May 29, 2009

Duluth Playhouse Promo

My daughter, Emma, is featured in this promo video. What she says is true. When she was six and first auditioning she was extremely shy, but also extremely charming. I'm very proud of her, in case you didn't know.

April 1, 2009

Insufficient Data

DSC_2768_crop.jpgI was helping my son, Simon, with his math tonight when he came to this problem:

"A cookie recipe calls for 2 cups flour for every 1/2 cup chocolate chips. If you wanted to make a triple batch, how many cups of chocolate chips would you use?"

His immediate answer was, "insufficient data."

I started to argue with him, but then I saw why he was absolutely right.

Can you?

I love my rules lawyering son.

I wish I could be there when he confronts his math teacher over this problem tomorrow.

March 25, 2009

Going Dutch

wooden-shoes.jpgMy daughter, Emma, and I have been watching "My So-Called Life" together, which has given us a lot of opportunities for some good conversation. This morning, as I was driving her to Harbor City for a high school visitation day, I asked her what was the dating practice among her friends, whether the guy usually paid or if they usually "went dutch."

Apparently she had never heard this term before and, in mock outrage, asked, "What is this 'going dutch?' Is this some ethnic slur against my ancestry?" When I explained that it meant that the cost of the date was split evenly between the couple, she retorted, "Oh, so you just assume that dutch people are fair? I'm incensed."

She then wondered aloud if "going dutch" involved the girl wearing a pointy hat and wooden shoes where she kept money for her half of the expenses.

I love my sarcastic teenage daughter.

March 4, 2009


ddrvsddr.jpgMy son gave up video and computer games for Lent, but made an exception for Dance Dance Revolution since it's a physically active game.

So, here's the thing... when I hear "DDR" the first thing I think of is former East Germany. I'm probably just a product of my generation, but am I the only one who thinks that?

January 19, 2009

My Day at the Hospital

Today around noon, sitting where I am now, I got dizzy. And it didn't pass. And it didn't pass. And I staggered to the couch and it didn't pass. And I got up and threw up in the sink, and it seemed to get even worse.

After being advised by my mother, the doctor, to call my doctor, and being advised by my doctor's office to go to the emergency room (all of this with me being able to focus on things for a 1/100th of a second at a time) I called Charlotte and she came, picked me up, almost literally, and took me to the hospital.

For the better part of two hours the only thing I could do to help stem the dizziness was to close my eyes. I was wheeled through the ER because I really couldn't walk. Imagine being on a tilt-a-whirl. Now imagine it never stopping. That's kind of what it was like.

For awhile I thought I might be having a stroke. For a brief period of time I thought, "This is it. I'm going to die."

On the whole, I wasn't scared. I was happy that my children knew I loved them. I was happy about my life as it has been. I was a little concerned about taking care of my student loan debts and mortgage, but I realized that my life insurance should take care of that.

I'm glad to say, however, I'm not dead and it wasn't a stroke. The doctor isn't entirely sure as to what it might be. He suggested it might be a loose otolith, a stone in my inner ear, giving false signals. He gave me some medicine for my dizziness.

He also was concerned about my blood pressure and put me on some medicine for that and I'm going to work on keeping my sodium intake down. I feel very good, however, that I have shed about 25 pounds over the last 2 years.

Still, it's a wake up call. And, mostly, I'm very happy. Happy to know I have loved and am loved. And if I had to pass today, I'm good to go.

January 12, 2009

Simon Undone by Bureaucracy - B-U-R-E-A-U-C-R-A-C-Y - Bureacracy

My son, Simon, was in the Sixth Grade Spelling Bee Finals at his school with 8 other contenders. He did well in the first few rounds and then he got handed this doozy of a word.

He admitted that when he knew he wasn't going to get it right he thought he might just spout out some random nonsensical letters like Q-T-Z-X-L-O-P which I thought would have been awesome, but he went down swinging.

I was really impressed with the contestants. For sixth graders they were all clearly very well read, intelligent, and good sports about the whole thing. No one had to be reminded of the rules and everyone acted maturely, even when losing.

I do think it's poetic that my son was taken down by bureaucracy, though. That was always my Achilles' heel.

December 27, 2008

Silly Siblings Productions

Well, my children got a vidcam for Christmas and, less than 48 hours later, they already have their own YouTube channel and first production.

It should be noted, since it isn't very clear, Juniper is the child of Colleen and AmyJo and not some hitherto unknown child of mine.

Merry Christmas!

P. S. - I did all my own stunts.

December 23, 2008

Tetris and Phones Don't Mix

So, I asked you to help out my daughter in her science project and you did. You played Tetris. Then you played Tetris on the phone. Here are the results.

As you can see from the graph to the right, as you might expect, people, on average, do a lot worse when playing Tetris on the phone. Surprised? I didn't think so.

Now let's break it down a bit. We old folgies did worse overall than the young whipper snappers. What's with that? My generation teethed on Tetris! Do I have to carry all of you? Sheesh.

Still, an interesting note, the dropoff because of phone use was basically the same for both age groups.

But, in the battle of the sexes, women did much better overall in average score off the phone, but on the phone, men win! This was contrary to Emma's prediction which supposed that women are better at multitasking and therefore would do better on the phone than men.

