Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Friends 'til the End

Picking Friends cont.

I've always told the boys that the most important trait you can look for in a friend is loyalty. There are many levels of friendships. We tend to throw the term "Friend" out fairly casually. It can mean anything from a person, not related by blood but as close as a sibling, to a casual acquaintence. How many times have you heard "a friend of a friend" or "a friend, well, sort of....this guy I know"?

Friends are the people that are going to stick by you through thick and thin. They like you for who you are. They have your back. Always. I feel that I treat all my friends like that. Something else that I would guess that I inherited from my Dad. If I tell a friend that I am going to do something, then I do it. If a friend asks for a favor, if I can grant it, I do. I think Demi gets annoyed with me occassionally because it is sometimes inconvenient when I keep my promises. Family comes first. But I treat my friends like they are family.

I tell my boys that some "friends" will come and go. Life happens. People travel on their own paths trying to find that balance in life. But I also tell them that because I treat my friends like family, it's ok, if I don't see them or talk to them everyday. When I do connect with a friend I haven't seen in a long time, I tend to pick up where we left off. I enjoy the time we do have.

Friendship is something you treasure. You want to make sure the folks you choose to call friends value you in the same way. Caz and Coco, here's a test: A friend will help you move...maybe even more than once.

One of my frienships started like this:

"What are you doing this weekend?"

"I have to move my stuff out of storage and into my apartment."

"Well, I have a van."

"Well, I have some beer......"

It wasn't quite Casablanca, but you get the drift.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Picking Friends

A wise sage once said: "You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose. But you can't pick your friend's nose."

A lot of the entries I wrote in my kids journals was about the importance of picking your friends carefully. It's always said that with family, you're stuck with them. You have no choice. With friends, it's all on you to pick good ones.

It's a hard thing for a parent, watching their children make friends. You watch them developing their social skills and at times it can make you cringe. You want them to be good and successful human beings, with positive relationships. You don't want them left out and you don't want them in elitist social cliques. It all starts with play dates, then onto the playground and the bus, and then extracurricular activities like sports or music. You have to keep things in perspective and keep doing reality checks. You will have thoughts in the back of your head, for example "this kid Caz is playing with is picking his nose. Caz, stay away from this kid, he'll be ostracized and you will be guilty by association." Of course then Caz pick his nose….You realize, they all pick their noses.

Side bar: Caz has been attending Duxbury High School football games since he was a 7 month old baby. When he was old enough to walk he developed a fascination with the cheerleaders. He would follow them around and stand behind them. I know what you are thinking…atta boy! At 3 I dragged him out of game for bedtime, kicking and screaming that he wanted to stay and watch the cheerleaders. Well, after I saw him pick his nose a couple of times. I told him the basics, that he needed to stop. It was gross. It was unsanitary ("you'll get germs and be sick"). It was impolite. Then I told him that cheerleaders don't like boys that pick their noses. He hasn't picked his nose since.

Now as a parent, I made a deal with myself that I wasn't going to pick my sons' friend for them. I really want my boys to have the freedom to develop their own relationships without parental interference. It goes hand in hand with them becoming their own person. I don't want them playing or watching sports because I play and watch sports. It's nice to have that bond, but if they want to be a Chess Master, that is fine too. But you can't but help cringe and hope when you see your child hanging out with the kid who is kicking their mother or father while throwing a tantrum because that child didn't get a lollipop or something else to which that child felt entitled.

Caz is a social kid. He's never had a problem making friends. He's had comments from teachers that he goes out of his way to make a new child to the school feel welcome, on more than one occasion. Demi and I were very proud when we heard that. So when a new family moved in down the street with a boy his age, Vinnie, we were happy that he asked Vinnie to sit with him on the bus. Demi and Vinnie's mom tried to arrange some play dates but it was the dead of winter, the holidays, etc and things didn't work out. So April comes, Zac has his birthday part and wants to invite Vinnie. Sure, no problem.

Have you ever seen the episode of Seinfeld where Putty gets the 8-ball jacket? Vinnie has an 8-ball jacket. Enough said, right?

We didn't find out until after the party but my sister in-law, Hilary, caught Vinnie's mom snooping around our house. It was a beautiful day and we had set the party up outside. She was half-way upstairs when Hilary ran into her and asked her what she was doing. Not even feigning getting lost, she replied that Demi said she could have a look around. Hilary promptly escorted her out. Nicely but firmly.

Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Vinny is the kid that will ask why after everything you say. And when you answer, follow up with another why. He tried to go into the house too, actually. He wanted to play with Caz inside leaving 15 other kids outside. I told him it was an outside party. 10 mins later he's trying to sneak back inside. Now I have to admit that I hear the kid speak, and I get instantly seize up.

So what did I do? I caved. Against my self-pledge, I intervened a bit. Caz had gotten into a little trouble on the bus for not staying in his seat. Caz has some short term memory issues, but he was 6, so that's typical. But I know that hyper active Vinny was the root cause for that. He bounces around all over the place. So I sat Caz down and we had a discussion about picking friends. Actually Caz wanted to have Vinny over, but I asked him why? I actually said, "I don't want to pick your friends for you. But you have to be smart about who you pick. Vinny is a little fresh right?"

"Yes, Dad."

"He gets into a little bit of trouble, right? He doesn't listen well."

"Yeah. He's a little annoying too."

"So why do you want to play with him?"

He thought about it and shrugged.

"I think it was very nice that you included him when he was new. But you don't have to feel responsible for him for the rest of your life. He can make his own friends."

That was really the last we heard of Vinny. Or maybe it was when Vinny's mom called for a play date and Demi "forgot" to call her back?? Tough to say.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Da Bomb Baby

Demi thinks the Nation should refer to Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon as The Papelbomb. So here is her trademark and publishing. You heard it here first. "Unleash the Papelbomb!" I guess it sort of has that "Release the Kraken" ring to it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jack and Jill Part 2

Sounds like a Gary Glitter tune, no? Even though he's a felon, you have to admit that it's a catchy tune. To be heard at Patriots games no more though.

As a post script to my rant on Jack and Jill showers, I offer the following. Don't have an outdoor Jack and Jill shower in April in New England. At least not without a suitable back up plan. I am sure no one was expecting the monsoon that start this past weekend, but you have to expect that bad weather is a real and probable possibility in New England. So to assume you are having an outdoor party is a bit presumptuous. Of course if your back up plan was to squeeze people into your house, you would have half the number to worry about it you left the men out of it……..

Monday, April 16, 2007

Post Script - Reel Life

It was unfortunate that after I finished writing my entry to the Reel Life posting, I saw on CNN, the Virginia Tech tragedy unfolding. Meaning, unfortunate that there was tragedy. It is so sad. And so scary. It heightens all that parent fear about the type of world that we are grooming our children to enter. How can this happen? Is there no where that our children can be safe and find refuge. I know that illusion was shattered from Columbine. But there is always hope. Isn't there? It seems like such a gamble. You have to believe that things will be OK. Believe that your children will be fine. And then hope for the best. It seems like it not enough. But what do we have, if we don't have hope?

Condolences to the Hokies. Our thoughts are with you.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Did you honestly think you were going to have to wait until college to pay tuition and go through a screening process? Think again. Pre-school is a process and a half. Some of it depends on the parent. I think there are some parents that see it as the start of the "elite status" process. You know. The whole stereotypical: "getting in the right preschool will get my kid into Harvard" or "start them out on their road to the Senate." That wasn't our concern.

We just wanted a positive environment for our kids. Honestly, the biggest factor in determining our first choice of pre-school was location. There was a well regarded one, just down the street. So there was opportunity to car pool. This all would be a huge benefit for Demi, who runs a daycare out of the house. Getting out is not always easy for her, depending on when the other children come.

Here's the ordeal we had to endure though (you'd think that we were trying to get the boys into Harvard though. Or a rock concert.) Any child who was in the pre-school already was guaranteed a slot. OK. If that child had a sibling who would be new to the pre-school, that sibling was guaranteed a spot. Sure. Whatever. Any board member was guaranteed a spot for the their child. You could argue nepotism, but hey, they don't get paid. They are due. So they only know the number of truly "open" spots in their programs the day before Open Enrollment.

Here is the rub. Since they know the demand is higher than supply, they have parent by the...well you know. They give out wrist bands at 6:30 AM on the day of Open Enrollment. People over time development a method for waiting in the cars but keeping their spot in line by creating a sign up sheet. The first person there puts paper on the door of the school with their name and license plate number next to the number 1. The next person is number two, etc. You folks are smart. You can figure it out from there. When the school administrators show up, they hand out the wrist bands in order (yes, just like tickets for the Rolling Stones). Again, over time, people showed up earlier and earlier to start the sign in list. We were told through the grapevine that even 4 AM was not early enough, some parents had taken to camping out.

