes gleaming at the opportunity to add to his arsenal. My kid took a quick, not-so-discreet peek around, then unleashed his filth. 

“Shut your piehole.”

I imagine my kid was awfully proud of himself, having acquired such a filthy vernacular at such a young age. Yep, I expect he sat back, thinking, Taught you something there, didn’t I?

At least until Bryan, without missing a beat, deadpanned, “No it’s not, it’s mother f****er.”

Yeah. I know, right? I would've laughed if I wasn't watching my only kid’s innocence drift off into the sky like a runaway kite.

When he recounted this story to me, he must have seen my eyes bug out of my head. I tried to recover, but, I mean how?

Eventually we got things squared away. He knows the word but doesn't use it, (although he does tell me when he's thinking about "Bryan's word"). It's the nuclear option, something we don’t say in our house. We’re good, so I thought, until he approached me the other day, stumped while writing a scene, pondering his artistic liberties.  

He tapped the pen to his cheek. “Dad, I have some real naughty ghosts in this story. Can they use that word, the one Bryan—”

“No. Nope. No, not doing that.”

Hey, I could've told him to shut his piehole. 


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Fraud


My son’s a bright kid. I’m not bragging, the little guy is just quick to pick up on things. We role play, we do comedy skits. Sometimes it’s easy for me to forget he’s not yet seven years old.  

We’re eating breakfast yesterday morning. Chocolate Cheerios for him, Chex Mix for me. We sit, slurping up our man-sized bowls, and I’m going through some mail left over on the table. One of them is a replacement credit card.

I see him watching me, and I try to sneak the card back into the envelope so that I can take care of it later. Still, nothing gets by this kid.

“Is that a credit card?"

Yep. Oh, side note. He has this little prank he plays where he opens the junk mail and fills out the forms (usually in crayon) then sends the prepaid envelopes back in the mailbox, flips up the flag. He finds this hilarious. Usually, either my wife or I intercept this secret return-to-sender when he’s not looking. No harm done. At least until that time over the summer when a couple of elderly funeral home employees arrived to follow up on our interest to plan for this not-so-easy time. Oops.

Okay so yeah, credit card. I found my older, expired credit card and handed it to him so that he could put it in his wallet with his library card and at least four of my former driver’s licenses. (Yes, I know, not the smartest move, but it’s not like the wallet leaves the house). But now he’s all wound up, ecstatic, asking questions in detail. I almost thought he was going to start grilling me about the interest rate and ATM fees. 

“So, how much money is on this card?”

I wave the new card in the air. “Well, until I call this one in, I’d say about five grand.”

His eyes go huge. I’m still not catching on that he’s not catching on the joke. 

“Really? I can buy those football pants I want?”

“Yep”

“And a helmet, like, the hundred-dollar helmet at Dicks?”

“Uh, huh.”

“Candy?”

“You bet. By the truckload.”

Here I should’ve seen he was getting entirely too worked up. But we play a lot of games in our house, do a lot of skits. I really thought he knew I wouldn’t hand him a card and tell him to go spend five grand.

But he was flying high.

And that was it. I went to work and never thought twice about telling my son he’d just been given a golden ticket. I get home from work that evening, ready to play or hangout or otherwise have a normal evening. But just as soon as I saw him … uh oh.

His face was like a strawberry. I very upset strawberry.

“What’s wrong, buddy?"

“You lied.”

Tears come rolling, and soon I’m backpedaling. “Wait, I say, trying to make sense of this. I, I was kidding. I wasn’t giving you $5,000.”

I mean, right? I look around. Somebody? Anybody. It's then  I catch a look from my wife, the one that says, You're an idiot. 

Eventually we get it straightened out. I explain to him I was kidding. You know, pretending. That we're living in a material world and I am a material--He's not having it. It's how a victim of one of those prank lottery tickets must feel. The guy's a little ticked about the whole deal. But we come to a compromise. Maybe, just maybe, if he does some chores around the house, gets homework done like he's supposed to, then we can think about those football pants. 

It's not five-grand, but hey, it's low interest. 

And then this morning, pouring our cereal, I find a sheet of paper on the counter. I must have missed it with all the fireworks last night, but it's filled with scrawled crayon, attempts at my name, printed then scratched out then printed again until it's just right. 

I point to it. “What’s this?”