Well, if you participated in the study, thanks. Emma had fun doing it.

Home Office

I'm working from home today because the roads were pretty treacherous up to Two Harbors, but fortunately for me I have a well stocked home office, complete with cubbies to hold such necessities as... Cuthbert. Don't ask me why he likes that basket. He just does.

December 11, 2008

Be a Guinea Pig and Play Tetris!

tetris.jpgSo, my daughter needs your help. It's for science, so I'm sure it's okay. Here's what she needs you to do by next Tuesday, December 16.

1. Play Tetris.

2. Play Tetris while talking to someone on the phone. Don't talk about the game you're currently playing, though.

3. Send her your scores (off the phone and on the phone). (Also send if you've played Tetris before or not, your age and gender, and where you're playing. (These could be variables that affect the data.))

That's it, really. So, remember, you're not wasting time. You're helping a teenager with her science project.

October 26, 2008

Aebleskivers - A Photo Essay


My kids and I made aebleskivers today as a project for Simon's cultural awareness class. It's a kind of Danish pastry and, somehow, an aebleskiver pan fell into my possession somewhere along the road. I didn't even know what it was until Heather was helping me unpack last June. So when Simon had the assignment to make some sort of dish that we had never tried before, Heather suggested aebleskivers.

Continue reading "Aebleskivers - A Photo Essay" »

October 16, 2008

Cuthbert Burbage

We now have a cat and it seems that his name is Cuthbert Burbage.

Emma ascertained his name as we were bringing him home. It's an unusual name for a cat, but then again, we're an unusual family.

The original Cuthbert Burbage was the elder brother of Richard Burbage, and was one of the happy planets that settled into orbit around the shining star of William Shakespeare. Cuthbert, in particular, had a large role in the construction of the Globe Theater.

Of course, cats don't always tell you their true names straight off. You sometimes have to wait for awhile for them to reveal their secret names. And then, even later, there are still more names to learn.

It's quite possible that Cuthbert was putting on airs in an attempt to impress his new benefactors, but he seems a sweet natured cat.

September 11, 2008

What This Day Means to Me

Seven years ago on a beautiful and clear September day I had to explain to my six year old daughter that she lives in a world where people will fly planes into towers on purpose.

This is the day innocence died.

September 9, 2008

Playing by the Rules

chickenscrabble.jpgI'm not sure Heather and I can play Scrabble any more. Here's what happened.

So the other week we were playing a friendly game of Scrabble and it was very competitive. We were in a virtual tie. I emptied my rack first at the end of the game and asked how many points she had left so that I could subtract that from her score and add it to mine.

She looked at me weird and protested that she could still play. I looked at her equally weird and said, no, the game is over when the first person empties his or her rack. Uncomfortableness ensued.

The root of it is that, in fact, in her family that's how they play. The play continues until everyone has made every play they can. The way I learned to play (and, I might add, according to the official Scrabble rules) once a person plays all their tiles and there are no tiles to draw, the game's over.

So, according to my rules, I won. But, according to Heather's rules, she actually won.

So, who won?

I've been thinking this over and I think the only real answer is - neither of us - because we were never playing by the same rules. The only way that a game can be properly contested and won is that the players need to consent to the same set of rules and recognize the authority of the interpretation of these rules.

It really didn't matter that I could quote chapter and verse from the boxtop rules. Those weren't the rules she grew up with.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite books - Finite and Infinite Games - in which the author, James Carse, goes on to speak of most of human experience in terms of games and how we strive for titles and how we define and redefine the parameters of our play.

My take away? In relationships you can't assume that...
1) you are both playing by the same rules,
2) you have the same expectations of play,
3) you respect the same authorities.

All these things need to be discussed in advance of play. What rules are we using? How will we judge between fair and unfair play? When does the game end?

July 15, 2008

I Couldn't Be Prouder

Simon spent this morning making a map for his roleplaying world, deriving its politics and geography from such various sources as World of Warcraft, Eragon, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and, of course, the D&D source material. You may not be able to tell from this photo, but it's done in watercolors with marker for the hand lettering. He explained it all to me in about a half hour and I won't ruin it for him by trying to explain it to you now.

Thanks to my buddy Russ for providing materials and inspiration.

I'm so proud of my geeky son. It makes me a little weepy. Really.

July 12, 2008

Dinner Is Served

Heather and I were craving something summery tonight so we made our own grilled chicken salad with stuff from the Whole Foods Co-op (mostly). The chicken was marinated in an oil and 7-Up marinade with thyme, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper and then grilled on the charcoal grill. The salad was a bed of baby spinach with craisins, toasted walnuts, feta cheese, and Annie's Papaya Poppy Seed dressing. On the side we had lightly steamed snow peas. To drink we had Beringer's Gewürztraminer which was light and apricoty. Mmmm-mmm!


July 10, 2008

Q: What's better than being carded when you're 41?


Continue reading "Q: What's better than being carded when you're 41?" »

July 5, 2008

The Plural of Gin and Tonic

gin%26tonic.jpgSo, it's summertime and time for one of my favorite seasonal drinks - the gin and tonic. I like mine with crushed ice, 1 part Bombay Saphire Gin, 3 parts tonic water, a squeeze of lime, with the lime wedge garnish on the rim.