Our plan? I was going to grab a sleeping bag, head out to the parking lot between 2 and 3 AM. Sign in. And camp out. As fate would have it, I got sick that night. Demi was passed the short straw. Like a trooper, she went with the sleeping bag at 1:30 AM. She was third in line. Pole position person, had their two kids in the car with them. They showed up at mid-night. And if you think, hey sign in, leave, and come back....think again. It's cut throat. People will rat each other out and not think twice. Some guy had the audacity to show up at 6:20, run to the doors as they opened and say he hadn't known about the sign up sheet and he had been there for hours. Demi looked him in the face and called him a liar. "You pulled into the parking space next to me 10 mins ago." He left with his tail between this legs.

We got Caz the program we wanted though. And our neighbors were kind enough to help with the car pool. More then their fair share.

ALERT - Product Recall

The makers of Listerine recalled a children's product this week. It is a children's plaque rinse called Agent Cool Blue. It is supposed to highlight plaque that was missed in brushing so that the child goes back and hits those spots. Apparently one of the preservatives used in making it, is not holding up to microorganism contamination. It worried us at first since the recall coincided with Coco being sick. We call the toll free number listed on the bottle and got no where. We called the doctor who had us call poison control. Healthy kids are at a very low risk of getting sick. Especially since this stuff is not directly ingested. So it was probably a coincidence that Coco was sick. You still should throw out the bottles, but keep the label. You can send in for a full refund. Visit their website to get the recall, health, and refund details.


Great episode this week. You still have to wonder if Juliet is really following Ben's orders, or trying to get away from him? I mean he can't really promise to get her off the island anymore.

So if none of the Other women can have babies, how and where did Rousseau have Alex?

I have been hearing a lot of complaints from people recently that they have had enough of Locke. But you have to want to know what happened to his father now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Reel Life

A friend of mine recently sent me some photos of the eye of Katrina as it passed over Mississippi. While the shots were amazing, it got me thinking about my sons. Katrina, 9/11, the Tsunami in Sri Lanka, are all difficult subjects to explain to children. What's appropriate to share with them? How much do you tell them? It's tough call. Quite a dilemma.

These major events are tough to explain to children. You don't want to scare them. But you don't want to lie to them either. I have found, over time, that you are the best gage of your children and what they can handle or understand. Use your best judgment.

9/11 was a no-brainer. Coco was a newborn and Caz was just 2. I kept them away from the TV. This was hard to do with my grandmother living with us. She had the news on all day. We all did. But the boys were no where near a TV. I spent a lot of time with my boys over the rest of that week. I was grateful to have the time and chance to do it. If 9/11 taught us anything it was to cherish the time we have with each other.

Caz was about 5 when the Tsunami hit Sri Lanka. There was no need to see the images of devastation on TV. But this one couldn't be kept from him. There was talk about it at school. He wanted to know what a Tsunami was and what had happened. So I told him. Not every graphic detail. I started with some basic science about what a tsunami is. Then we talked a bit about the destruction it caused. How it left people with homes. He seemed to get it. I let his questions guide the conversation. And when he ran out of questions (and for those of you with young kids, you know how long that can be) we were done.

A few days, maybe even a week later, Demi decided to bake some cookies. She asked Caz if he wanted to help. Seemingly out of nowhere, Caz asked if they could sell the cookies. When Demi inquired why he wanted to sell the cookies, Caz responded back that the money could be given to the people that lost their homes to the Tsunami. I am pretty sure that at that point, Demi got a little weepy. They made quite a few batches of cookies and divided them into tins. On the lid of each tin was a note: "My name is Caz. I am 5 1/2 years old. I learned that the Tsunami left people without food and water. I am selling cookies hoping to raise money for them. My Mom and Dad promised to match each dollar I raise. If you could make a donation, I thank you. I hope you enjoy my cookies." They went out to a few of the local business and asked if they could leave the tins and come back. All the business owners were great about it and readily complied. Caz and Demi went back to collect the tins days later. Caz counted all the money.

Coincidentally, a college friend from Sri Lanka got in touch with me. He passed on news of the devastation, but also that he and his brother had started a charitable foundation to get money back home. More importantly, it was designed to get the where it was needed and not have to pass through the layers of government in Sri Lanka that was laced with corruption. Caz's donation with our matching contribution was sent there. I explained to Caz about the foundation, which included a lot of information on how the money could help. The cost of building a new house was around $2,000. That is still a big number to a child, but it seemed like a number Caz could related to. We were very proud parents during that.

I continue to preach that kids understand more than most adults give them credit for. You have to take the time to explain things to them in way they can understand. I find that analogies are always helpful. And believe it or not, my kids know what an analogy is and try to create their own.

