Thursday, October 29, 2009

Words and Lyrics

From day one, my father read poetry to me. He read some standard, or at least fairly standard, selections, like some of the Eliot's Cat Poems (specifically: Growltiger's Last Stand, Mr. Mistoffelees, Macavity: The Mystery Cat, and
Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat). He also read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, William Blake's Tyger, Randall Jarell's Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, and Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night. These were not really standard selections. Not many four year olds go around saying "In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo."

Initially I followed in my father's footsteps. I read Prufrock, among others, to Seren. But after the first year, I got away from poetry and, despite an uninspiring singing voice, turned to music to share some of my favorite lines and rhymes with my children. I am still staying true to my father's example, however. As of a month ago, my repertoire included: The Star Spangled Banner (it is admittedly a little hard to listen to me sing this if you are old enough to know better), This Land is Your Land (it should be the National Anthem), Amazing Grace, We Shall Overcome, Henry VIII (you just have to love Herman's Hermits), Janice's Mercedes Benz (my parents never sang this to me, but they played it all the time), This Land is Your Land, Yesterday, New York-New York, The Boxer, and Running To Stand Still (Challenging, but I do manage to pull it off from time to time).

Recently I have added two songs to the repertoire: Poison - Every Rose has its Thorns and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah (I try to come as close to Jeff Buckley's version as I can). Last week Seren told me that she had been singing both songs for her teachers at her pre-school. I winced a little when she told me, because I'm not sure I want her pegged as the progeny of hair band aficionados, especially when we are already occupying the bottom income rung amongst the parent's at this school. When I began to relate this story to my mother in law, she winced and immediately asked about the lyrics. She winced again when she heard a few seconds of Hallelujah. I think she thought he was saying "she tied you to her kitchen chair, she broke your throat (rather than throne) and she cut your hair," but I'm not sure her opinion would be much different if she understood the lyrics. And if she knew Seren could sing a song about Heroin abuse almost by herself?

This has led me, again, to question my decisions and my motives here. I love the songs and I love singing them for her. Some of them deal with complex issues, but so what? There is still room for Row Row Row Your Boat. And when we read Prufrock in High School, I was a leg up and happy as hell. It was so awesome to not only recognize a poem read in class that most others did not, but to have the lines just appearing from the back of my brain. And Running to Stand Still is my favorite song of all time. Plus, these songs are something I have shared with Seren (a memory that is just ours). So, I'm not really questioning myself. I don't now exactly what I'm doing ... but this time, I think I am OK with that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm in the poetry mood


She is like the winter wind
Always poking and probing
For a weakness
A way in

And she is now afraid of the wind
Ever since it blew her plastic fire helmet off her head and
The stack of books off the roof of the car
In one day

It is still fall
But despite the occasional seventy degree day
Winter is on its way

With branches delicately painted white
A blanket covering the ground
And the threat of black fingers and toes hanging heavily in the air

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I don't want to go to jail

"I don't want to go to jail."

I suppose whether those are good words to hear out of your child's mouth depends heavily on the circumstances. Spoken by your twenty year old over the phone at one in the morning ... not so good. Spoken by your three year old daughter during a break in 'doll house' play ... pretty good. Spoken flatly by a fourteen year old at dinner whilst eating Brussel sprouts ... now we are firmly mid-continuum.

This morning the middle scenario happened to me. Occasionally we speak about jail. For some reason I mentioned to her that people who don't wear their seat belts end up in jail (I don't always have the best judgement when it comes to the sharing of information ... I showed Seren clips of the World Trade Center attacks on YouTube, and was fielding questions about planes attacking our car for several days, not to mention my wife's quite justified anger and bewilderment).

Since jail entered our world, a whole series of imaginary characters, include strawberry and snoozy the invisible elephants, have had to be bailed out of jail. Strawberry has a convertible of some sort, and is a repeat offender. Our doll house people often end up in jail, usually at the hands of some sinister stuffed animal, like Curious George or Swiss Dog.

