Month: February 2014

The President Left Me a Voicemail!

If you’d like to hear the message, please click on this link: A Message from The President .

Did you listen? Is it the president? Does he really want rice pudding? Does he really think I have one million dollars?

For those of you who couldn’t access the clip, it said: “Hello? Where’s the rice pudding? And this is the president. And I need one million bucks. Actually, this is Owen. Okay, bye.”

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Don’t worry. Dadicus has not gone crazy here. I just had to share this voice mail message my son, Owen, left me. It made me laugh out loud. I mean crack up. And I know you probably don’t find it as funny as I do, but I think we all could afford to laugh more.

I’ve gotten in a habit of leaving the boys in the house doing their homework while I take the dogs for a walk–please don’t tell me if that is legal or not, I’d like to claim ignorance. Amazingly, it has worked out quite well. And I have my phone for emergencies–like when they can’t find the rice pudding!

I heard this message the other day while I was freezing in the fields behind our house. I was panicked that I missed a call, and worried they really needed me. Much to my amusement, it was this gem that I heard–this example of how playful and simple life can be, even when we think we’re too busy to notice. Thanks for the reminder, Mr. President.

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He’s got my vote.

My Son Turned 100 Today

Here is a picture that my seven-year-old drew of himself at 100–to celebrate the 100th day of school.  photo (46)

I love his red hair–which is brown now, and that he gave himself glasses in his old age. I could make out the cane easily enough, but I was confused about the thing he was holding in his other hand: A wand? A microphone?

“What’s that pink thing you’re holding, Hayden?”

“A lollipop!” he says, matter-of-factly.

Of course it is. If anyone will be eating lollipops at 100, it’s this guy.

Thanks for the glimpse into your future, Hayden. Enjoy every decade!

 

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Valentine for Ernest Mann

Although Valentine’s Day is not one of my favorite holidays (find out why here), this piece by Naomi Shihab Nye is one of my favorite poems. I would like to share it with you because I think it speaks to us no matter where we fall on the relationship spectrum. Please take a moment to read it–you will never look at skunks the same way again.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

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Valentine’s Day: A Grinch’s View

photo (44)Since we’ve all been single at one time or another, I think we can agree that Valentine’s Day is the cruelest of celebrations. Even though I’ve been with my wife for almost 15 years, I continue to resent this holiday.

I can remember twenty years ago, living in Philadelphia (the City of Brotherly Love) after college with some friends, and watching my roommate take his girlfriend to dinner one February 14th. I couldn’t help but see them exchange gifts and sweet nothings in our living room while I tried to blend into the walls. And as they left, I popped my dinner in a microwave and sat down to eat it–alone.

Let me get this straight–I thought. There is a day set aside for couples to go out to dinner, to shower each other with love and affection, to prompt them to be intimate with one another…because…because…because they’re unable to do so the rest of the year??  This is bullshit! I thought.

This is a day for couples to rub it in our single faces that they have someone and we don’t. Look at us? Aren’t we just adorable? See us holding hands, all giddy with love? Why, yes, I DO see you. And I saw you yesterday, and last week, and last Valentine’s Day when I was single, as well. I see you and I want to take one of Cupid’s arrows and shove it right up your… whoa…take a deep breath, Ghost of Bachelors Past.

photo (42)I’ve been with my lovely wife for a decade and a half. I have known the power, the beauty, the reality and the mundacity of love, yet I can still conjure up some anger and resentment over this stupid Hallmark Holiday. But that’s the frightening thing. This day was not invented by Hallmark–like Grandparents’ Day or Secretary’s Day. No, this day finds its beginnings in ancient Rome. In the article “The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day”, NPR writer Arnie Seipel reports: Though no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday, one good place to start is ancient Rome, where men hit on women by, well, hitting them. From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile. The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.

Jesus, this sounds like a ritual born of a marriage between The Hunger Games and ABCs The Bachelor. Shouldn’t someone tell Jennifer Lawrence about this historical travesty. I could see her in the movie now, standing up to the man who is about to whip her with a goat hide. Yet, I am strangely comforted by the bizarre beginnings of this feast–it is as Effed up as I thought.

I am not a complete curmudgeon, though. I do try to be romantic. I’m known to give cards. I’ve writtenphoto (45) my wife love poems. I even gave her a macaroni heart when we were first dating. And I will certainly accept every cut-out heart and homemade card from our boys while they are still naive enough to show their for affection for me–societal “norms” will scare them away from such gestures soon enough.

No, I am a lover, but I resent the fact that this day is so manufactured. Do people really need a day to be reminded of how to love or whom they love? If I don’t send flowers or buy chocolate, am I a jerk? No.

I would rather give my wife a card on a random Tuesday. I would rather bring her some flowers from our garden to brighten her mood while she’s doing dishes. And I would rather we not rub it in other people’s faces that we have each other and they don’t.

I knew I wasn’t going to be good at Valentine’s Day even before Pam and I were married. While still engaged, I played a cruel trick on her that I thought was hysterical.

I had stopped by my mom’s house to give her a Valentine card. When I walked in, I was met by a giant, four-foot high stuffed panda bear with a satin heart that said “I love you!”

“Mom, why do you buy crap like this?”

“Oh, I didn’t buy it. I won it in a raffle at work. Isn’t it ugly? I’m sure the grand kids will like it, though.”

