Monday, April 23, 2007

This morning we have boy, with increasing chance of young man by the afternoon.

This somehow captures the 143 different personalities of my son. Or maybe you only see 1 of them? Or a few, depending on how well you know him? These are the mysteries of portraiture. Please post the definitive explanation of portraiture, in essay form with footnotes and any other related academia, in the comments section. Your assignments are due immediately.

Or you could just tell me what you see.

I see my father's heavy eyes, which is strange because he looks like me, and I really look very little like my father. I see his confident nature, salted with the fatigue and resignation he uses to cope with the puberty he's not ready for. I see a child who is increasingly uncomfortable in childhood, terrified of anything else, and just beginning to flirt with the excitement of true independence. I see the doors of parental control beginning to close, I see the rising dawn of parental influence, and way way back behind those heavy hazel eyes I see his big heart shining. Then I'm assured that even though the coming years will be awkward and painful, he's ultimately going to be a very happy man. There are hundreds of reasons, but in this photo I can't help but see what he's not showing: a laughing loving boy-bordering-on-teen who yearns for nothing more than connecting with people. And how wrong can you go with your heart out there on your sleeve? For all to share? Yeah, it gets dirty and hurt out there in the elements. But in the really big picture I believe that's a good problem to have.

In other news, Spring has finally sprung. See AK's blog for sun-related excitement. I'm feeling overwhelmed, as though I need to hurry up and get cracking on every single thing I thought of all Winter and concluded "I'll do that when the sun comes out". But meanwhile Lux is still driving the Breadwinner Bus so it all takes a backseat to paint & copywriting & any other venue I can find for whoring out my meager skills. It took me almost one whole year, but I finally managed to get myself and a fully functional unicycle to a meeting of The Wobbling Lions. That was a hoot, I met lots of interesting folk, and it was all the excerise I thought it would be. I hope to be maybe touring or doing "Muni", mountain unicycling, by the end of the Summer! Do they have trailside defibrillators I wonder. . . . I used the impending meeting to finally get a helmet painted, and I have an order in for two more already. So who wants a custom painted helmet? Motorcycle, batting, bicycle you name it. Much bigger market than the one I've focused on so far, much more potential.

Planning is underway for our next video! Max is leaning towards any of his favorite songs, which tend to be house/dance music. This would be good for a storytelling video since the songs themselves offer little story. I've got it in my head that I want to do "Mo' Money Mo' Problems", maybe then I can move on to another genre and give up trying to be Spike Jonze. And long term AK and I fantasize about a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary about homeschooling, though I'm afraid only homeshoolers would get most of the gags we've thought of so far. Any ideas?

:) Enjoy your Spring! As Dy says, Kiss Those Babies. . .



Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Awwwwww. . . . you all look so normal!"

That was the reaction of one of our fellow piano class/charter school parents, when she saw our whole clan Saturday, on parade in our nice-clothes & church regalia. I asked AK what she meant by that, and why she gets away with it, and I don't understand the answer, but I respect that she's just as harried as we are with her gaggle of munchkins and over-scheduled weekends. So it's cool. And she's right, dammit. Getting everyone into their Sunday duds is one thing. It's even harder when you add "extras": Mom's doing her hair & makeup and dad has to go get new pants (his suit pants still fit , but it would seem the waistbands shrunk on all of his corporate khakis) and both of the big boys need new belts. Oh and Max and I had to stop at Lowes so I could jury-rig the tri-pod for the camcorder for the recital. . . . etc. . .

So DAMN SKIPPY we look normal. And we earned it! We should get an award for achieving Normal Status.

Saturday consisted of: Gramma J visit, Max's piano recital, the groundbreaking ceremony for his charter school's new school facility, then a birthday party for Ben & Milo's little friend at dinner time. Gramma J visit passed so fast I barely remember, of course I think I slept through the first part of it. Then the piano recital was really something. I havent' attended any/many of his recitals so far. And that's a good thing. But both of us were ready, I did all the right Good Daddy Things and none of the Bad Daddy Things. He acted mature and relatively professional, so much that at the end he was lauded by his teacher more for his behavior than his playing.

