Feet and other sundry things…

My son is now wearing an adult sized shoe.

He has now pulverized me in Strategery, epic scale, one on one.

He has just finished 24 of the 26 Warrior novels even though he likes dogs more than cats. He expects to finish the last two before Thanksgiving and I believe he will. “I wish these wouldn’t end,” is his highest complement for the series.

He has watched all three of the Lord of the Rings movies in preparation for The Hobbit coming out in three weeks.

He now watches Big Bang Theory with us (including his grandfather and aunt who are still staying with us as the first floor of their house in Rockaway is being rebuilt from the hurricane damage). What were we thinking when we allowed this (I’m referring to watching the show…)?

He still loves animation. We say Wreck it Ralph last week in the theatre, Flushed Away, and Over the Hedge on DVD – all of which had us both in stitches.

His favorite day at school is still Friday and not because it’s the last day of the school week. He loves it because he has drama class twice, or drama and shop and those classes make him smile.

He still loves art, taking a three-hour class at the Art Student’s League of New York every Saturday morning with his friend. I drive him in and write all morning at Argo Tea around the corner.

 

Time

It has been eight months since my last post. Time passes differently for adults and children. What is eight months for me is a lifetime for my son. M-ito has finished third grade and will begin fourth next week. We have passed through most of a summer. The weather has changed three times with each of the seasons and it is just starting to change again.

I haven’t written on this blog because of the time it has taken to market my novel, write the blog for that website, and keep more balls floating in the air in front of me. But this season of school I don’t want to miss recording. I don’t want my son to miss out on a year when he looks back at this. Really this is a record for him more than me.

What has happened in the last 8 months? Everything.

M-ito is now nine. For his ninth birthday he saved the world with a group of close friends from the infamous Ratzso – once again.

My debut novel Open Wounds has been published.

M-ito has read all the Harry Potter books, seen all the movies, and as of last week experienced most of Universal’s Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida. He loves them. We just watched The Sorcerer’s Stone … again… last night.

This summer M-ito figured out that baseball camp was the same as school only you learned only about baseball all day. He would like not to do baseball camp next year. He wants to be free.

We have two dogs now – Spike and Gracie, both Havanese. They wake me up at 6am to be taken out. Ugh.

Being a father is still the hardest job I have and the hardest job I know. And I still love every minute of it.

A Perfect Day

They don’t happen too often but when they do they tend to be simple, just like this past Saturday.

  • Wake up at 6am to do yoga practice and prepare for morning class. Asana and seated meditation then shower and get dressed for class.
  • 7:15am take Spike-ito out for a walk.
  • 8:30am leave to teach morning yoga class. M-ito and Mom-ita are still asleep.
  • 9:15-10:45am teach class – students are back from vacations, class is packed, and life is good.
  • 11:30am back home for brunch with Mom-ita and M-ito.
  • 12:30pm take Spike-ito out for walk with M-ito. We talk about Warhammer games (our newest father son obsession), school, life in general.
  • 1:30-4:30pm lazing around on couch with M-ito, him watching Saturday afternoon TV shows, me napping on and off, Mom-ita reading, napping, cleaning.
  • 5pm head out with M-ito to the dog run for the first time. Mom-ita is napping.
  • 6-6:45pm Watch Spike-ito make friends and play at the dog run. M-ito at first watches from the bench trying to read his book. Then after five minutes of watching Spike-ito run, wrestle, crash into cement pylons, run, run, and run some more with his new pals, M-ito gets up and joins in. He chases Spike-ito then meets the other dogs, moves our stuff next to the other owners on the other bench, and starts up conversations with the other owners like, “What kind of dog is yours? How old is he? Where did you get him?” It’s hard not to smile while you’re at the dog run. It’s a pretty happy place and the happiness is infectious. I marvel at my son and how he, as an eight year old boy holds himself and interacts with adults. As the dogs start to get tired we collar Spike-ito up and walk him home. All the way home we talk about the experience, what we learned about Spike-ito (he’s a high energy dog, loves to run, is faster than the average dog, gets knocked over a lot but like the energizer bunny keeps on going, loves, loves, loves to play, and how much he needs a bath after all the slobbering from all the other dogs and the dirt and dust) and what we’d like to do when we get home.
  • 8pm our pizza from Louie’s arrives. M-ito loves their pizza.
  • 8:15-10pm we watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid, all three of us and sometimes four of us (Spike-ito included) seated across the couch, laughing. Ice cream included as dessert.
  • 10pm Mom-ita takes Spike-ito out for his final walk and M-ito and I head to bed. We read for a few minutes then its lights out.
  • 11pm Mom-ita joins us.