Today, completely out of the blue, came the jail comment, followed, as such comments almost always are, by an explanation. It turns out there aren't many toys in jail, and it's not like home. I liked her reasoning. It works for everybody at any point in there lives. We all have toys and we all have a 'home', whether or not we are always or ever there. I am sure if scenarios one or three ever arise she will have equally astute wisdom to share ... whether or not it will be as easy to appreciate is another question altogether.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Thought

As befits the exciting, swashbuckling, and fancy free pretty boy that I am, I was up after Midnight ... researching car seats. Wyeth has come to his last days in the infant car seat. Seren has a little longer in her seat, but not too much longer. I'm Scottish. So, in order to spend as little money as possible I am trying to ascertain the cheapest possible way to meet the car seat needs that the next seven or so years will bring. I was intrigued that some booster seats claimed to seat and protect kids who were 30lbs and up. This seemed to be a cost saving measure.

First I determined that it was legal. I was in the middle of trying to determine whether it was advisable, when I happened across The car seat nanny says that kids should ride rear facing until their 25 (slight exaggeration) and says no to the booster seat until the child leaves for college (another exaggeration). She backs up her booster seat claims with links to frightening you tube videos posted by parents whose children died in automobile accidents because they were in inappropriate car seats. I don't what she was trying to do with these cheap scare tactics, but I think it worked. Now I wouldn't buy a booster seat for Seren even if they included stock options.

And I almost came close to crying. Just the thought of anything happening to Seren or Wyeth sends me into panic. Just imagining the size of that void was enough to, eventually, make me see that I have a lot of reasons to feel happy. Not thankful ... or not just thankful ... happy. It seems logical ... at least to me. If losing someone or something would devastate you, then that person or thing must make you at least a little happy. It's far from rocket science, but it's a great thought.

Tonight I am up late filling every tub and sink in the house up to the top with water, in order to be able to drain them all, more or less, simultaneously, with the hopes of adding a few more months (years?!?!) to the life of the pipes that connect our house to the main sewer line. Who knows what great thoughts I will stumble across tonight.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Seren's Dad needs a break from blogging ... already. Kind of lame, if you ask me, but what do I know, I'm just wood, string, and wire. I have a family of my own, though, so he thought I was qualified enough to write in his blog. I am sure he is right, but who wouldn't be?

I would introduce myself, but I don't know what my name is today. Usually I'm just "Your Dad." But, if you stop by and visit, you might have to call me Joe, Apple Face, Paperclip in Your Head, or Smunchy. Sometimes I am on my own. Sometimes I live with my wife and/or one or both of our kids. There are days when I am napping with my in-laws (Grammy and Poppy). Sometimes I hang out with another family of four and their grandparents (grandma and grandad). And then there are the 'chosen four.' They are Seren's family, and they let you know it. So what if they arrived first, and we came last. Maybe the best was saved for last. The best is definitely saved for last when all of us have to sleep in the doll house living room. Chosen one or not, that man's breath is kickin! I almost prefer it when they get put up on the third floor with the big bed.

I'm actually glad that Seren's Dad asked me to do this. The last few days have been pretty dull. My family and I have been left to our own devices in the house. Seren has played upstairs in her room with the third family. I am happy for them, they often get the short end of the stick. At least we are Seren's Dad's family. Unfortunately the 'special' people are in here with us. It was nice to see them get passed over, but to have to be down here with them for days ...

I'm being petty. They aren't that bad. We all watched television together today, and that was kind of fun. And the kids have enjoyed having friends around, and have especially enjoyed the down time. Last week our daughter broke her other leg. They both just flop around now. So it is hard on her when she has to get in and out of the Blazer, dance, stick her head in a giant candle holder, be run over by a tiny school bus, squeeze into the General Lee, and get attacked by the monster. And it's hard on her mother and I because we have to carry her everywhere. So, it's been great to have the time to rest. A little cleaning, a little television, and a lot of laying around in a pile. If we get pulled back into the fray tomorrow, maybe I'll have something new to share. If not, well, even then it can't be worse than having to read what Sam has to write.

Turning on the Charm

Today the kids and why watched Curious George. Curious George is a favorite. Seren and I used to watch Curious George during snack, when I was home with just her. She has lots of Curious George books, a stuffed George, and had a Curious George cake for her 3rd birthday (or at least she had a cake that was supposed to look like Curious George).

In general, our family doesn't watch very much television. We didn't watch much television even before Comcast began charging us more money for a selection of channels that, over the course of a few weeks, gradually shrunk to next to nothing. The kids watch less than half an hour in the morning during Wyeth's snack and/or during hair brushing. Throw in half an hour for mom and dad at night and a couple of You Tube videos and the rare sporting event, and you just about have all of it.