But as I was getting ready for a party my girlfriend, Heather, and I got into a discussion as to the proper plural for said drink. To my way of thinking what I am having is a gin which is augmented by the tonic water therefore the proper plural would be "gins and tonic."

But Miss Lake counters that a "gin and tonic" is a discreet unit. It is the name of the drink, therefore the proper plural would be "gin and tonics."

The internet is no help.

The Wikipedia entry is no help since it doesn't list the plural one way or the other.

The Everything entry gives one person's opinion, but it seems less than definitive.

As far as the democracy of Google, "gins and tonic" only gets 1,920 hits where "gin and tonics" gets a whopping 145,000 hits, making "gin and tonics" the popular choice.

Amusingly enough, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a Catholic priest, has a blog entry on the same issue, so maybe we can have some ecumenical dialog over the topic.

Opinions? Snarky remarks?

June 26, 2008

Moving In

I started moving in to my new home Tuesday and things went much better than planned. I had friends from Two Harbors with 5 trucks (one of which had a huge open bed trailer) show up at 10:30 and helped me move all the boxes and some of the small furniture. We showed up at the new house at 2:00 and plenty more of my Duluth friends were there to help unload. When I got to the new abode, take a look at what I found on my deck.

That's right, I have the bestest girlfriend in the universe. Heather and I went to Menard's a few weeks ago to get some garden things for her and while we were there I said we should look at lawnmowers and patio stuff for my new house, just for fun. We took some time looking at grills and debating the merits of coal vs. gas and so on. So on Tuesday, knowing my schedule, she bought one and put it together by herself (with a little help from her 5 year old daughter, Scout) on my back porch.

Yesterday Scout and Heather shared our first meal with Emma, Simon, and me in our new house. It was Chinese takeout, of course. Scout liked having the pink chopsticks (and even tried to use them). The fortune to the left is the one Emma got, but she decided it should be mine. I'm pleased with the progress we're making on the house so far. Emma and Simon both said how weird it is that it already feels like home.

Thanks to everyone who helped us move.

May 28, 2008


emma3.GIFI realized yesterday when I was talking with some people who regularly read my blog that I often write about the cutely obnoxious things my son Simon does and says because he's the king of one liners. I don't so often write about Emma. In the spirit of fairness let me share a few stories about my daughter.

Emma Newborn - When Emma was first born she and I were taken to a nursery and, since Charlotte had to have stitches and there were two other babies being born at the same time, we were left alone for the first hour of her life. In that hour I realized that she was already a fully formed human being with her own personality and her own perspective on things. Boy, has that turned out to be true.

Emma Startled - I remember Emma's first sneeze. It was sudden and violent and when it was over she looked startled and started crying as if saying, "I'm only two weeks old and my nose has exploded!"

Emma as Nascent Feminist - When Emma was just learning to speak she asked her mom for some water. Charlotte responded saying, "You got it, babe." Emma replied saying, "Name not 'Babe.' Name's 'Emma.'" This was her first complete sentence.

Emma as Revolutionary - When Emma was three or four she became fascinated with street lights and why green meant go and red meant stop. This seemed arbitrary to her and we had conversations in the car for months about how she could change the status quo. "Papa, I have an idea. Why don't you just start going on red and stopping on green to show people a different way?" I replied that that was called civil disobedience and while I could do that, I would have to accept the consequences, which could mean all sorts of fines and maybe even getting in an accident.

Emma the Considerate - I remember the first time we stayed in a hotel room and, after we got up, Emma started making the beds. I told her room service would do that, but she seemed to think it was wrong that anyone should make a bed for her. Right on, Emma.

Emma as Trooper - When Emma was six she was in a production of Annie. The play ran 3 weekends with around 18 performances. Her role was very demanding with lots of singing and dancing. She played Molly, the smallest orphan, and she had to have a big voice and big stage presence. Towards the end of the run she got sick and had a hard time speaking. But she didn't throw in the towel. Between scenes she would rest, drink tea and lemon, not speak to anyone, and when she went on the stage no one would have known she was sick. I'm not sure I could ever be any prouder.

Emma as Thespian - Last month Emma was in a Shakespeare workshop where the participants prepared scenes for the final showcase. One of her classmates dropped out at the last minute and the director asked if Emma would mind filling in, learning her lines and blocking in just two days! And Emma did it flawlessly.

May 22, 2008

DC Trip - Wednesday and Thursday

zoo_s.jpegWe woke up Wednesday morning to no power in our hotel which made it a fair treat to get ready, especially taking a shower in the dark. Afterwards we went down to the local Starbucks to get some breakfast before we went to the zoo. Apparently there are about 100 Starbucks in DC. It seems you can't go two blocks without seeing a new one.

bird_natzoo.jpegWe then took the Metro to the National Zoo. The weather was pleasantly warm and a bit overcast. It was a pleasant walk from the Metro Station to the zoo. We arrived around 9:30, after the grounds had opened but before most of the buildings. We went to see the Giant Pandas exhibit but only one was out. Then we went to see the bird house and the Great Flight exhibit where we could get up and personal with some of the birds.

elephantbath.jpegWe then went to the Elephant House to see one of the three elephants get a bath. Afterwards we headed out the elephant outdoor area where we met a very helpful docent who shared all sorts of pacadermal tidbits with us. Actually, one of the themes of the zoo were helpful, informative, available docents.