Games a 7-Year Old Plays

Here was M-ito’s list for Santa (who he still believes may or may be real and I’m so glad he’s still on the fence about the big round guy).

  1. The Nintendo DS (see Dumb and Stupid (DS) previous entry)
  2. Rock’em Sock’em Robots (Just like my brother and I played when we were kids. Santa Aunt got it for him. We’ve played about ten minutes with it so far and its’ still the same game. Even Mom-ita played a few rounds. You get tired of it before you break it. We’ll see how long it lasts in active service. But as a retro gift I’m glad his aunt got it for him.)
  3. Sorry Sliders (The TV commercial totally got him. We played our own version of the game with disks we have and that was almost as much fun as the real game. Cousins got this for him and we’ve played it three times. I can’t tell it it’s a keeper of not. It’s basically like a four person small shuffleboard game.)
  4. Battleship (Friends got this for him – the electronic version and he got the small travel version. As Mom-ita says, “Now we don’t even have to talk to each other when we play” – the computer does it all. He loves this game even though it goes slow after a while.)
  5. The Force Unleashed Wii (It’s too violent but he played it at a friends house and Mom-ita said it was “OK” so we have it along with the light sabers that go with it.)
  6. Spy Gear Eavesdropper Remote Control Vehicle (Santa Aunt got him the infrared goggles instead. Spy gear was heavily pedaled on TV commercials and the stuff is neat looking but… M-ito hasn’t opened the box yet.)

Here’s what Santa added in the bag to combat EGS:

  1. The next three Hiccup the Viking Books by Cressida Cowel (M-ito loves these).
  2. The next four Droon books by Tony Abbot
  3. Carcassonne (an award wining tile game about building a city in medieval times by Rio Grande Games for 8+ and for 2-5 players)
  4. The Settlers of Catan (another award-winning game for 10+ and 2-5 players)
  5. Gamewright Games: Going Nuts, Say Cheese, and Constellation Connect (still one of my favorite game companies for kids – card games and dice games like you’ve never seen before)

Hobbit Tales

I’m reading The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien, to M-ito. I’ve been waiting to read it to him forever. Well, since I read it when I was ten or so. My friend Joe showed it to me and I read it and fell in love with it’s total sense of adventure immediately. I’m a sucker for a fantasy story. Dwarves, dragons, elves, hobbits, hero’s wizards – you can’t beat it. Since then I’ve read it twice but it’s been over ten years since the last time. I’ve told myself it would be great to read it to my son or daughter one day. Now that I have a son, I’ve been eyeing it each year, and looking at M-ito to wonder if it was time yet. This year since starting school he read How to Train Your Dragon by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (traslated from the Norse by Cressida Cowel) and a number of other books on his own that speak of adventure and new worlds, swordplay and dragons. With Hiccup under his belt I thought it was time for The Hobbit. It’s dark and there’s lots of danger and the tone is menacing, but so far he’s loved it.

Reading it has been hard, though, bitter-sweet to be exact. My friend Joe, who told me about the book after he’d read it, had been my best friend since we were both in 4th grade together. We met the first day of school – a new school for me – I left my lunch box behind and Joe took it home with him. He lived down the block from me. I went to his house to retrieve it and so a friendship was born on a sunny September day. We saw each other every day until, when we were both in seventh grade, maybe a month away from the end of school, he was killed. It was a freakish accident. He walked home from school early without letting anyone know. There were torrential rains. Crossing the rail road tracks he was hit. I can still picture the black sky, still hear the downpour against the school roof while I sat in math class. They announced his death over the loud speaker just before school ended.