I had an idea. “Mom, can I borrow your bear? I want to play a joke on Pam.”

I had gotten Pam some gifts, but pretended the bear was it. When I went home to our apartment, I knocked on the door. When she answered, I held the bear out in front of me. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I called out in my best bear voice.

“Well, what do we have here?” she asked, clearly annoyed.

“It’s your Valentine’s gift. It was the last one left in the card store.” Pam searched the bear to see if their was a present attached to the fur or satin pillow. Diamond earrings, perhaps? Maybe a watch on its wrist? Nothing. She was pissed, but she never let on.

Hours later, when we got back from dinner, my mom called us on the phone. “What did she think of the joke?” she asked.

“I never told her.”

“Michael, you did NOT keep it going all night?”

“I did,” I said, laughing.

“You did what?” Pam asked, intrigued by my laughter.

“The bear was a joke! I was only kidding.”

Insert death stare here.

It was then Pam was certain; she was about to spend the rest of her life with a jackass.

Enjoy your day everyone! And just remember, if you’re not in love or in a relationship this Valentine’s Day, at least no one is going to try and hit you with a dog hide.

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Artwork by Hayden (7)

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A Midwinter Night’s Dream

This winter is certainly starting to wear thin on our nerves. As the East Coast battles its latest storm and the aftermath, cabin fever is running amok at our house. We’ve had more snow days than school days since forever, and the novelty of sledding and snowball fights has grown tired.

This is starting to become our winter of discontent.

If you’re a literary sort, you may notice that the title of this post and the reference above allude to works from the great master, William Shakespeare. I seem to be in a Shakespeare sort of mind. Indeed, this winter is one of history (the worst power outage in Pennsylvania history); comedy (the boys and I building our first igloo in the yard); and tragedy (trees and power lines falling around us like Armageddon).

But the reason Shakespeare is present in this post may surprise you. It’s not because I’ve curled up with one of the Bard’s classic plays by the fire, it’s because of LEGOs. Yes, LEGOs.

If you have kids and you don’t live under a rock (or you didn’t live under one until the latest ice storm), then you are aware that The LEGO Movie photo (38)comes out today. Yes, dear reader, by the time you see this post, we may have already seen this epic film. I am genuinely excited. My boys are LEGO freaks. Plus, the film is getting great reviews and stars all the people I’d like to hang out with if I were famous–Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and a few of the great Wills of our time: Will Ferrell, Will Arnett and Will Forte. And one of the characters in the film is the greatest Will of all time.

LEGOs abound in my house. I step on them when I enter my sons’ rooms. I put them in various bins and boxes whenever I come upon discarded pieces. I’ve created shelves and cleared bookcases so my boys’ creations would last–they don’t. And all of these aspects drive me crazy.

But the one thing I love about LEGOs is how they captivate the imagination. My photo (40)boys can play with them for hours. And they create and recreate various scenes with the thousands of pieces that litter our house. So, it’s not uncommon for me to come upon various tableaus of LEGO figures everywhere I turn: the dining room table, the kitchen counter, the bathroom sink, and every floor space imaginable–none on the damn shelves I put up for display, though!

Here is a LEGO scene created by my seven-year-old this morning that sits behind me on the kitchen counter while I type:

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And it is these types of things that I have come to love–and expect–as a parent. My boys create all over the house. They build. They destroy. They imagine. And I bear witness to it all. Pre-kids, this would have driven me crazy. I would have viewed it as clutter and crap. But little by little my defenses have been whittled down. Now, it’s like pop-up pop culture surrounds me.

And sometimes, worlds collide. When LEGO announced the latest minifigure series in honor of the movie, the boys were ecstatic. And I had to laugh, because I became excited that Shakespeare was part of the lineup.

“If one of you gets Shakespeare, can I have it?”

“Why?”

“Because I’m an English teacher!” NOTE: I do know I should have said “may” in my question above, but we don’t talk like that all the time:) “Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time,” I continued.

I proceeded to describe Shakespeare to the boys. Then, I was like a kid when they opened the wrappers for their minifigures. And lo and behold, Hayden DID get Shakespeare and I now get to watch Will in action as he makes his way around the house.

Like this little scenario I came upon the other night:

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It’s Will riding on the hood of a fire truck with a mermaid behind him. It’s sounds like the premise of a bad joke. But it is simply one of the many bizarre, wonderful creations of my boys thanks to LEGOs.  When I came upon it, I laughed out loud. Here was one of my idols, a man who intimidated me as a teacher for years, in a rather absurd scenario. It’s as if Will is riding around on his imagination thinking up one of his many fantastical stories–The Tempest, perhaps?

And then it dawned on me–that’s just the way Shakespeare would have wanted it. As he would say: “Thephoto (41) play’s the thing.” And LEGOs have taught my sons how to play, how to create, how to dream. And I hate that this post sounds like a cheesy ad for LEGO, but they have been integral to my sons’ childhood–and a huge deficit to  our bank account.

But as I sit with the doldrums of winter, and we all try to weather these storms, it is my sons’ LEGO scenes, and the iconic characters they employ, that help remind me that all of this is part of a bigger story. The plot of Life continues to be surprising and challenging; random and riveting.

I’m reminded of my son Owen’s words the other night as we prepared to sleep in front of the fireplace due to no electricity: “It’s an adventure!” he shouted enthusiastically. And it is. All of it.

I think Shakespeare would agree.

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