"Oh," my kid shrugs. "I was practicing your name, for when I use the card…”

Oops. 



Monday, July 1, 2019

One Good Deed


My son can be stubborn about things. He can be rude, temperamental, irrational. He throws fits, rolls his eyes, gets himself in trouble. He can be a real six-year old at times. 

It can get frustrating, these battles. Not giving into his demands and standing up to a tyrant. I often remind him he’s not the boss.

When it comes to parenting, I do a lot of things wrong. I’m aware of that. This blog is more of a journal than a how-to guide. Then again, I do some things right.  And I’m always trying. It’s never a lack of effort that is lacking on my end.

As I’ve posted, he’s big into football. I mean, he's really into football. Every weekend for the past oh, two months now, he’s up and ready, in full football gear, ready to go to hit the field. This is our thing, and it shows no signs of waning. These days he likes to wear the gear: shoulder pads, helmet, he’s even got a mouthpiece. He likes to tuck in his jersey and hit the football field looking like a pro.  

*On a side note, if you’ve never played one-on-one football on a 100-yard field on a late June afternoon in Virginia, consider yourself lucky. Or, if you’re one of those cross fitters, add it to your regiment.

Leaving the gridiron on Saturday, we were sweaty and flushed. I suggested we get an early start on Sunday, being that it was 92 degrees and all. He agreed, so much so that by 9am on Sunday he was fully dressed in a helmet and shoulder pads, mumbling “Dad, are you ready?” through his mouthpiece.
“It was your idea,” my wife reminded me. And it was. So after slugging down two cups of coffee, we hit the high school field ready for action.

It was nice, though. Bright, quiet, the heat not yet taking hold on the day. We did some warm-ups, ran a few drills, then it was all business. After our game, I found myself sprinting a 40-yard dash. Bent over and heaving, Simon encouraged me. “Dad, you run like a teenager.” That was all it took. I found myself lining up and doing it again. I think motivational speaking is in that kid’s future.

After an hour and a half, he still wasn't ready to leave. I was, and this set off a fit. He had no problems letting me know just how unappreciative he was of his parents who’d just dropped everything on a Sunday morning so that he could play football. He wanted to continue kicking field goals. We had chores to do.

So he lashed out. And he got consequences. Later, when he pulled himself together, we went to the pool (because, you know, 92 degrees).

Redemption came at the pool. We were tossing the football when a group of kids wandered over and wanted in on the action. I took turns throwing it to each kid, but when I went to throw it to the youngest boy, maybe four, the others waived him off, “Oh, he can’t throw.”

I tossed the ball back to Simon, dunked myself underwater. When I came up, I saw something I won’t soon forget. My kid approaching the other kids, moving past the older kids and holding the football out to the little boy, the one who, “Couldn’t throw.”

Imagine my surprise, watching my son help this boy put his fingers on the laces, then going through the motions of throwing the football.

The boy tossed the ball to me. I told him he did great. Then I looked at my son, who was beaming with pride. And all I could think was how maybe I am doing something right.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Goooooaaaaaal!


For three years now Simon has been playing soccer. It’s not on the top of his list, but it gets him out and he likes playing the games. Last year we discovered he was kind of a natural goalie, the kid who’s not afraid to get down and dirty and stop the ball with his face.

At times he was sort of lost out there on the field (I know I was), but at six he’s able to turn the ball around and kick it in the right direction. But still, I never really thought he’d be score, I always hoped maybe the ball would ricochet off his foot and go in.

I know, scoring and winning and all that doesn’t matter so much, having fun, right?

Right.

But.

Saturday, it happened.

Let me set the table here. He’d already been in the game and come out. He’d watched from the sidelines, hair sweaty, eyes sharp, totally focused. He lay on his stomach and took in the action while his teammates laughed and joked and pretended to be babies. They stuffed grass down each other's shirts and otherwise behaved like a bunch of six-year-olds. Usually, this was my kid. Never one to miss a joke, most game days he could be found in the middle of the horseplay. Last year he liked to pick dandelions and wander off in search of flowers. But not on Saturday. On Saturday, Simon was homed in. 

Something was different.

When his coach turned and told him he was going in, he was up and ready. Back in action, he began with the normal routine, dancing around the herd of kids, testing the waters with his toes but not fully getting involved. The coach had gotten on him about not crowding his teammates, and so I watched in awe as he took the coaches advice and broke down the field (pitch? I’m not up on my soccer terms), And he was still breaking towards the goal when the ball hit him in the waist and sort of rolled down his leg.

