Perfect Birthday

Wake up 5:30am.

Practice yoga and seated meditation (listen to my body speak to me in a chorus of creaking sounds).

Take out dogs (Spike, who knows the sound of my meditation timer jumps on me and licks my face when it rings its ending zen tone).

Make M-ito’s breakfast (challah bread with peanut butter, strawberries, glass of milk) while Mom-ita tries to wake him up and get him out of bed (I have the easier job by far – but then it is my birthday).

My son gives me a birthday hug. Ahhhhh…

Make my tea (English breakfast with honey and milk) and take first sip.

Drive M-ito to  school while talking about books for half the trip (Mom-ita told him he had to talk to me – sigh – for half of the trip before he started to read which is what he usually does on the car ride in).

Realize I forgot M-ito’s cleats at home. Plan return trip in my head and call Mom-ita to prepare her for early journey back.

Come home.

Drive back with Mom-ita to M-ito’s school to drop off cleats.

Go to Dolphin Bookstore and order the perfect latte.

Order Andrew Smith’s new book, Passenger (arrival in two days) for me.

Write two new pages of WIP (I am Nobody).

Pick up M-ito early at school so we can watch him practice lacrosse. He is awesome. The coach speaks and my son listens. It never works that way with me. Ahhhhhh.

Drive to Starbucks. M-ito does homework. I shop for new messenger bag… and order it from Timbuk2. Ahhhhh…

Take M-ito to Tae Kwon Do and write while he kicks and punches his way towards his black belt.

Drive home.

Feed and take out very appreciative dogs.

Order in from Louies Pizza (Margarita with chicken).

Read Andrew Smith’s King of Marbury (absolutely awesome).

Check Facebook birthday wishes. Overwhelmingly sweet.

Watch presidential debates and try not to scream or throw things at the TV (Go Obama!).

Sleep.

Time to Do, Time to Be (dobedobedo)

 

Time

Do Be Do Be Do

The clock is ticking.

My son is in Fifth grade and part of the fifth grade experience at his school is to play on two team sports during the year. He shall receive the team experience one way or the other. M-ito enjoys playing soccer but it is not, at this point in his life, his thing. Other sports are, though they’re mostly individual sports so in some ways I’m glad he’s playing a team sport so he gets the experience. His life, I hope, will be richer for it.

Team sports were a big part of my growing up so I see their value (even if I also see their horror – oh the horror!).

What this means is this summer I had a fatherhood crisis of sorts. Because I could see it coming. M-ito would be playing games during the week in addition to his usual after-school activities (taekwondo, art, play). Then back in June my son said…

M-ito – Why do you work all the time?

Me – I don’t work all the time.

M-ito – Yes you do. Even on vacation.

Me – Oh.

Mom-ita – Sage nod of her head.

What do I work at besides attempting to be a dad and partner to my wife? My day job as a Director of Training at a not-for-profit in Manhattan. I do some consulting work in the same field also. I teach yoga two-three classes a week. I write when I can (these days during lunch) and try to keep up with the marketing of my book.

How was I going to make time to see games? I didn’t know.

I’d stopped teaching stage fencing a few years before, because I didn’t have time. I still miss that very much. Then I started teaching yoga. I know, I know. It’s a long story for another time. But I did teacher training and started teaching when M-ito was 4. Five and a half years of teaching later…

Last one in, first one out. It was simple, really. Just like an accounting system.

DS i XL Grenade

Sometimes you just have to jump on the grenade. If you’ve been reading along with this blog you know my opinion of the DS and it’s not very high. I like people games instead of computer games. It’s not that I dislike computer games – I love them – but not to the extent that kids play them today. There is a disconnect occurring between children today and other children. They’re playing games too much by themselves and with a computer and not interacting with others. We’re social animals and this can’t be good for the upcoming generation. So that’s the set-up.

The camera zooms in on my face. It’s Sunday morning and it’s my birthday. No wait. Rewind. Go back to Saturday afternoon. The day before. I’m home after yoga class (a good day with 19 people and good pranic energy in the room). Mom-ita and M-ito are out shopping for various things including my birthday gift. The phone rings. It’s Mom-ita.

“M-ito has a gift all picked out for you,” she says cagily.

“Okay… ” I say, waiting for what sounds like is coming after. I’m picturing some Warhammer figures (a new game we’re playing together at a shop in Manhattan), or something yoga-like, maybe a cool stuffed animal that he will get soon after he gives it to me.

“It’s a DS,” she says quietly and waits.

“A what?” I ask.

“A DS i XL. He says you’ve always wanted one and that if you get one – you and he can play the game together at the same time.” She waits again. “He said you need the DS i XL version because it’s a bigger screen and you can’t see the small screen very well.” I think she’s trying to hold back laughter now but I can’t tell.”

