That's what I'll be for Halloween. There is a 2/3rd deflated red rubber kickball that's been grazing with the toy herd in our basement play room for quite awhile. I'd always wondered, as I deftly avoided stepping on it or any other injurious detritus, what sort of use I could have for it. It conforms nicely to the shape of the head. And with the temperatures/wind like they are, I might use it for insulation during Trick or Treating. Does your town try to have trick-or-treating on a night other than Halloween? As far as I know, Pine Grove Mills will be "having it" at the normal time. But Thursday night there were trick or treaters in both Altoona and Warriors Mark. Lots of them, as though that were Halloween. Speaking of the weather, there is a LOT of wind up in here. I can see on our lawn that a majority of the leaves are from other people's trees -- perhaps other people who live in Ohio. Strong wind.
It's Sunday and I've finally 'caught up' on Lux work so now I can focus on all of the local racers who completely forgot to tell me back when they should have that they needed their carpet racer bodies done by the first race. I've really got to move into a new niche. If you know anyone who uses a wheelchair, ask them if they'd like to have (whatever in the world they could imagine or desire) custom-painted on their wheels. If so, please have them contact me via http://www.luxgraphics.com/. I have no idea how to penetrate that market, it's nothing like motorcycles or RC racing. Wheelchair owners do not congregate around wheelchair owner events, they do not subscribe to wheelchair owner enthusiast magazines, and they generally do not seek out other wheelchair owners to hang out/race/discuss their passion for wheelchairs.
Max's league "Super Bowl" is today, in which his team beats the other Junior team from his,um, organization. The Lovely and Talented Mrs. Hults is taking him to the game, thankfully. It's so much easier for me to be a supporting football parent when I don't actually see him play. I am a coach by nature & I just can't keep my mouth shut, trying to correct, redirect & motivate him. Alas, after today he will have to travel to The Poconos, we think, to play for some state title or something. The experience may be good for him, since the boys are mostly older and I think a relatively good influence on him. But for the sake of our schedule, AK and I would not shed a tear if his team were finally beaten.
Max is, for the first time, genuinely showing an interest in building his own RC car. The winter TT-01 Challenge spec class at my local track is perfect for him, so efforts are being made to acquire one of these relatively inexpensive little tanks for him to build "himself" (I imagine Dad will be there building every step of the way, but the point is the time spent screwing in the screws right next to him -- NOT the actual task of screwing in the screws).
We've played Chess a couple of times with the set I got him for his birthday and that's been educational. He has a knack for the thinking & planning involved. Also, his natural tendency towards caution vs. agression is very evident. The boy, for the life of him, cannot seem to think in an aggressive, offensive way. This would explain how slowly he's taken to steamrolling other kids on the gridiron. It makes me reflect upon my own childhood (since so far he's shown to be my genetic Mini Me), and indeed I did lack a certain competitive killer instict. I still do. Unlike him, I DID play sports voluntarily, and I DID take an interest in the structure of the games and DID yearn to win. But perhaps it was more about (like MC and RC racing has been for me) the social aspects of doing it, less about the actual goal of winning. Some other minor influences affecting his and my interest in childhood sports are the fact that when I was as kid we actually had recess, lunch, P.E., before-and-afterschool play times. Also the fact that we didn't have video games. Well, we had them but we had to pilfer laundry quarters and go across town to the video arcade. And play was limited. Vegetating, living in a video game world, was not an option.
I also suspect he has a gift for music, if not arts in general. I can't explain why, though his Suzuki teachers have always recognized this or that advanced skill in him. It's something about the way he hears the music I'm always playing, the way he reacts to it, or something.
Netflix Nothing to report. Watched a John Cleese/Elizabeth Hurley-hosted documentary called The Human Face & that was interesting at best. WONderful Nova documentary about Napolean. I don't suppose it was a better documentary than most, I just found it really fascinating to learn about the little guy. I have had "Syriana" sitting here for days. Several people have commented on it, it seems to stir people be it positive or negative, and it looks like it will take some focus to really watch. With the painting? Not so much with the focus :). Hey does anyone out there know of a source for older/less popular/less mainstream DVDs? There are several old films I'd love to own, but you'd never find them in a Blockbuster or a Wal Mart. Specifically "Greased Lightning", a Richard Pryor drama about the first black man to win a NASCAR race. And what was the name of that gangster movie where all the roles were played by kids? It was awful, but tell me it wouldn't be fun to watch "The Untouchables", then watch that.
(now you sing the background la laaa, la la la laaa) Can't help that day. . . .
Good Weekend. I accomplished a reasonable amount of Lux work last week, so I made it a Me Weekend and worked on my own RC stuff. AK reminded me that I have a "Hobby Business" (that means it doesn't really make money), so if I stop doing the hobby then what's the point? So I finally painted the idea I've been wanting to paint since "Cars" came out in the Summer. . .