Wait. I stood up as he made the adjustment, getting his foot under the ball just as the defenders closed in. He kicked. I leaned forward. The little soccer ball shot towards the goal. The goalie reacted late, just as the ball rolled through the goal.  

Whoa. He just scored a goal.

His face, though, just after he watched it go in. Awe, disbelief, a flush of excitement found his cheeks and then he looked over to me.

Yep, kid, you did it.

And who cares if it hadn’t happened. These kids are five and six years old. That said, he’d been going to these games, practices, watching all his teammates score. So to see it happen for him was pretty damn remarkable.



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Super Tecmo Madness


We’ve all heard the dangers of too much screen time for children. TV, tablets, phones and game systems. How often do you see kids (or adults) zoning out with a phone in their hands.

At our house, we’re hyper-vigilant about this sort of thing. But then again, we’re not.

We don’t let our kid play on our phones. If you do that’s cool, we just don’t. In fact, I make a conscious effort not to be on the phone in front of my kid. I don’t even have it on me when we’re together. Why would I? What am I missing? A post, some terrible news? A witty comment on Twitter? Nah, I’m good.

Okay, so what do we allow? Well, glad you asked. The short answer?
Tecmo Bowl.

Yeah, that’s right. It’s actually Super Tecmo Bowl, released in 1991. When I took on my new job s a computer technician, I started tinkering with my old one in the basement. Simon and I would take out RAM, the harddrive, simple stuff he enjoyed doing. I taught him how to change and create passwords, profiles, set screen protectors and backgrounds. We’d pretend I was a new guy at the job and he’d help me get logged in. What can I say, we’re dorks.

Then one day he noticed an emulator on the desktop. “Dad, what’s that?”

“Oh, that’s,” I couldn’t control myself. I fired the thing up and began. “So look, this is how you play Super Tecmo Bowl on the computer. It's actually a rigged up 2013 version of the classic, and I had to teach him how to use the keyboard as a controller. I figured he’d play it for five minutes and that would be the end of it.

Not what happened.

As it happened, my son fell in love with one Ray Lewis. He's walking around in a 52 jersey, baffling kids and confusing adults, probably wondering why a six-year old is going on about a guy who retired five years ago.  

And not just that. The kid loves defense. We hang in the basement, on this old Windows Vista computer. He plays D and I play offense. He started asking football questions. I taught him about the downs, punting, special teams and reading a defense. And I have to say, I never realized just how complex the game of American Football actually is until I tried explaining the difference between a field goal, extra point, safety kick, punt, and a regular kick-off to a six-year old.

Believe it or not, it’s quality time. We go outside and play football, running pass routes and reenacting Super Tecmo Bowl. Imagine my neighbors, watching us act out a video game football contest, my son stating the physical conditions (excellent, good, average, bad) of each player before each play.

Now he’s learned football. Heck, he could coach football. He can read a zone defense and blitz schemes. He can count by sevens. He can read all sorts of variations of names.

He can play offense now. He can work a keyboard, because in the old edition you have to use a keyboard instead of the controllers.

The only probable is that all of his favorite players are retired.

And one last thing that’s come out of this. So, he really likes Ray Lewis. When I liked athletes back in the eighties, I had him write out a note, asking for his autograph. We’ve mailed it off with a self-addressed return envelope. I chuckle, thinking about Ray Lewis, opening my son’s letter, finding out he’s still someone’s favorite player.

Now we wait, and I really hope it works out because it will be cool for him to see the power of the pen.




Monday, April 1, 2019

Defensive


I grew up playing basketball. We walked down to the park every day. Four or five of us, joking and laughing, chasing down the ball when someone dribbled off their foot. At the court, you had to wait your turn. First, watching the older guys play, waiting to get our chance. Once on the court it was time to prove you could play. You know the story.

There were no parents on those courts. No refs, nobody to make sure everything was fair. Some kids were nicer than others. It’s life.

Now six, my son has taken a sudden interest in basketball and football. Sports is something I’ve never pushed on him. In fact, I’ve always liked his engineer like mind. When he started playing soccer last year I laughed because the coach was telling the kids to be aggressive, to fight for the ball, when most of them only wanted to pick dandelions.