So many things I do as a father remind me of my own childhood. I watch my son and watch myself as a child, or I watch my son and think of what was and what could have been. I have to remind myself, like so many other parents, that he is not me. Now that’s a challenge they never told me about in the school for parents.

The Hobbit is a wonderful book and I love the way my son pulls the covers up closer around him while I read to him about the three Trolls arguing about how to kill and eat good old Bilbo and his dwarven companions. He peers over my shoulder, snuggling in close. At the scary parts he covers his ears with his hands and closes his eyes. “Don’t read anymore!” He says, then takes his hands off his ears and asks me to read on. “Which do you want?” I ask. “Read on!” he says. I love being able to comfort him, being able to be his warmth when the story makes him shiver.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says, “Hold the sadness and pain of smasara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.” I try to remind myself of this, when my heart aches. I try to see the beauty of my son’s smile.

Today M-ito told me he wanted to write a new book of his own. In school they’re writing stories now – fiction. They’ve moved on from non-ficiton memoir and he’s thrilled because he loves to tell stories. “I’m going to write a story,” he says, “about a character I’ve had an idea about for a long time. His name is the Sizzler.”

All I can think of is the restaurant chain called The Sizzler, but I tell him to go on – to tell me about him.

“It’s about a Sizzler that has never had any adventures but he gets dragged into a bunch of them and all kinds of things happen.”

Now I can see the Great Eastern Sun.

Humphrey the Hamster

The World According to Humphrey is M-ito’s newest favorite book. Muddle Earth has been slow going but he laughs when we read it and he loves the line drawings even if it is collecting dust at the moment. And… I’m still not sure Farradawn has been ousted from first place, but Humphrey is in. And I have to tell you, Humphrey is a pretty cool hamster and a very good book. Betty Birney is the author and she’s tops.

Why is big H good for you? Because it is all about values and good ones at that. It has a good sense of humor – always important in this day and age, has very few explosions (rubber bands not included) and many riffs on friendship and human beings as a species. And of course the characters are basically good, even the bad ones. All are human. All this from a book in the 7-12 year old reader  section. There are five books in the series and probably will be more as the fifth just came out this year.

What do I mean by values? Definitions of right and wrong, good and bad, and then in the course of the book, applied to humans and other species (frogs most notably). Yet the book is complex enough in its problems not to simplify or Disney-fie life. What a talent to have in a writer!

And perhaps what I love the most about Humphrey is my son will almost always wait until a night when I can put him to bed to read the next chapter so I can be the reader. I love reading to my son. I love stories and the two go together so well. I especially love when M-ito dives under the cover to hide from what’s going to happen next and says, “Yes!” when I ask him if he wants me to keep reading. Or giggles when the story is funny and burrows a hole deeper into my side. What a joy it is to hear and be a part of the written word being read aloud.

Now… if M-ito will just help me clean the Gerbil’s cages…

The Fog Mound Trilogy

Here’s a new book series M-ito and I have read that is terrific: The Fog Mound Trilogy by Susan Schade and Jon Buller. Alternate chapters are either narrative with illustrations (one on each page from big to small in size) or comics style. Each book has a different color scheme (one is blue black and white, one is green black and white, and one is purple black and white). The pen and ink artwork is beautiful. The story themes of love, friendship, helping each other, helping the environment, being careful not to tinker too much with nature, and observe the world around you, are wonderful. It was such a pleasure reading this with M-ito and not worrying about obnoxious, sarcastic, or foul mouthed characters (like there seems to be on every TV show and movie). Instead there was adventure (plenty of it) and thoughtful, interesting, real characters. M-ito loves to read and we alternated reading – he especially enjoyed reading the more visual comics chapters but the narrative chapters with a picture on each page kept him hooked. I can’t recommend these books highly enough. I’d say the age range is 6 and up because younger kids might not make it through the narrative sections and or they might be scared by some of the content.