I rack my brain. Have I ever told him I wanted a DS? Have I ever told him how much that would mean to me? If I did, and it’s possible, it was only to make him feel better because I would never in my life think that I would get one without someone forcing me to play with a gun to my head. Perhaps I have overstated that a little.  I took a deep breath and exhaled. We have only M-ito. “Of course,” I said. “That’s very sweet. I’ll take the XL and I’ll jump on the grenade. It’s my turn. You’ve been playing Harry Potter on the Wii all summer (and loving it I should say because Mom-ita loves to play the Lego games) so it’s my turn.”

Now she laughs. “This is your iPad, you know,” she says when she gets her breath back.

“Thanks,” I say. An iPad. Oh that hurts. She did that on purpose.

M-ito couldn’t wait so I opened my gift that night.

Fast forward to the next morning, October 3, birthday morning.

I sleep until almost 7:30am and it’s wonderful. The bed is so warm beneath the comforter. The wind is blowing outside and making the shades move back and forth. M-ito is staring at me from a few inches away. “Happy birthday,” he says, eyes full of mischief. “Let’s play your DS.”

And with a hug, a heartfelt sigh, and a smile, I say, “Yes. Let’s play with my DS. I’ll need your help setting it up.”

Forty-nine  years on this planet and still counting.

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.

Disney in August

With M-ito 8 years old these are  some of the things we did right this time:

  • We went for 6-nights and 7 days which was just enough time, not too much and not too little (though we’d rather have stayed on vacation another week). We left on a Tuesday, early so we could go to a park in the afternoon and evening. We left in the evening on Labor Day so we had the whole day to play before we loaded up and got to the airport. Mom-ita planned everything out and it was just about perfect.
  • We slept in almost every day and didn’t get to the parks until 11 or 12 each day which was just fine with all of us. I got up and did my yoga practice as the sun rose, before Mom-ita and M-ito got up. We hit two parks almost every day but one in the afternoon and one in the evening. It didn’t feel rushed that way.
  • We spent a lot of time in EPCOT exploring the countries, the attractions, and the fireworks. There’s still plenty more to explore on future trips. I am amazed at how much there is to explore there.
  • We used fast passes only once but that was because it wasn’t too crowded and the most we waited for anything was maybe fifteen minutes. Mostly we walked on rides without a wait or a five-minute wait.
  • We came the last week of August when kids in Florida are back in school. The parks were pretty empty (as empty as I’ve ever seen them) which meant there were minimal lines.
  • We spent a lot of time at the hotel pool almost every day.
  • We went to Wilderness lodge – a good choice even if the food choices are not the greatest (Animal Kingdom lodge had the best food as far as we’re concerned). It’s beautiful and the rooms were good size – the staff very nice and helpful.
  • We found a ride we liked and went on it again and again. This trip it was Buzz Lightyear’s ride. M-ito loved it and going on the ride (with no line) meant we could actually get better and better at ray-gunning invading aliens so that by the time we finished with it all of us felt like we had some proficiency and M-ito’s confidence on rides in general was boosted.
  • Half of our trip was with a friend of M-ito’s and his mom. M-ito and K-ito played well together and were good company for each other. We all got along and had a good time together. The second half of the trip we were on our own and had some good alone family time. It was a nice balance.

Some things that didn’t work out:

  • As great as it was to have empty parks and few lines for most of the time we were there it is HOT HOT HOT in August. So we sweat alot and we found ourselves doing the it’s-ninety-plus-and-we’re-sweating-shuffle. It’s a slow walk from shade spot to shade spot, cooling station to cooling station. M-ito had a little trouble with the heat on our second to last day, needing to sit down, drink, and cool off. Mom-ita bought him a canvas hat. I soaked it in a vendors ice water and put it on his head. Then I had him put his hands up to his wrists into the water. Along with drinking lots of water these things brought him back to himself.
  • The middle restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge was okay but not something we looked forward to eating at so that left us with the fast food area (crowded and an okay selection but again not something I looked forward to every day). Note, we did find the expensive restaurant to be excellent and had our last evening meal there – well worth it but not feasible for every day because of the price.
  • Bus to Animal Kingdom took an hour each time – way too long.
  • We never made it to Disney Studios – M-ito just didn’t feel like it so we skipped it this time.
  • We never made it to Harry Potter at Universal – different park experience, and needs its own trip to do. Also we heard it was packed and the lines were too too long.