But right now, it’s all about ball. And the adjustable basketball goal that’s been sitting at the end of our street is getting some use. Rain? Let’s go play basketball. It doesn’t matter.

I love it, I teach him what I can, only what coaching he wants to take. I never push because again, it’s not important. I’m just happy to be spending some time outside with my kid.

So yesterday he invited the kids down the street to join. Brother and sister, eleven and eight. Two on two. We had ourselves a game. 

My first mistake was agreeing to be on teams with my kid. We usually play against each other. That way I can control—yes control—the situation. But this was different. It wasn't long before we found ourselves in a clash with this formidable brother/sister combo. And while it began fun, Simon playing defense and laughing, it soon became something else. Something too much for him.

The eleven-year-old boy, doing what eleven-year-old boys do I suppose, decided he wanted to come out and double team the little guy.

They pressed. They stole the ball. The eleven-year old blocked and blocked and blocked Simon’s shot. I directed things the best I could, set some picks and worked to get him open, but after a while it got old. I’d had enough.

So I did what all mature adults would do. I gave him a dose of his medicine.


I blocked the big kid's shot, twice. Maybe three times. Any time he decided he would take the ball from a six-year old, I did the same to him. Okay, not quite, but enough to get the point across. I mean, come on, the kid was double his size. And maybe I'd had a bit too much March Madness but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  

The game ended. I gave my kid a pat on the back. I was proud of him, but I could see how upset he was.

I tried to explain how it would help him, playing against bigger kids. He gathered up his bike and helmet and nodded. But he was upset. And again, I realize it’s okay to lose and be upset, trust me. I can't always be there to guard the rim. He'll have to learn on his own how to deal with jerks, adversity, failure. And I can’t come down and remove every obstacle in his path. 

But he's six. And we are teammates, after all. So while I’m not proud of what I did, I'm not exactly ashamed. Besides, in a few years, when he's eleven, he'd better do the same for me because I'm going to need some help down low. He'll be the one protecting the rim. 

I'm getting too old for this...


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Big News!


Okay, so while it appears I've abandoned this blog, I just want to say that ...okay fine. I abandoned this blog. In my defense, I did try to write a post about our Christmas Tree debacle but it somehow got deleted and I was too lazy unable to rewrite.

But now I bring news. Some big time news. As in a book contract! Yep, that's right.

It's been a slog, albeit an enjoyable one. Over the years I've written several novels. Way too many novels. Like more than fifteen projects over 50k words. Some were decent, others not so much. Most were scrapped. Three or four became something. All were rejected.

Over the years I got discouraged. I still wrote, but more for myself. Still, on a whim, I pitched my favorite novel on #pitmad back in December. #PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch.

So I received a like from Immortal-Works Press and sent off the query and first page. I wasn't overly excited. I'd played this game before. In fact, this project--some form of it, anyway--had gotten six likes and had been requested before.

But Immortal-Works rang a bell. I had worked with them when they read my flash fiction entry on their site. But again, I remained calm. Over the years, I've sort of learned not to get my hopes up
.
And them came a request for a full. The editor wanted to read more. That never-will-learn heart of mine kicked up a gear even as I told myself I wasn't getting worked up about it. I sent it in and forgot about it. No, I didn't.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. On a Sunday morning when I happen to check my email. Boom. The acquisition editor said she loved my book. She cried. Did I mention she loved my book? They would love to publish it.

Love to publish it. 

Is this a joke? I actually sent that back. it's just been such a long road for this book.

But it's no joke. JUSTICE IN A BOTTLE has found a home.

It's only fitting that it's this one. Nita, my main character is my favorite of any I've ever written. Seriously, any other character and I would have given up on this sucker years ago. I've had agents tell me they liked the writing but didn't think it was okay for me to write this story. I've had people tell me the story is too grown up. I've been through tense changes, rewrites, edits and so many drafts. And now it's going to happen.

But it's going to take more work. More edits. More work to promote it. And I have my second wind.

My son, six now, looked at me and said he couldn't believe I was going to be an author. He's proud of me, and that's so cool. I think as parents we are always going to be proud of our kids. But it's just as important for them to be proud of us, right? So my son is proud of me. My wife is proud of me. Heck, I'm proud of me.

But i need to get back to work.

I'll keep you posted!