Lessons from Happy Days

So after watching this week's hour of 24, I am still not sure how I feel about the twist at the end of the episode. I need to know what folks think. The reaction at the office is a lot different from what I expected. I absolutely expected folks to say that 24 had finally jumped the shark (a la Fonzie) and gone off the deep end.

Post some comments and let me know.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Video Killed the Radio Star

And Nintendo's Wii is going to slaughter Playstation and XBox. Demi and I were very much against getting the boys video games at a young age. And even when they started "getting older" (now all of 6 and 8), it was a hotly debated issue. Our boys don't get a lot of TV time period, let alone video games. Two years ago, my sister in-law gave them a Sony Dreamcast that had been her son's. The boys were ecstatic for the first week. Then the novelty wore off.

At least for a little while. Coco was probably a little too young for it in retrospect. Not that the games were inappropriate. But the time limit factor. After the lull, he would ask about playing a bit more frequently. It wasn't until this past fall, that video games became a problem. It was in NH of all places. We had complete a long hike during the day. Then we took a tour around the facilities of where we were staying and happened across an arcade. The kids had been so well behaved on the 3 hour car ride up and on the hike, that they deserved some reward. So I bought them some tokens and let them have at it. The only rule was no inappropriate games. It was a small place so there was only one really questionable shooting type game.

However, after that foray, Coco kept asking, "Can we go back to the arcade?" Or when you asked him, what he wanted to do, he would answer, "Go to the arcade."

When we got home, he would ask, "Can I play Daddy's Playstation?" (Yes, it was mine. The original Playstation that I bought as a toy before the kids came. I would have had to knock a solid layer of dust off it, for Coco to play.

We had to take action and force some change, cold turkey. Some video Ferberization if you will. But he was not going to sit inside and play video games. He's an active kid, so a half hour, sure. It was getting out of hand. After we broke him, around Christmas both the kids would put video games on their wish lists. XBox, Playstation 2, Gameboy, etc. It didn't really matter because the boys didn't really know what they were. But this past Christmas, Demi's nephew, Lee, picked up a Wii. It was still new and no one knew what to expect. Lee set it up after Christmas dinner and it was a hit. The sports package it comes with was priceless entertainment. If you are not familiar with it, it is essentially virtual sports: bowling, tennis, golf, baseball, and boxing. Yes. Boxing. The remotes are wireless, so you have to move your arms like you are bowling, pitching, or swinging a club, bat or racket. The boys worked up a lather of a sweat in three rounds of boxing.

So Demi and I thought if we were going to get a video game system, Wii was a good pick. It was better than sitting around with a joy stick and starting the early stages of carpel tunnel. There was some semblance of physicality with it. Now the game has a "workout" section and a "training" module. This might be a little much. It's not the next Tae Bo. But it is far the lesser of many evils. The whole family can partake, which is nice too. Demi constantly challenges the kids with "who's ready to get taken down town to Chinatown?" Talk about throwing down the gauntlet. It's like throwing chum in the water. The sharks fight over who is going to get a piece of Mommy first.

Over all rating: 5 out of 5 Chins - It's a must have, baby. It's good for the Mojo.

Family Matters

Demi has designated Easter as a new annual family event. Not that it is a big Chinese holiday. Or an important holiday on her side of the family. I think it works because it isn't a big deal to either side. So no one feels like they are slighting the other side of their family to travel to MA and see us. And for my family, no one was really hosting it or looking to make it an event. It just works. Demi gets a chance to host her family and create a new family tradition.

Children will change your perspective on your family traditions. When we were dating and engaged, it didn't take a lot of effort to pack up for the weekend and travel to MA or NY to see the family. We went often. Our first Christmas together, we were living in Portland, ME. Demi's family alternated between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for their big family gathering and meal. We left ME after work on Dec 23 and arrived on the Island around mid-night. We unwound and got to bed, let's say 1 AM. There was some wrapping of presents until about 4 AM, so it was not a sound sleep. Demi was up at 7 to start helping with the cooking. After dinner and dessert, some more visting, we left the Island at 10:30 PM on the 24th to head to MA. A driving snow storm put us into MA at 4 AM. Mom likes here present schedule, so presents were opened at 8 AM sharp. (I think this is paypack for all the early Christmas mornings in my youth). After our second Christmas dinner, we packed up and headed back to ME around 7 PM, Christmas night. I spent the 26th with my arse parked on the couch.