Some things we did that were either new or just fun:

  • We took small two person motor boats out onto the lake for an hour. Very cool.
  • We could take ferries to Magic Kingdom and back. Very cool.
  • Pin trading again was a blast.
  • We did two Kim Possibles (Japan and Mexico – both were excellent and lots of fun) at EPCOT.
  • M-ito went on his first official roller coaster – Goofy’s Barnstorming – which looked very slow but once you got on was really a good ride and a good one for him to go on first. We went on once and that was all but M-ito said he really liked it. This was the same roller coaster we tried to get on in April and left after one look at the coaster roaring by. Good confidence builder for M-ito. Plus I had fun.
  • We spent an hour in Dino Land at Animal Kingdom in the Boneyard playground playing hide and seek then digging for fossils. Some things never get old.
  • We went on the Animal Safari at Animal Kingdom 2x and it was just as good as all the other times we’ve been on it over the years even if the “poacher” chatter is getting a little old.
  • Pangani Jungle Walk was a great experience and the gorillas were awesome. This trip M-ito seemed to want to see all the animals in Animal Kingdom – which was great, if tiring for Mom-ita nd Dad-dito.
  • Buzz Light Year at Magic Kingdom was a great surprise. A large shooting video game with a real skill factor that we all enjoyed about eight times (I think).
  • We also went on Soaring at EPCOT which was great. M-ito loved it and it was also a great confidence builder as it dealt with heights (even if imaginary), movement, and the feeling of flying.
  • We went on an hour guided tour with a naturalist/botanist behind the scenes at The Land in EPCOT that was really great. They showed us their hydroponics gardens and fishery. Great for ideas about future science projects even if it was hot in the hot-house.

School tomorrow. First day of Third Grade. So it goes. We’re all breathing big sighs and preparing ourselves for the fall. We’re going to pick up Spike today also! Dog in the house again!

The Shy Child

Here’s another poem M-ito’s teacher showed us at parent teacher conference. This one made us all cry, each for different reasons. The punctuation and line breaks are all his.

Shy

I am always shy

when I meet people

I always make

a shy face

but when I

get used to people

I am not shy at

all

I wish I could change

how I am shy

but I cannot.

What does this mean to me as a father? Have I gone wrong by having a shy child? Would I rather have an outgoing, rambunctious child? I love my son just the way he is but these questions come up for me as a father. Did I somehow make my son shy or is he hardwired from having two shy parents? Is it in the genes? I was shy also (and continue to be) though I see already my son is way ahead of me in being able to express who he is and what it feels like to be him. That ability to express himself like this at his age amazes me. He is an introspective child and that is a wonder.

I remember when he was younger he was the slow-to-warm-up child. An hour into the party he would finally let go of my leg and start to enjoy himself, just as the party was over and all his friends started to leave. He’s grown so much since then in his abilities to socialize and make friends, but like with so many of us, it’s hard to him to do. This poem is such a reflection of his starting in this school and pushing himself to make friends this year – and he has. None of his teachers would say he’s a shy child now because he is so much a part of the 2nd grade and so well-integrated. But his view of himself is on paper in front of me and it is both beautiful in its honesty and sad at the same time because it’s painful what he is expressing. Don’t we all wish better for our children? Is being shy a bad thing? I don’t think so, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the sayings, like the early bird gets the worm, and the emphasis on being assertive to get what you need. The loud child gets the attention at home and in the classroom. But some of us are just not hard-wired that way and we have to learn other ways to exist. Shy is good, even if it’s harder. Perhaps that should be made into a mantra and chiseled into Sanskrit for all the world to see.

Aparigraha Lessons

It (aparigraha) means non-possessiveness or non-hoarding and it’s a yogic concept right out of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Last year at parent teacher conferences in First Grade I took a look at the interior of M-ito’s desk and found it filled with papers, old homework, half-finished drawings, used and new tissues, and all the way at the back there was a sandwich of some sort, wrapped in sarran wrap. I don’t know how old it was and neither did M-ito. Neither of us wanted to see what it looked like so it just got thrown out.

“In case I was hungry,” M-ito said, when asked,”Why?”

Last week at parent teacher conferences in Second Grade, at a new school (which we are amazingly still happy about) we found that our son was hoarding pencils. He picked them up whenever he found them during the day and put them in his desk. He had quite a few of them from 3/4’s of a year’s tidying up of pencils. He told us, “I’m hoarding pencils,” with a big smile on his face. One of his friends was hoarding scissors, the same way. I’m glad M-ito was only hoarding pencils. The kids at M-ito’s school all have pencils, scissors, notebooks, folders, and pens (when they get to them) given to them by the school. There’s no competition over styles and designs, no extra cash to lay out for these kinds of utensils of student work. It’s all in the tuition. Gulp. So M-ito’s collection of pencils is not differentiated by these things. Instead each is differentiated by whether a pencil is sharpened or not, how many times it has been sharpened which determines its length, and finally how much of an eraser is left – maybe he also codes them by the size of the bite marks left on them – I don’t know. My son collects pennies too – wheat pennies only. It’s a hold-over from my grandfather who was a trainman, and myself who collected in his footsteps.

I believe he’s going to give all the pencils back to his teacher at some point. At least that’s what he said when I asked him. At least he’s helping to keep the floor clean. Gotta give that to him.