The other theme of the day were school children from about preschool through about grade 3, apparently, and a lot of them. Once again I took pleasure in how well behaved and polite my children are.

Overall we gave the National Zoo high marks, though Simon thought that it suffered in overall layout and organization. We did like that Orangutans had overhead cables with which they could traverse the park from their compound to a primate testing area called the "Think Tank."

carousel_es.jpegAfter the zoo we headed back to the Mall and visited the original Smithsonian building and took a ride on the old, wooden carousel out front. At the time Emma and Simon were the only riders. Simon made a b-line for the one and only dragon on the carousel... of course.

When we returned to our hotel late that afternoon there was still no electricity. It wouldn't return until 7:00 that night. We went out for sushi, which was delicious, and later that evening we saw a marching band practicing in the street next to our hotel. A good day, overall

Today we woke up and took a last trip to the Mall to pick up knick knacks and souvenirs. Then we checked out and headed down to the train station, stored our things with Amtrak, and walked the three blocks down to the United Methodist Building and the Supreme Court. Simon was tired and unimpressed. So much for democracy. Now I'm blogging from the Amtrak Station as we await our train home.

May 21, 2008

DC Trip - Tuesday

We started the day by going to the Smithsonian Institute National Air and Space Museum and, according the kids, I was in my element. Yeah, I geeked out. As soon as we walked in I started telling stories about everything we saw. I loved it. We saw a live demonstration on principles of flight and a planetarium show about black holes narrated by Liam Neeson.

Then we went over to the Natural History Museum and checked out the mammal and reptile exhibits. (Um, on the whole we recommend the Chicago Natural History Museum. No offense, Smithsonian.)

washmon.jpegThen after having lunch out on the Mall we went to the Washington Monument. It's big and pointy. We had some discussion about how George Washington would feel about this as a monument to his life. "I led a ragtag army to victory over the preeminent military force of our day and then became a struggling young nation's first president and you build a big, tall, pointy thing in my honor? Gosh... thanks."

garzarub.jpegWe saw the new World War II Memorial, which was well done, but still not as moving in my opinion as the Vietnam Memorial. We rubbed three names there for a friend back home. They died during a booby trap that injured our friend in March of 1970.

lincolnmem.jpegOf course, we had to go to the Lincoln Memorial, which is still one of my favorite sites in Washington DC. We read the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address. Both the kids were impressed by the simplicity and succinctness of the Gettysburg Address. I was impressed again how in the midst of war Lincoln was able to say that God favored neither side.

DC Trip - Sunday and Monday

Here are some photos of the kids and I in Washington DC. They aren't great quality because they were taken on Emma's camera phone, but they give you an idea of what we did.

We left Minnesota early Sunday morning on Amtrak out of St. Paul and traveled the better part of the next 36 hours by train. Thanks to the Proballs for putting us up overnight, making breakfast for us at 5:30 in the morning, and then driving us to the train station. That is truly above and beyond the call of duty.

During our two hour layover in Chicago we hung out with Fuzzy and Erica. The kids hadn't really ever spent any significant time with Erica so this was a good opportunity to get to know her a little more. Fuzzy and Erica were both tired from an all night shoot on a Barenaked Ladies music video they were working on. Don't they look peppy anyway?

On the train we amused ourselves by playing Nertz, Fluxx, Boggle, reading, watching a movie on my laptop, and watching the passing scenery. We really enjoyed passing through Pennsylvania and West Virginia on Monday morning. It has recently rained and the scenery was lush and green. As the leaves had just, just come out in Minnesota when we left this was a welcome change of scenery.

On Monday after we checked into the hotel we walked down to the National Mall and walked east toward the Capitol. We enjoyed the trees and walked in the gardens around the Capitol grounds. I was actually kind of amazed how close we could get to the Capitol building without seeing any guards. Of course there were cameras everywhere... and squirrels. Lots and lots of squirrels. This made Emma verrrrry happy. Too happy. It was time to get some rest.

April 24, 2008

"We take the 'PITA' out of 'HOSPITALITY'"

My kids and I were just passing by a hotel on our way to rehearsal and Emma, as she often does, read aloud what was on the sign:

Emma: Hos... lity

Me: Hosp... t'lity?

Emma: Nope, just Hos, space, space, space, space, lity.

Me: Oh, maybe that's their new slogan...

Emma: What?

Me: "We take the 'pain in the ass' out of 'hospitality.'"

Emma and Simon: Huh?

Then, of course, I had to explain the acronym "PITA." It was what educators call a "teachable moment."

April 9, 2008

Simon Quote of the Day

notAngry.jpg"I'm not throwing a fit!
I'm... gently tossing a fit."

This boy definitely has a future as a comedy writer.
Or a lawyer.
Or a philosopher.

April 8, 2008

My New Home

daar138942.jpgAs of June 23 I will be residing at 5209 London Road in Duluth [satellite]. It's a beautiful house and I and the kids are very excited about taking up residence there. I'm hoping it will be our home for years and years, even decades, to come.