It still makes me tired thinking back on that. I can't and don't want to imagine trying to do that with kids. Heed my advice make your own traditions. I can thank Demi for this. She made the first comment about putting our own family first and starting tradition that worked for us. You don't want your kids waking up on Christmas morning any place else other than their own beds. And for me, that included when they were babies and would remember. Don't fall victim to the family pressures. If your family loves you they will understand and adapt. I was the first child to have kids on my side, so we were breaking ground on that front. Demi was the last to have kids on her side. We were breaking ground there too. And by breaking ground, I am talking about bucking the current traditions in place and thus wreaking havoc with the order of the universe.

Creating your own traditions, does not mean you are freezing out your family. It may feel like it but you are not. Trust me, you won't get coal in your stocking.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

"Sing With Me"

Sings one half of the Toxic Twins.

My boys? Recently Caz has taken to singing an abridged version of the Pussycat Dolls: "Don't you wish you were hot like me?" A little narcissist in the making......

While Coco, just announces that it is time to "shake your booty" whenever an upbeat song comes on.

Their friend at 4 years of age busted out with Nelly in the back seat of the car while Demi was driving, "It's getting hot in here...." Well, you know the rest.

And you can count on the fact that every cheeseburger dinner night will bring a chorus of Jimmy Buffett.

Got to love the power of song.

LOST - Up and Over

How can you not appreciate the Con-man being conned by Hurley?

Shades of Anna Lucia, Sayid looks like he will determine if Juliet was left behind because she was an outcast or as a spy.

So the monster can't go over the sonic wall? Didn't it grab the pilot in the tree?

Is anyone really going to miss Locke?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Opening Day

Well, I had the boys all geared up for Opening Day. The gametime was such that they could get off the bus and catch the first pitch. They wore their Red Sox shirts to school. I called them during breakfast for a last minute speech. It was almost like Christmas morning, thick with anticipation.

And then.................

I am sure the talk shows and folks discussed the game to death, all day long. Especially, without another game today. Too much time to linger over it. Talk about beating a dead horse.

The toughest thing about talking to the boys last night was explaining that there were still 161 games left, and that baseball was a long season. The division is not won or lost in April. But try telling an 8 and a 6 year old that. An 8 year old wearing a Curt Schilling jersey.

Waiting anxiously on JB's start tomorrow.

And thus starts the spring/summer bed time ritual: Dress into PJ's during the Top of the first - brush your teeth after out #3 - watch the Bottom of the first - then bed. The boys of summer....

Sunday, April 1, 2007

April Fool's Day

My boys crack me up. They have a tremendous sense of humor. They make me laugh quite often. At least once a day, but they hit some pretty high volumes the more time I spend with them.

I really get a kick out of what they actually find funny. Kids have a whole different perspective on humor that adults do. Right now they are into the classics: "Milk, Milk, Lemonade......", "What's black and white and red all over?", "Once there was a Genie with the 10 ft weenie", etc. Yes, Demi and I are very proud. I blame the school bus and the playground.

Kids movies have been responsible for the introduction of potty humor, pantsing, and Sir Mix-a-lot to our boys lives. Today, Caz thought it would be a good idea to pick up a parking cone, that my wife uses to block the driveway during day care hours, and starting singing at the top of his lungs, "I like big butts and I cannot lie...!" That was a necessary single for an animated kids film soundtrack. I think the appeal of MC Caz might have been lost on the neighbors. At least my folks next door can't hear him.

It's hard to remember sometimes that kids are silly. They are supposed to be silly. We get so stuck in a grown up mind set that we tend to forget that. Kids remind us to laugh. They allow us to be silly.

Thank you boys.

King of the Hill

A pox on the first person that thought up the "Jack & Jill" baby shower. That person should be drawn an quartered. Or at least boiled in their own pudding with a stake of holly through their heart. Jack fell down and broke his crown, so he didn't have to go to the blasted Baby Shower.

Most of the women don't really want to be there for the "ooohing" and "ahhing" over Diaper Genies and onsies. What made some one think they should add the guys? My wife really didn't want to be at hers but she grinned and bore it. Now hers we had to travel to NY, so that was tough for me to try and find a way not to go on that trip. I had to at least go with her as far as her mother's house, to keep up appearances. But after I snapped the picture of her look of surprise, I was out the door. My brother in-law, good man that is he, had the car running. I jumped in and we were off.

We met up with a few of the other fellas at Hooters. Strictly for the buffalo wings of course. And then we watched a ball game. That is the way guys should enjoy baby showers. Beer, ballgame, wings, and banter. What more could I have asked for. And as recently as last night, Demi stated she would have rather been at Hooters too. Again, mostly for the wings.