Monday, January 30, 2012

Tales from the T - January 2012

I could probably dedicated a whole blog to my commute to and from work using the Red Line on the MBTA. Tonight was another treat. I infrequently wear headphones during the evening commute. During that trip, I usually read and don't need to pretend to tune out the world. But tonight, I had the headphones. No music. Just headphones. I was reading, when I hear a faint growl. I took out one earphone as the growling gets louder and louder. It ends with a loud roar. This is promptly followed by, "Hate the city! Die all you MF'ers!". This series repeats, over and over. I take the earphones out and put them away. I want to be able to hear everything. I know it's coming from the other end of the train, but I can't see the perpetrator. I slightly turn my body in that direction to improve my sight line. I want to be able to see it coming, if this crazy man gets up and takes action. Fortunately, 3 stops later he gets up.....and gets off the train. Crisis averted.

Me & the Boys

Daddy and the boys were on their own this past weekend. Demi was off to the Island for annual Girls Weekend with the Real Housewives of LI. We did the typical male things: scratched, spit, swore, played with power tools, etc..... I thought we had a good mix of Dad & Sons times, alone time, and friend time. They each had some time with a buddy on Saturday. We went out for pizza at my favorite pizza place, with Fast Phil from down the street in tow. Fast Phil was missing his Dad, who was traveling for work, so we figured we would cheer him up by letting him partake in our weekend. Saturday night we laid low. A quick dinner of grilled burgers and a movie. We watch the Eagle. I took a flyer that it's Roman Empire theme would resonate with their love of Rick Riordan's books. Caz, immediately upon finishing it, ranked it in his top 3 movies of all time. Coco put it down as a favorite too. Mission accomplished.
The boys lobbied to stay up late. They used the Pats in the Super Bowl line of argument. It was Iron Chef America - Tailgate edition. So we enthusiastically watched that and called it a night.
Caz and I slept in. Coco got up early. He read and then watched a bit of TV. So what comes on ABC Family on a Sunday AM? Dodgeball! Really? Even edited it's not ideal. Little did I know that I would end up explaining to Coco what the movie was talking about by saying they were thinking of "selling blood and semen." Here I thought I had few months before "Boys Night Out" for 5th graders and their Dads to cover "the change" and the birds and bees. Nothing like a quick crash course in advance of that. Thank you, Vince Vaughn!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter Finally Comes to Duxbury

Duxbury finally got some substantial snow. It actually lasted for more than a day. Of course I realized after the fact that I had not replaced the sleds, that I had thrown out last year. So we had to run out Job Lot to get a few new sleds. Nothing fancy. The old saucers seem to work still. Nothing like the old classics. The blow ups are nice. But inevitably they get a hole, or just plain leak.
The boys were outside for hours though. That is just a great thing. It is so hard to get outside time in during the winter. It gets so cold, or wet or both. Snow time is marvelous though. Sledding. Snow ball fights. It's all good. The boys even went to bed early. That is never a bad thing either. And did they ever sleep soundly.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Table Talk

We had a very interesting dinner conversation this evening. It was a nice change from the quick standard of:
"How was your day?"
"Good." - Pick either child for the response
"What did you do today?"
Good talk son.
With the NH Primary in the news, I took the opportunity to talk a bit of politics. It was not a party discussion, but more of a process discussion. We talked about the functions of primaries and caucuses. Caz remembered the last Presidential election well, so we talked about that for a while. He recalled his whole school voting. We also talked about districts, representation, and the electoral college.
I think it is useful to have such talks. Too many nights can easily be missed, in favor of activities or work. Family meals are becoming too uncommon. It's part of the decline of the family unit. I see these missed meals as missed opportunities. It is important to take the time and have a discussion.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Going Paleo

Coco declared that he was going Paleo. He wanted to join up with Demi on here most recent workout/meal challenge. He was dead serious too.
My concern was that he's a kid. And he's a skinny kid. It's not like he eats a lot of crap anyway. The boys eat pretty healthy most of the time. But they are not on the Marinovich training plan. They have had a Twinkie before. But Coco can't afford to lose weight. That's not what Paleo is, but I was worried it would have that effect on him.
Coco was good though. He is an adventurous eater. He will try a lot of food. Cutting out the unnecessary carbs was not a bad idea.
He did a really good job with it too. He stuck to the plan for the most part. I snuck in milk though. He needs his calcium. He increased his fruit and vegetable intake (again, more than usual). Coco stuck to his plan. He even took lettuce wraps to school for lunch one day. His downfall? Having to make his own lunch for school "It takes too long". So that was the end of Paleo.

Live - From Duxbury. It's XBOX Live!