Many thanks to Reno Rob for Photoshop help with the masks, since Disney made it real hard to find high-res graphics of the car's distinguishing features. Oh, and if Disney calls, this is "Fighting McSpleen", I don't know what movie they're talking about, nobody saw me do anything and they can't prove a thing. The body is on top of my spec-racing Tamiya TT-01, which I spent Sunday rebuilding. It's my plan to race this "fun" class at my local track this winter, while travelling to farther-away tracks 2 weekends a month for indoor off-road racing. I did the "serious" on-road carpet racing last year and found it more expensive than fun.
AK did many of the Kid Things this weekend and I'm very grateful, especially Max's football stuff. Watching the games is hard enough for me (see previous post regarding lostness and son-father alienation), but then it rained for the whole game AND my lovely little introvert had to socialize with grownups at a pizza parlor! I'm sorry I had to miss the kids' Primary Program but Lux had to deliver bodies to get paid for bodies.
X-Mas Lux is going to try and supplement the family's X-Mas Fund this year, since I'm not buying any new cars or racing any new classes this winter. I've got a freelance copy writing job and that's a small contribution to family finances, but it's earmarked for some boring bills or something. I'm very much looking forward to making a real, immediate and gratifying financial contribution :).
Film I can't begin to go over the films I haven't reviewed here! Some Highlights:
Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind: I'd tried to watch this awhile ago and was completely unsuccessful. It gets muddy in the middle and you have to have faith in the film, I learned, and apparently I didn't have that faith before. But this time I stuck it out and found it to be a really nice film. I found it strange that this was directed by frenchman Michel Gondry. See, I love my Spike Jonze music video collection. I love his videos, the music he does them for, and his whole schtick (his old girlfriend Sophia Coppola is pretty too). I was reminded recently that he'd directed a feature film: "Adaptation", and upon making the connection remembered that I did not enjoy that film at all. Strange how I can love his videos so much and not like his feature film. Well, I'd also Netflixed a collection of Michel Gondry music videos from the same people who did my Spike Jonze collection. He is known for the White Stripes Lego video and while I do give him credit for being generally original, I can't say I dug the videos in general. Partly his music choices I'm sure, but still the videos were a little, I don't know, French or something. Here we are again, I didn't like his videos but loved his feature film!
Other Mainstream "Independent" Films Netflix keeps recommending to me all of these Pseudo Quirky films where successful actors get to "stretch" and really act in independent-like films (which of course are not independent at all, just given smaller budgets than the usual box office slag). Happy Endings: Wonderful. Quiet and long, but a stellar performance by Lisa Kudrow and humor that you have to look for just like in real life. Winter Passing: Just as sad as I'd thought it would be when I read the synopsis Netflix kept showing me. I was right to skip it. I like Zooey Deschanel, but not this much. Closer: Character study of two different couples that was obviously a play but somehow still works as a movie using the original play-like scene structure. If you like the deep, ugly sexual dynamics of addictive relationships you'll dig this. I don't, I didn't. I was impressed by Julia Roberts a couple of times, and speculated that it's strange she somehow/somewhere got the "Beautiful Leading Lady" tag. Because she's not beautiful, and she can really act when the script calls for it unlike a lot of the People Magazine subjects.
Added to my Superhero collection with the X-Men trilogy. I knew I'd seen one before, but apparently I've seen 2. They're fun like comic books are fun, and hey there's THREE of them so I can get some painting done. Also picked up The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. Why isn't Brendan Frasier a bigger star? I have always liked that guy. He started as the cro magnon in a Bill & Ted rip off, then took off with real roles like "School Ties", then something bad must've happened because he popped up in George of The Jungle and as Dudley Dooright?
What The Bleep I saw this in theatres 2 years ago and thought it was interesting. Regardless of the theme, I liked watching Marlee Matlin and there is a hilarious wedding scene with CGI hormones all over the place. I rented it so I could show AK the wedding scene & took an interest in the subject matter. The film carried weight, it seemed, because of what appeared to be legitimate scientific experts' testimony. Well it turns out that this film was greatly maligned by the real Physicists of the world as Granola Woo Woo Hogwash Claptrap. A couple of the featured Physicists in the film claim their words were taken completely out of context to serve the theme of the film ("quantum physics proves we create our own reality"), which they do not agree with at all. Still , Netflix this one for the wedding scene. You'll never forget animated hormones singing "Addicted to Love" in their own music video!
Thumbsucker Yeah, whatever. But, if, when I get to the netherworld, and AK's not there yet, and Emma Thompson is already taken, I may have to get my 'Nando on and swoop hard on Tilda Swinton. She was the evil queen in Narnia, also in this movie, and I could look at her for 2 hours no problem.