That's not as bad as it sounds, his playing was really fine. He's played better, but his teacher understands that technique and accuracy are not where he needs help right now. It was clear to me in hearing the other children play (and from hearing Max play at home recently, he really wasn't his best at the recital though he was right there with his age group), that Max really does have a gift. Some kids are very practiced and very accurate, one in particular that I call The Mathematician, he gets not a note wrong or out of place. But The Mathematician's piece has no feeling, no ups and downs, no investment on his part aside from the hours of repetition and muscle memory. Some of the other older kids, however, (in addition to the accuracy that comes from practice), actually feel the music they're playing and take you on a little journey throughout the piece. Listening to them play was like a little classical piano concert, and reminded you why classiscal music was the Top 40 for hundreds of years. Well Max is neither of these species yet, but he clearly has a knack for the feeling and ups and downs and letting-the-music-happen part of things. If his parents cracked the whip and got him practicing as religiously as his teacher would like, he will be one of the little concert pianist musically-gifted kids in a few years. He's got the talent part, and that's good news. Where he needs to apply himself is in the acting professional-even-though-4th-grade-girl-who-I-suspect-kind-of-digs-him-is goofing off & trying to engage him during the recital. And it was here that he excelled yesterday, and it's why I was soooooo proud of him. He conquered his performance nerves just fine, and he performed nearly to his skill level, and he showed talent & artistic promise, and none of us are concerned about any of that stuff long term.

Here is his Alegretto 1, showing not so much the talent but a great deal of the technical stuff that comes from practice, which is harder for us and so much more meaningful. Only 3 little garfs, but never got lost & maintained composure like a pro. He also did a duet "Just Can't Wait To Be King" but you could barely hear him playing over his teacher so I'll just post this one. . .

Then there was us looking all Normal. . .

And most of his class, with our beloved Mrs. B the Ukrainian Suzuki Mistress. She is wholly committed with every cell of her being to the idea that love would flourish and peace would prevail on Earth if everyone would just play the piano. The Suzuki way. And no less than 4 hours a day, with another 2 spent listening to classical. :) In all seriousness, she appreciates Max's gifts and knows how to push him hard and make him proud of himself. And that is so rare today. And we adore her for this.

Then we proceeded to the groundbreaking cermony/party for his school's new school. His school is only it's 2nd or 3rd year of existence, and they've been doing their thing in leased digs. They've done very well with their current facility really, though there is no room for his current class and they are in an adjacent building. The new facility will be great, though not complete with cafeteria or full playground for a few years. And my standards are low, anything to avoid the perils of traditional Middle School!

Here is a photo & video of one of the festivities. See, the theme at his school is multi-culturalism. They learn both Spanish and Chinese from the earliest grades. So here we have a Turkish/Persian traditional music & dance presentation (yes, that is the same Little Patricia Arquette from piano). We learn here that, traditionally and multi-culturally, the women of Persia and the Near East. . .

. . .do The Monkey, do The Cabbage Patch, and work hard pull-starting their lawnmowers. :) Seriously, they were lovely and had worked hard to learn the dances and are learning early on as they should that the world is bigger than State College, PA.

Max and I opted out of the little kid birthday party & went bowling. It wasn't nearly as interesting as last time, and perhaps a little frustrating for The Maxinator. His approach is consistent and looks better than ever, he's doing all I've (calmly and with no pressure'ly) coached him on. Yet the ball hits gutter immediately after leaving his hand. I don't know how to fix it, he's never missed so many pins! So we just watched the music videos, rolled our frames, and enjoyed the entertainment of the drunk college kids on the left & giggly Koreans on the right.

Mom was a Good Mom and took the kids to the party of the kid from the family that we really do love and cherish. But Mom is an Introverted Mom, and she'd spent the whole day interacting with other Moms, and I suspect the Chuckie-Cheese-Hell-like environment of the arcade/tubetown birthday party place was a bit much for her. So she got home, went to The Good Mommy Couch, and melted. We let mommy melt and were happy to have her back this morning :).

Today, we recover. We were going to watch the big nasty storm that was supposed -- at one time -- to drop 6-12 inches of April snow on us. But either it died somewhere West of us or it took a detour to the North. Either way, it's providing no entertainment value at all. AK has just proposed a library trip, followed by a quiet reading afternoon. I am down.

Enjoy your weekend!