The great XBOX live experiment start on Christmas Day. The kids had been asking about it for some time. This was a last minute decision by Demi and me. If you had asked me a week before Christmas about getting this, I would have said no way. But after some debate, we decided that this would be a joint present to them both. While it would be a nice gift for the boys, the fear was that it would create more stress and more arguments. In our reasoning, it was also another round of ammo in the arsenal for redirecting desired behavior. Yeah, that's right. We could yank it away, if they acted up.
XBox live is another new cyber frontier for parents. Like any other aspect of parenting, there is a lot of due diligence to be done before just allowing the kids on line for gaming. This little feature allows kids to play the same video games as their friends, at the same time, while they are all in their own homes. That parts is cool. But it also allows user to play anyone on-line that wants to play. Random strangers. Any user name who could put a false profile on-line. Unless of course you allow them too.
As a parent, I wanted to know all about the security and privacy features of this application. While Microsoft does put a lot of information on-line about XBox, they don't put this kind of information at the forefront for parents. I had to take to the XBox user forums for any real kind of parental help.
It did not go over well, when the boys noticed that while they could play with other random users, they could not communicate with them. XBox live lets a user don a head set an talk real time, like a phone. A user can also instant message, set up private chats, share music, videos, games and websites, and browse playing history. I don't think most parents see it right off, but it's potentially opening Pandora's Box. It's too easy to get XBox on-line and just hand it to your kid. Why would you just set up an account and allow access without researching the impact? Have they not heard of To Catch a Predator? Would you hand your child a knife and say have at it? Of course not. But you see these technological dangers, XBox, iTouch, iPads, lap tops, smart phones, etc, just handed to young kids without a second thought. The boys can rant all they want about what other kids get or what other kids can do. But as I tell them. I am not those other kids' Father.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Teenage Lizard

No, I am not talking about Jim Morrisson, the Lizard King. Demi and I were watching TV just before bed and caught a comedian's stand up act on HBO. He was commenting on his struggles with his teenager. The analogy was that of a lizard. A lizard will roll it's eyes back in it's head and hiss at you when annoyed. Same with a teenager. Caz has this down pat. He's ready to turn 13 in April. Almost every request, comment, or question gets the lizard response.
Apparently the solution is to turn the family system into a beehive. Bees stick a supply of food into a cell with the pupating larvae and wall it up until it becomes an adult. Some days, that sounds like a very good plan.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Trouble at Alden

Coco came home from school the other day in tears. That is certainly not the norm. He was upset over something his teacher had told him and that he felt reprimanded over missing a couple of assignments. He apparently had misplaced a worksheet just before XMas break. Then the first day back to school he misplaced a whole packet of math assignments. 12 units to be precise. According to Coco, when he asked for another packet, he was told no. There were no more copies. It is too expensive to make extra copies. When he asked what to do next, he was told to figure it out.
Now Coco is an outstanding student. I know to an outsider this sounds like the braggings of a proud Dad. But it's true. He has been in the top 3, if not the top student, in each of his grammar school grades. I am not talking about grades. It's grammar school after all. But class participation, helping other students. His reading and math are off the charts. But he's come out of his shell and been a class leader too. His past teachers have made that comment consistently.
Demi, of course, placed asked the teacher to call at once. Meanwhile, Demi as fuming. Who tells a 10 year old student to figure it out? Fueling the fire was other parents not having a great experience with the teacher currently and in the past.
It took a few days, but the teacher did call. Her version was different from Coco's. I am sure that to Coco, he feels his version is the truth. It probably seemed like that. But his teacher has a slightly different story, but a significantly different. She did say she used the words "figure it out" but "we will figure it out. " She had taken him aside, so as not to embarass him, and asked is something was wrong at home or at school. There were no extra copies of the packets because it is too expensive. It also came out that the help link for parents, to look at assignments and download them, does not work. But how do you know unless you are an active parent and advocate for your child? By active, I mean, you need to know what your child is learning at school and what activities they have. There are too many stories of kids saying their parents don't know what they do at school and don't care. Don't care? That is just sad. Sad for everyone.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hoop It Up 2012

Coco decided that his winter sport this year would be basketball. I was happy because he has exhibited some good instincts for this sport in the past. It is good action for him.
He drew a coach that I coached with during football for Caz. He's a good guy, so no concerns there. They are also the Celtics, so Coco will be happy (he would have mourned over being a Laker). Luck of the draw gave him #5, so he's KG's number. All good selling points.
Here's the change since back in the day though. This recreation league is grades 5-6, just like when I grew up. But there are only 4 teams. 4 teams. With rosters of 8-9 kids. Playing time won't be an issue. But Duxbury Youth Basketball is killing this league. Why do kids this age have to travel? What's the point? If the concern is coaching, get more experienced coaches for the Rec Dept. Have coaches clinics. It worked just fine for us. This whole year round one sport mentality, and AAU or dedicated travel teams is just parental arrogance. Let's buy a NCAA scholarship. Totally delusional. Go to basketball camp in the summer time. Play in town Rec league in the winter. Change sports in the fall and spring. Another example of the problems permeating youth sports today.

2012 Begins

Happy New Year! 2012 is here. I figure if this is the year that life as we know it comes to an end, I should resolve to get in as many posts a possible. Who knows? Those Mayans were pretty advanced for their time.
We rang in the new year with friends. It's become a tradition at this point. It's a good bunch. The only potential downside is that our boys are by far the oldest kids. No one is close. The boys are good though. They play with the little kids, while those kids are up. Then they play some DS, eat, read their kindles, and/or fall asleep watching football. They try to stay up for midnight. Caz usually makes it these days. Coco made it this year. He was also the life of the party. He held court with the ladies, playing board games. So much for my little shy, guy.
This is one of those odd years where the first of the year falls on a Sunday. Translation. No college bowl games on New Years Day. Coco and I would have to wait at day for the Rose Bowl parade and the game itself. Not bad really. We can go in fully rested. And we got to watch the Pats at 1 PM. All in all, not a bad way to start the year.