Until recently, Seren didn't even want to watch it. You could turn it on, and she would play and ignore it. Even now she would rather play 'doll house.' We play a ot of 'doll house,' but that is a subject for another blog. She does like watching it, though, and gets involved in it. She alternates between glassy eyed stares and conversation with the characters.

This morning, Mommy turned it on to facilitate hair brushing. She turned it on at 8:00, right at the beginning of Curious George. When the hair was brushed, and it was time to say goodbye to Mommy, I indicated that there would only be a few more minutes of television. She protested, and we went back and forth, which gave Seren an opportunity to show off the stubbornness that I have passed on to her. Then I sat down on the couch next to her and told her that she only had a few minutes and it wasn't a debate, in hopes of settling things down so we could focus on goodbyes and then getting ready for school. She sat next to me, and held my arm, resting up against my shoulder. She was so cute, that I just sat there until Curious George ended. Later we went upstairs, and Mommy called to check in. I told her that Seren had held my hand for the whole show, and Seren looked up at me and said, with a huge smile on her face, "I didn't want you to turn the TV off."

What else is there to say?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Looking Back

I wrote this poem just before Megan became pregnant with Wyeth. Maybe I should change the title to "Inkling" or "Precursor" or "Soon Enough"


It isn’t
No blood, no drama, no death
It just isn’t
And no one will ever know it could have been
No one but the two of us
Maybe Seren knew too
Whenever I asked her whether she wanted a brother,
She said simply “noooohhwa”
And when I asked her whether she wanted a sister
Another “noooohhwa”

If it was planned, we’d only be off till next month
But it wasn’t
At least not yet

It didn’t even make it to blue, or two lines, or whatever
For ten days, though, it was on the agenda
And it was a lot of things besides

It was a boy with a name,
And a girl with at least a dozen different names
It was no wine, no brie, and no allergy meds
It was the birthday gift I couldn’t buy my wife
And in nine months it would have been the birthday gift she couldn’t buy me
It would have been our birthday gifts for some time to come
It was what we wanted
And what we didn’t

When I asked Seren whether she wanted to be an only child
Without pause or indecision
She answered “nooooohhwa”
So it may just be delayed

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jello and Older Friends

I wanted to call this post Jello and Old People, but I am trying very hard to retrain and restrain myself. I call them old people way too much, and one day Seren is going to call them old people in front of their faces. For the record, Mom ... I'm not talking about you and dad. :)

Every Tuesday Seren, Wyeth, and I visit a "small assisted living center." I say every Tuesday as if it is a regular and established occurrence, but nothing in our lives is regular and established. Our second visit was today. And, for the record, it's a nursing home. Actually I try not to call it a nursing home, because, as I mentioned, Seren is coming with me. I don't think there is anything wrong with calling it a nursing home, but I digress.

The three of us visit with about ten of the residents. We sit on the floor in the middle of a circle of chairs and couches. The first time I felt as if I was heading up some sort of family of traveling performers. Kind of a white Jackson Five minus three, or the Carter Family without melody, harmony, or talent. We sang, danced, and crawled around. I don't think the Carter Family crawled around.

This week was more interactive. There were still performances (Wyeth took quite a few steps in a row, Seren sang a song about fire, and I demonstrated my hair brushing prowess, which, although mostly a mirage, was quite impressive to our older female friends), but Seren also 'helped' our older friends put together her puzzles. The cutest moment came when she walked over to the only man in the group, and started taking the puzzle apart on his lap. Then she sang You Are My Sunshine to him as they worked together to put the puzzle together.

In all seriousness, I think this is a great thing for all of us. Seren asked me when we were going back, and had a whole list of things she wanted to share with her "older friends." Wyeth took more steps than he ever had, and was soaking up the attention. The residents remembered us, even the woman that usually repeats the same question over and over again. Today, not a single question was asked more than twice.

I am excited about the good start this little venture is off to, so we celebrated with Jello Jigglers. Jello with fruit floating in it, or even Aspic, might have been more appropriate. This is an intergenerational experience, however, so maybe Jigglers were the perfect celebratory dish.