Continue reading "My New Home" »

April 4, 2008

DC Tips

flashearth_dc.jpgMy kids and I are going to be traveling to Washington DC next month for 3 days to see the sites. When I ask them what they want to do there the things that come are the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Mall, the Capitol Building, and the White House. They also have a vague idea that there are a few museums around the area that might be fun to go to.

I thought I'd ask you, gentle reader, to suggest some good things for us to do while there. I remind you that my kids are 10 and 13.

Also, we'll be staying at the Red Roof Inn so that will be our HQ. Here's our hotel on Flash Earth. We'll be traveling in by train so we won't have a car at our disposal, so we'll either be walking, taking a cab, or public transportation.

April 2, 2008

Carrie Newcomer on YouTube

I knew Carrie back in West Lafayette, Indiana. She was a frequent headliner at a Friday night coffee house I helped start and she and I collaborated on some theater projects. She also sang at my wedding back in 91. It's nice to see her going strong and putting out material on her own YouTube channel.

March 29, 2008

Bird Perches

Emma and Simon just spent the last three days at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center with a score of homeschoolers. They learned survival skills, map and compass work, went snowshoeing, did the high ropes course, rock climbing, etc. The above activity was acting as a human bird feeder for some chickadees. A useful skill, no doubt.

Continue reading "Bird Perches" »

March 28, 2008

When I'm Dead

I've been doing a lot of funerals lately and it's always interesting to hear how people are remembered and for what. Here are some common things I do and say that I hope my children will remember about me when I'm dead.


"Look it up!"

We live in the golden age of research. I carry with me wherever I go a store of knowledge greater than the Library of Alexandria. Sure, you can't believe everything you read, but you never could! So, to me, with this incredible treasure at our fingertips, it's nearly inexcusable not to do basic research. If you have a question, look it up! If you are curious about something, look it up!

"I like to brush my teeth."

My children make fun of my toothbrushing fetish. They even have a song about it.
He likes to brush... his teeth! He likes to brush... his teeth!
He takes his toothbrush with him wherever he goes, because
He likes to brush... his teeth! He likes to brush... his teeth!
But I don't mind being remembered for that.

"Be on time!"

I'm tough on my kids about punctuality but being on time is an easy way to tell someone that you care about them.

Continue reading "When I'm Dead" »

March 23, 2008

Happy Easter


Lucy is incredulous about her headgear. Emma took the photo this afternoon.

March 20, 2008

Birthday Surprise

Emma has been making a comic a day during Lent. She's finally getting around to scanning some of them and putting them up on her blog. I like this one particularly since it's the one from my birthday.

February 24, 2008

Goodbye, Reuben Tuesday...

My friend, Carl Klutzke, appears in this episode of Across Indiana. He's a part of this group which samples Reuben Sandwiches every other Tuesday and then rates them on the Reuben Realm. I've added a few comments of my own. Just for flavor.

Here is the gang's review of the Tie Dye Grill, where you see them eating in the video. They gave it pretty high marks over all.

February 14, 2008

Homeschooling in the Northland


Just because it's called "homeschooling" doesn't mean you hang out at home all day.

Here's a picture of Emma (in the blue) out on an "(ed)Venture" on February 6. She, Simon, and their homeschool buddies, Dane and Ben, have been doing Wednesday activities with them including dog-sledding and snowshoeing. They didn't just go out for a sleigh ride. The instructors taught them how to put on the harness and they took turns driving.

February 11, 2008

The Tests are in...

bloodcomic.jpgEmma has Lyme disease according to her blood test. Fortunately that is a lot better than the alternative diagnosis, which was juvenile arthritis. I mean, who wants that? So she's on antibiotics for the next month and being monitored closely by her doctor. Hopefully a round of antibiotics will kick it. The scary thing is that probably this has gone undiagnosed for months. The worst thing according to Emma is that she can't have any dairy within an hour of taking her antibiotics twice a day.

February 8, 2008

My Life Sucks... Again

[Click to Enlarge]

My daughter, Emma, has restarted her occasional comic series, "My Life Sucks," for Lent. Like last year she's going to attempt to draw a four panel comic for every day of Lent. I'm encouraging her to post them on her blog because they are just too good not to share, in my humble opinion. Then again, I'm biased.

By the way, all the events depicted in this comic did, in fact, occur yesterday. Yes, indeedy... fun, fun, fun.

February 7, 2008

Adult Language

bookofliz.jpgI'm planning on going to see The Book of Liz tomorrow night at Renegade Comedy Theater. The kids saw the postcard ad over lunch and were impressed that it was written by Amy & David Sedaris. They started to ask if they could come but noticed the caveat - "This show contains adult language."

Emma smirked and said, "'Adult Language' means you say 'maybe' when you mean 'no.'"

Simon laughed and rejoined, "Unless you say it like this - 'Maaaaaaaaaybe' - in which case it means 'yes.' Adult language is a tonal language."

I love my brainy, smart alecky kids.

December 1, 2007

Sit Down Comedy

stool%20on%20stage_150.jpgI was reminded at breakfast yesterday that my son, Simon, is 10 of the funniest people I know. He made some off handed seeming non sequitur about Snow White. Emma and I roared with laughter. Emma told him that he should do stand up comedy and he reminded us that he'd only do "sit down comedy." I had forgotten about his plan.