Thursday, April 12, 2007

Modern Love. Gets me to the church on time.

So here is a wedding Me Me that I snorked from Dy.

I imagine that if either of you are reading this blog, you already know these stories. But I've been an airbrushin', Ebay listing, order hustlin' fool for the last few days & I wanna blog. Or excercise. Or brush my teeth. Really, really thoroughly. Anything to avoid work for another hour.

1. Where/How did you meet?
AK and I met in the Walnut Creek Civic Arts Young Reperatory Theater Company. She was 16, acted, dressed, sounded and looked exactly as she does today. I was 14, gangly and dorky but a hard-working clown who tap danced for every pretty girl with a giggle to give. I asked her to go to Bagel King with me, and I educated her on the finer points of Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Blueberry Cream Cheese consumption. She gave many giggles and I walked on air when she let me hang around with her.

2. How long have you known each other?
That was the Summer of 1984, so it's almost 23 years.

3. How long after you met did you start dating?
Well, in 1984, I think I asked her "to go with me" almost immediately. We had dates, I gave her her first kiss, she dumped me mercilessly due to peer pressure (Walnut Creek was the tracks, and we lived on different sides of the tracks). But we really GOT TOGETHER in the Spring of 1994, 10 years later. During those 10 years our friendship vasillated (pendulized?) between distant but close, rabid letter writing/phone calling, and very very best of friends. I worshipped the ground she walked on during those 10 years, she wishes she could rewind/delete them, so we often bicker over whether she was a rockstar or a trainwreck. I win because I'm right, and even if it was rough it's why she is who she is today. And she is HIZZ TO THA IZZOT did you know?

4. How long did you date before you were engaged?
I don't know, less than a year. Before she even came out to CA (from OH) for a visit, Mandy (friend's girlfriend's sister) asked if I was going to marry this girl. I hadn't thought about it per se. But us extroverts have to SAY things for them to be real, and thats how I knew it was real when I responded sans hesitation: "It would be a shame not to".

5. How long was your engagement?
I dunno, less than a year I suppose. It took us awhile to plan the wedding, we had a limited budget.

6. How long have you been married?
Almost 12 years.

7. What is your anniversary?
*pulling off my wedding band to read it. . . .* July 22nd, 1995

8. How many people came to your wedding reception?
Around 80

9. What kind of cake did you serve?
Well, I fell in love with this local bakers "Princess Cake" which was made of different types of Marzipan. AK did not like the coconutty nut-paste flavor. And I had to admit that the dome-shaped cakes in the color of natural marzipan looked a lot like tanned female mammaries. So we had Marzipan Princess Cake at our rehearsal dinner (along with Zachary's, the worlds very best pizza, from Berkeley, CA). And the wedding had a traditional basket-weave wedding cake. Instead of people on top, we had tiny model BMW motorcycles in the colors of our BMW bikes.

10. Where was your wedding?
The Depot, a restaurant (with courtyard and wading pool) in Sonoma, CA.

11. What did you serve for your meal?
I have no stinkin' idea. I contest that the food at our wedding was a boo boo. It was all froo froo pretty stylish veggie chic. My only stipulation was that we have devilled eggs. We did. I only had two, they were awful.

12. How many people were in your wedding party? 8

13. Are you still friends with them all?
Yep. About half were family, but even still in touch with the friends despite distances.

14. Did your spouse cry during the ceremony?
I don't think so. I'm the weeper, I cried during my own reading. And when I saw her come down the aisle. Well, come down the side of the wading pool.

15. Most special moment of your wedding day?
See #14, I really did melt and become ecstatically hers forever when I first saw her. That was the beginning of my life's first paradigm shift, and it had all the impact of a religious revelation. The speeches by my Mom, Father in Law and Best Man were pretty awesome too. My Mom's was especially brilliant and she glowed.

16. Any funny moments?
-People really dug our favors, faught over them at the end of the day and some still have them. They were toy motorcycles, then we spraypainted POGS (remember pogs?) black and glued them to the sides of favor-boxes. Pipe cleaners held them to the motorcycles, so they were little silver shiny motorcycle trailers full of candy.
-AK dropped her bouquet, sending her maids atwitter, when we kissed.
-In the weeks leading up to the wedding, AK was nervous and I was calm. The day of the wedding she was relieved and ready to rock (uncharacteristically cussing like a sailor in the "backstage" section of our wedding video). I was paralyzed with an un-named fear, and made my Best Man play Crystal Waters' "100% Pure Love" 23 times on the drive to Sonoma.
-Introducing my groomsmen for the video, I nervously, unwittingly and systematically insulted every one of them.