Stardate: Beenonmyassallmorning Thirty. . . Must get back to my lexan, liquid mask, vinyl & paint! Speaking of, here is some shameless self-promotion.
Dude-a-Palooza Closing Comments
It is now one hour until we leave to visit BIL/SIL/Li'l Cuz and pick up Mommy from the airport. Good time to reflect upon the 'Palooza that has just paloozed all over our house for the past week. Overall a wonderful experience. All of our patiences, patienceze, patienci. . . whatever. . . were tested at some point or another. But it brings boys together much like a football team or a summer camp or work detail or a wild college party. And that is good.
Now that I'm a teensy bit closer than I was a week ago to each of my boys, I have the following observations:
-Max is lost. Hormones, maturity, young-adult pressures or whatever have him simply beside himself in the grand scheme of things. Day to day of course he's a smart, social, capable & handsome boy who shines through his own insecurities and applies himself primarily by avoiding chores & playing Pokemon. Totally normal. In the grand scheme, however, I suspect now is the time to provide him with the most structured structure we can. I was told recently that 12 year olds are like 2 year olds, 14 year olds like 4 year olds. Well, I don't know, but there are parallels between my 10 year old and a zero year old!
-Milo is Thtuart Thmalley. It's his world, he's good enough, and darnit people like him. He's the Dalai Lama. He's enlightented. Now is his time, he marvels at the world and every discovery, however tiny, and his capabilities are increasing exponentially. He excells at piano, school, and the boy can throw/catch a football at 4-almost-5 nearly as well as his 10 year old brother.
-Ben is harboring a very strong suspicion that the world does not revolve around him and he is fighting this with every ounce of his being. He is determined to will his surroundings/family to submission and he applies everything he learns to this venture. I try very hard not to take it personally, and often I actually find it charming since it's SO his mother (and I am so in love with his mother). He is fierce in his pursuit, and as in business, I respect that ferocity regardless of the pursuit itself.
I adore them all more today than yesterday and more this week than last. I've got my own challenges to face down if I'm going to do right by them as a father, but times like this past week give me the perspective & resolve to attack fatherhood with Max-like faith in the universe, Milo-like positivity and Ben-like ferocity.
I feel a wannabefilmcritic rant coming on, I'll save that for a later blog. Must get going to Baltimore.
Oh but first I must share with you a new slang term I learned for songs that get stuck in your head and won't leave: Tune Wedgie.
*giggling like Beavis* Tune Wedgie.
Dude-a-Palooza Version Something Point Oh
Max insists this is The 4th Annual Dude-a-Palooza, but I'm just not sure. Some were more officially Paloozy than others. And sometimes we just had a few days so it was a Hold Our Breath Until Mom Gets Back Home-a-Palooza. Whatever you call it, Emily is the house's sole carrier of estrogen until we go get AK from Baltimore next Wednesday. We surely will not equal the enthusiasm of the original Dude-a-Palooza since then (Fall of '04) I was still giddy with the thought of not putting on a tie and sitting in LA traffic every morning. It was as though I was meeting my sons for the very first time back then, especially Ben & Milo. Now we are much closer, and I'm grateful for testosterone-fests like this because they force me to focus on the boys & reflect.
Today we met with Ben & Milo's long lost (well, Summer-long lost) ladyfriends M1 and M2. Perhaps by coincidence -- perhaps due to their being 12 years from having their drivers' licenses -- their father and fellow Super Secret Stay At Home Dad Society member Marty was also there. I commonly and enthusiastically greet Marty & his girls as "Marty Mart & The Funky Bunch". Despite our many bonds & commonalities regarding our age, children & life path, I'm very close to concluding we are on VERY different pages regarding Hip Hop's 1990s renaissance. His quizzical yet polite responses to my greeting necessitate the aforementioned conclusion.
Marty & I share so much in common: 10-11 year old boys, 4 year old twins, careers sacrificed for the family, work-from-home wives paying the bills. Once we get to talking it's clear we have many of the same parenting & fatherhood challenges. It is SO important to have that "mirror" since it assures me (I assume "us") that I ("we") are SANE ("or not"). At least if we're insane we're not alone. And that not only makes insanity palpable it darn near makes it preferable. I'd rather be crazy among friends than sane!
Yesterday was almost entirely spent in the Monster Truck, driving AK to Baltimore & back. That's rough on munchkins but they hung in there. AK brought enough VHS tapes (Monster Truck plays them -- TOtally 2001) that I didn't have to endure that drugged out (how else could she be SO happy ALL the time?) and deaf (that little bee-otch YELLS EVERYTHING!) Demon Dora until just before we were home. The trip down was a breeze, but balancing the needs of 4 very different bladders on the way home made progress painfully slow. If you find yourself driving long distances & having to listen to, but never see (because the screen is behind you), children's videos for hours on end -- try the following:
-During the Leap Frog how-to-read videos, imagine every time they say "vowels" that they are saying "bowels". Very funny. Warning: you may giggle to yourself and resemble Beavis and/or Butthead in doing so.