"Sit down comedy" (TM) is Simon's approach to comedy. Yes, my ten year old has an "approach" to comedy. Got a problem with that? Didn't think so.

Simon's plan is that you'd hire him as a comedian and he'd come out to dinner with you and, say, 5 or 6 of your friends. He'd sit down at the table with you and talk, and you'd laugh, because he's funny, and you'd pick up the tab for his (vegetarian) meal and pay him his normal fee. That's the life of a "sit down comic" (TM).

I think it's brilliant and he's beyond the cutting edge of entertainment. It's completely personalized for the individual need and it's not about someone standing in front of you and showing how wonderful she or he is, it's about building comedy out of a relationship that develops and is unique every time.

Frankly, I'm happy to be his training ground.

November 14, 2007

Halloween Pix

Here are some pictures of Emma and Simon and their friends Kai, Dane, and Annika on Halloween night. This was the first Halloween when I didn't walk with them the whole way and let them go out on their own a bit. Scary for me, but great fun for them.

They trick or treated a gas station, of all places. They went in and they didn't have any candy for them, but promised they would if they came back in a few minutes. They did and they did.

When they got back there was the requisite candy exchange. For the record Reese's Cups are the gold standard. Neco Wafers are pretty much down at the bottom. Also "Fun Size" candy bars have apparently gotten even smaller. Some fun.

Thanks to Amanda for the photos.

November 6, 2007

She's not dead yet...

1881679003_7f61d0229a.jpgOnly 40.

Maria had quite the birthday slash costume party this past Friday. The costumes were fun and eclectic. Our hostess with the mostest made this elegant and creepy Legend inspired bride of the damned outfit.

I came as a Magic 8 Ball - shaving and painting my head for the occasion. I went around with a pouch full of the 20 standard Magic 8 Ball responses and invited people to ask a question and shake me. It was hands down the most fun costume I've ever done as far as participation.

Emma came as a witch with a hat that kept falling off owing to her abnormally large cranium.

Simon came as a nerd. I know, a reallll stretch there for Simon.

Check out other pictures from the party on Maria's fickr site.

August 18, 2007

Dirt Bike

Fuzzy did this video of Dirt Bike by They Might Be Giants in his continuing attempts to Impress These Apes. I'm amazed that he got handed this song randomly as I know we both love TMBG. In fact, I believe it was Fuzzy who turned me on to this band back many years ago.

August 16, 2007

Happy Birthday! Here's a washcloth.

191.jpgToday is Simon's birthday and, even though we are staying over at a friend's house, I was sure to wake him up with a wet washcloth to the face. This is how I was traditionally woken on my birthday as was my father before me. I don't really know how far this tradition goes back.

The impetus of the tradition is simple enough. It's to make sure you have a clean face at least once a year. In this way it's somewhat akin to changing the batteries in your smoke alarms when you change your clocks for daylight savings time.

As straight-forward as this family tradition seems (to me, at least) I've been surprised to find that this seems to be unique to our family. So I'm just curious if anyone else out there practices this tradition or, if not, what are your peculiar family traditions surrounding birthdays?

August 14, 2007

Yeah, Love's a lot like that

mooneye.jpgSo on the 10 hour trip between Two Harbors and Joliet today we had the requisite "what's with that?" discussions in the car. Emma started randomly singing "That's Amore"...

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.
and I stopped her and said, "Say what?"

First of all, neither of us have ever been hit in the eye by either a naturally occuring satellite or a doughy comestible with cheese and tomato sauce.

Second of all, when we extrapolate what we know of pizza and the moon we doubt that the experience of being hit in the eye by said objects would be at all comparable. The first would be mildly inconvenient while the second would be undoubtedly fatal.

Third of all, whether pizza or moon, we can't figure out how being hit in the eye by either of them would be even roughly analogous to the state of being in love.

This whole conversation caused my daughter to sing:

When something from space hits you in the face, that's like love.
Any words of clarification would be most welcomed.

Continue reading "Yeah, Love's a lot like that" »

August 8, 2007

Fuzzy Gerdes is Totally Awesome

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my friend Fuzzy with a song about Fuzzy written by Fuzzy and performed by Fuzzy.

It don't get much more Fuzzy than this.

Why is he doing this? He's trying to impress these apes.

Virtual Playground

comeoutandplay.jpgSimon is away at camp this week and over the last two days I've received two calls asking if he can come on-line to play World of Warcraft. And I realized, no one ever knocks on our door and asks if Simon can come outside to play.

It's not that he never goes out to play, but it's always scheduled or people call. No one just shows up at the door and asks, "Can Simon come out and play?"

Is this the new norm?

August 4, 2007

The Art of Running to First

littleleaguebaseballbat15_clip_image008.jpgMy son, Simon, just finished a summer of Pee Wee League baseball this week. He improved a lot over the summer and learned the important skill of how to run to first base.

First, you have to unencumber yourself. The first time he ran to first in a game he took the bat most of the way with him before he remembered to discard it. While the bat was essential to set in motion the events that allowed him to run to first, the bat is no longer useful and, in fact, is a detriment for the actual act of running to first.

Second, you have to detach yourself. Once the ball is hit, it's gone. You no longer have any control over it. It's tempting to watch the ball, its trajectory, its journey, whether it's caught or not, but what if it is? You can't do anything about that. you have to detach yourself from it.

Third, focus yourself on the goal. Unencumbered and detached, you now only have one objective. Run to first. That is your only goal. The ball may get there before you, it may not. That doesn't matter. This is no time for distractions or half-hearted effort. Run!

Once you get to first safely then is the time for further evaluation. Are you out? Are you safe? Do you need to run further? Many permutations and possibilities can be considered, but only after you've made it to first.

I've learned a lot from my son this summer.

June 29, 2007

Make a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul

birdhouse_blue.jpgbirdhouse_yellow.jpgMy friend Maria is making birdhouses now (for decorative use only) and since I haven't plugged her artsy craftiness (or is that craftsy artiness?) in awhile, I will now!

Continue reading "Make a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul" »

June 22, 2007

Five Questions

alb_lars.jpgFuzzy tagged me for this post. I quote:

The purpose of this meme is to get people talking about their passion in life. It’s called the 5/5 meme. Five questions, then pass it to five people. "Expertise" could be your profession, hobby, or area of intense interest.
Name your area of expertise/interest: Well, I considered lots of things that I do and enjoy - roleplaying, improv, writing, on-line gaming - but I decided to tackle the one that defines me to most people most of the time - preaching.

How did you become interested in it?
I think I've always been fascinated by preachers and preaching. There's showmanship and scholarship, ritual and tomfoolery. As a preacher you can be both the sage and the village idiot at the same time. Shaman, priests, monks, and holy people of all stripes have always been of interest to me.

Continue reading "Five Questions" »

May 19, 2007

Simon in Disney World

2005-05-24-12-21-42.jpgMy kids, Simon and Emma, are at Disney World right now with their mom. Simon wrote up a little bit about his visit thus far on his blog. My favorite excerpt is his description of the "It's a Small World" ride.

Never. EVER. EVER! Go on this ride if you are eight or older. Unless your an adult who likes stuff that's really cute. It is torture. A bunch of little puppets that sing "It's a small world" OVER and OVER and OVER again. No really. That's all it is. Toddlers may enjoy this, but I loathed it with all my heart, mind and soul. The only reason I went on was that was "Because it's an iconic Disney experience"- My mom. You have been warned.

That's my boy.

April 19, 2007

Emma's Four Frames

emmakat_comic.jpgMy daughter Emma took as her Lenten discipline to draw one four frame comic every day for all of Lent. That, of course, ended with Easter, but she has continued to draw little slice of life comics from time to time. Today was one of those times and it happened to coincide with our getting a new printer/scanner/copier so she scanned it and put it up on her website for all the world to enjoy. I'm encouraging her to put up some of her other comics so stay tuned to her blog for more installments as she sees fit.

I know I'm her father and biased, but I think she's has a great eye and can frame a story really well. I also like how she uses anthropomorphized animals to represent everyone. I, it turns out, am a goat, mainly owing to my beard, I think, and not at all a commentary on my personality. Right, Emma?

April 17, 2007

Your World - Torn Apart

tornado.gifFrom the files of Random Childhood Memories: I couldn't have been more than 8. My family was on vacation and I remember my parents wanted to take us to some sort of roadside attraction where they recreated the story of the Wizard of Oz. I think the sign said something like "Join Dorothy on her journey to Oz!" or something like that. I can't tell you how it was because I refused to go.

In my kid brain I had some facts. I knew the story of the Wizard of Oz. I knew how Dorothy got to Oz. I knew the devastating power and unpredictability of tornadoes. And there was no way I was going to get into one of them, no matter how safe my parents said it would be. Frankly, I thought they'd lost their minds. How could they assure me that a tornado would be safe?

Of course, it probably was perfectly safe. I was overreacting. I should have trusted my parents. My fault in reasoning as a kid, really, was embuing grown ups with the power to make tornadoes occur on a whim. I know now that they can't really do that. But, you know, I'm not sure my instinct was wrong.

The world is not a safe place, no matter how much grown ups assure you that it is. Grown ups can't always be there to protect you. And they don't have as much power as we pretend they do.

The best thing for it, I have found, is to grow up myself and not count on grown ups to keep me safe. It's a hard thing to face your fears, to prepare yourself, to acknowledge simultaneously how powerful and powerless you are.

In training for this I have ridden roller coasters, eaten sushi, had kids, and a slew of other very scary things.

Now I have children who are sometimes frightened by how powerful and powerless they are. I'm with you.

March 22, 2007

Six Weird Things about Me

fortune-cookie.jpgFuzzy tagged me to post six weird things about me and, of course, I was compelled to do so. So here it goes.

1. When given a fortune cookie I will break it open, eat half immediately, then read the fortune. If I like the fortune I will eat the other half. If not, I leave the other half uneaten (or give it to my son, Simon).

2. I often break into song at the mere mention of something. While some people think musicals are weird because people suddenly start singing for no apparent reason, I find that perfectly normal. Oh, and I'm not that great of a singer.

3. I randomly make up my own idiosyncratic sign language. This is a passtime I share with my kids. For example, we have signs for "big and crunchy," "comparing noses," and "plotting deliciousness."

toiletpaper.gif4. If the toilet paper is not oriented with the sheet hanging down in the front I will take off the roll and reorient it, even if this is in a public restroom.