-Mentally deconstruct "Rugrats" characters and discern their roles in the story, given that the themes are actually very mature. All of the children think & act as adults, they just talk funny. Very funny, actually. Notice how many times in a line or sentence they'll purposefully mis-pronounce a word: never too many. That's what they pay those writers for. Ever get the feeling that Chronicles of Narnia is based as much in Existentialism as it is Christianity? Me too. What philosophy is hidden in "Rugrats"? You get the idea. . . .
Huge storms all night last night. I stayed up for most of it, counting my chickens every 15 minutes and just SURE that every noise outside was a bear getting into our garbage. Isn't it strange that when AK's here I can zonk out and sleep like a corpse, even though she's doing exactly the same, yet I sleep so lightly I'm barely resting when I'm alone? Somehow a cricket got into our basement and instead of leaving insisted on serenading me most of the night. Did he mistake me for a Missus Cricket? Surely he reconsidered, judging by his song's decreasing volume & frequency, after I showered his general area with Pactra Indy Pearl Silver Laquer Spray Paint, Specially Formulated for Lexan Polycarbonate Model Car Bodies. Either he's dead or very shiny.
This morning went relatively smoothly. I think Max got where he needed to be when he needed to be with all the things he needed. Ben & Milo had a Dude-a-Palooza Homeschool Breakfast Lesson and learned about Daddy's good friend: Little Debbie. She covers 3 basis food groups (sugar, foam and wax) and is a part of this (insert photo of complete breakfast AND a Little Debbie) complete breakfast! Isn't it great how they do that with the breakfast cereals? Cigarette companies could show you a muscular trainer in his gym with treadmill, weights & the latest aerobo-gimmick (Abstep, Thighroller, Buttcruncher etc. . .)-- and a box of cigs. "Marlboro cigarettes are a part of this healthy lifestyle!"
Lunch was uneventful, and while it was preprepared & microwaveable it was better than Little Debbie. I'm cleaning a little as I go instead of doing nothing but tear down & declutter as is my habit when faced with a week of living in the house (instead of my workshop).
Notes for my wife in CA: Honey, your hay is really really wet. I hope this will not affect it's ability to do whatever it's job was when you return. Unless of course it's job was to stand in our driveway like a white trash statue of liberty, in which case it's still doing it's job admirably. And I'm sorry but I threw away the watermelon-like produce item that's lived on our counter for a few weeks.
Presently your sons are handling a serious crisis: In an attempt to remove Thor from the other green comfychair, Milo threw Ben's "Batty" stuffed bat, hoping Thor would chase it. Thor only snorted, but now Emily is chewing Batty's head off. Ben is atwitter over this, but cannot enlist Milo's help since Milo has decided to read a book to Thor. Tiring of yelling at Milo, Ben has now placed a football, a package of paper bowls and a package of paper plates into the chair with Thor. Thor has relented and now searches the kitchen for quesadilla droppings, Milo is victoriously (and with Dora-esque volume. . . ) singing the We Did It Song, and Ben is shot-putting the paper bowls package against the closet doors.
So, you know, SNAFU. Situation Normal: Always Freaking Unreal
Pupp Daddy Dog spends his days working as an entrepeneur and as a Dad. He is passionately in love with/obsessively neurotic about his family. Imagine Kicking Bird mixed with Albert Brooks. Oh, and throw in some Notorious B.I.G.
Alaska is the frustrated but caring cat at the center of our canine universe. All of us alternately worship, rely on and ceaselessly whine to her. Her need to control everything is confounded by the fact that she really pretty much does control everything, so in her few free moments, she knits and searches desperately for things to fuss about.
Max is smart and handsome, with a big heart. He is not only growing like a weed, but he has the attention span and concentration abilities of a weed. Despite my best efforts, AK keeps feeding him and he keeps growing. Our plan is to keep him so busy with school, sports & the arts that he won't notice he's a teenager and is supposed to hate us. T minus 2.5 years to teen launch, so far so good.
Ben and Milo are phenomenal little creatures who remind us minute-by-minute not only how little control we have in this world, but why we should cease our controlling efforts and just laugh at all of God's jokes. Lately, Milo likes to dance and is good on the piano. Ben likes to mimic Max and enjoys manipulating adults and anyone else who has no idea how quietly brilliant he is. Both of them would love your full and complete attention. Really, stop reading silly blogs and join the fan club now. Ok? Ok.