5. I watch so little TV that last year after the election I realized that the only election ads I saw were those I sought out on YouTube.

6. My ex-wife, Charlotte, and I are still really good friends. In fact, when I couldn't think up a sixth weird thing, I called her to suggest one.

Continue reading "Six Weird Things about Me" »

March 16, 2007

Daring! Don't fear of my eyes.

emma-simon-glasses.jpgFuzzy had LASIK surgery so he sent these glasses to my kids, Emma and Simon.

The glasses are amusing enough, but we loved the advisory text on the packaging - "Daring! Don't fear of my eyes."

Thanks, Fuzzy!

February 15, 2007

Tricked Out Burger

Emma's birthday was today and what she's been craving, for about the last 3 weeks by my count, is a "tricked out burger." So we took her to Chester Creek Cafe today for lunch where she got her free range, organic burger with the works. She didn't get a Sprite to wash it down with though.

After lunch she and her mom went shopping for Oscar wear for an Oscar night party in the works.

Then we went down to Va Bene and got some gelato for dessert. I had bananas foster gelato, Simon had spumoni, Emma had pecan honey vanilla gelato and mango sorbet, and Charlotte had rum raisin and coffee gelato.

According to Emma, it was a very good birthday.

February 12, 2007

Have fun storming the castle!

This is your castle birthday cake...This is your castle birthday cake after your bizarre children and friends lay siege to it...
Any questions?

Continue reading "Have fun storming the castle!" »

January 19, 2007

My Photogenic Award Winning Daughter


When this picture taken by Amanda Odeski of my daughter Emma (right) and her good friend, Emily, appeared in the Duluth News Tribune I got a lot of clippings from people.

What I didn't know until just now was that it was entered into running in the Minnesota News Photographers Association Picture of the Year 2005 competition and it came in third in the Features category.

We who know Emma are not surprised.

January 5, 2007

Don't be fooled...


Sure, she looks innocent enough, but that's what she wants you to think.

This is my daugther Emma modeling some fairyware for my friend Maria.

December 21, 2006

Clever Threads

My friend Maria now has a splashy storefront for her on-line shop of artsy crafty things like fairy wings and button head dolls. She's swell and you really should go buy things from her and support independent craft folk.

December 18, 2006

My son, the vlogger...

As an early Christmas present I got my kids their own web domains and are helping them set up their own blogs. Simon started his with a short video entry. I'm his technical assistant and we had a lot of fun learning how to do some basic video editing. If the quality of the video looks lousy, it's because we're using an el cheapo three year old web cam.

October 17, 2006

Fuzzy on Ze Frank


Fuzzy is on The Show with Ze Frank for about one tenth of a second. See if you can spot him! Or you can watch the complete uncut extended intro version.

October 15, 2006

Are You Cool?

icecube.jpgTo get into the prestigious Oxford University Department of Philosophy this year applicants in their live interview will be asked "Are you cool?"

Not only do I think this is a great question, it is one that I have used in an interview. Back in 1992 we were putting together an ensemble drama group for a summer camp and the final question of the interview was "Are you any cool?" The best answer, by the way, was from Liz who said, "No!"

As Liz is now living in Buffalo, which was hit by a freak October snow storm this week, I expect she is very cool now.

Potential Oxford philosophers take note.

October 5, 2006

My Daughter is a Fairy...


mariafairy.jpegor at least she has wings like one. She and my friend Maria (smirking right) went out to Chester Park earlier this week to take some photos for Maria's new online store of her fabulous crafty art... or arty craft... not really sure. At any rate, you should go there now and buy some unique fairy wear.

June 19, 2006


My kids and I are enjoying camp this week. Which led to a discussion about lanyards with my friend Fuzzy. Which reminded me of this poem by Billy Collins. Enjoy!

The Lanyard by Billy Collins

keychain_rwb_small.gifThe other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

Continue reading "Lanyards" »

June 18, 2006

Well, Globalize Me


So my kids and I went and bought bikes last weekend celebrating the end of school and the official beginning of summer. I was pleased to find our local store had Huffy bikes because I knew they were made in Celina, Ohio, near where I grew up, and I told my kids this. Emma looked at the tag on the bike and said, "Papa, where in China did you grow up?" Yep, Huffy outsourced.

Continue reading "Well, Globalize Me" »

May 21, 2006

How to Mow Smugly

GS_18in_815_18.jpgYesterday I bought, assembled, and used our new mower. Yep, it's a pushie. It seemed quaint and antiquarian but practical. And it fit some basic needs of mine:

1) Affordable: At $125 it wasn't dirt cheap, but not bad considering I was looking forward to a summer of paying the neighbor kid $15 a mow. Additionally, no gas, and that is no small consideration these days.

2) Low Maintainance: I'm lazy.

3) Green: I can now mow the grass with the fervor of an environmental zealot, knowing that not only am I saving myself from the scurlious stares of lawn conscious neighbors, but every time I use it I am a poster boy for conscientious environmentalism. I am neither consuming fossil fuels nor am I contributing to global warming. And isn't half the fun of being green that self-important feeling of being greener-than-thou?

Continue reading "How to Mow Smugly" »