17. Any big disasters?
-Our officiant was a disaster. He was charming & confident before the wedding, flamboyantly gay and embarassing during the ceremony. Hopefully for many he was one of the Funny Moments. For me, he was one of the reasons we had a Recommitment Ceremony 2 years ago.
-Our photographer was a disaster. It was a budget arrangement, they were unorganized, and I could tell during the shoot that the pictures would suck. They do. We spent most of the event getting terrible pictures taken, not nearly enough time with our wonderful guests. The video was done by great friends, thankfully, that's awesome.
-The Devilled Eggs. A man deserves a sharp, curry-tinged devilled egg on his wedding day!

18. Where did you go on your honeymoon?
We rode our motorcycles to a National BMW Motorcycle Rally in Durango, CO, visiting friends there and on the way. We stayed at a B&B in Sonoma for 2 nights before, and that was heaven.

19. How long were you gone?
2 weeks I think?

20. If you were to do your wedding over, what would you change?
Food, photographer & officiant. I think our readings could have had more preparation, also. Here I was a theater guy, my theater brother and even my high school drama teacher were there and the piece was excellent -- I should've killed! Also, I still wish we'd had the cash for an evening reception with more booze. For a smallish, afternoon wine country affair it was absolutely perfect, don't get me wrong. I just always had this tiny picture if my mind of a mediumish evening affair with slightly more revelry, especially given that pretty much all our favorite people in the whole world were in one place at one time, one time only!

21. What side of the bed do you sleep on?
Right side is Daddyville, though there are often more boys & dogs there when I wake up than when I went to bed.

22. What size is your bed?
California King. We all sprawl.

23. Greatest strength as a couple?
We're cemented, we're a rock, we're a given. While we question our own place in life sometimes, we never do question our place next to each other. That's very empowering, and I'm pretty confident we can do anything we set our wildly divergent, independent and stubborn minds to!

24. Greatest challenge as a couple?
Introvert, Extrovert. "Love languages" doesn't begin to cover the communication issues. If she's a Russian scholar, I'm an Ojibway African tribesman. And we've got no translator. We'll let you know how that goes. . .

25. Who literally pays the bills?
90% of the time she earns it & she writes the checks. When things are good, Lux Graphics pays down debts and buys us the treats we all deserve. When things are tight, like now, Lux Graphics pays the utilities.

26. What is your song?
Hmmmm. That's a toughie for a guy like me. Our recessional was "Can You Picture That" by Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem, does that count? When I visited her in Boston once, she sang "Rainbow Connection" to me from the backseat of my motorcycle. Is that it? I can name songs from our initial pubescent courtship (Billy Joel, Rod Stewards "You're in my Soul". . . ), from our whirlwind engagement (Lots of Dr. John, for some reason) and every moment from then to now.
What would AK say? I Just asked:
Me: Honey do we have a song?
AK: Nnnnnnnnot that I can think of.
See #24. We're from way farther apart than Mars & Venus.

27. What did you dance your first dance to?
No dancing, not in the budget. We took some line dancing lessons once. I'd love to do ballroom & swing. But my goddess is not hindered by the restrictive impediments of rhythm & coordination. :)

8. Describe your wedding dress:
We wore those British tux's with scarves and tails. We looked like cockroaches, every one of us. I'm not a dress expert, she should tell the story, but I know the dress cost WAY too little to make her look so beautiful. I think it started as a bridesmaid dress? The alterations lady had her whole house burn down, but the firemen saved her dress, so there you go so we must be written in the stars.

29. What kind of flowers did you have at your wedding?
Flowerry ones. Too heavy to hold while kissing.

30. Are your wedding bands engraved?
See #7. The date and from an E.E. Cummings poem: "Love is the every only God"

31. How old were you when you got married?
I was 25, AK had just turned 27.

Your turn!



Tuesday, April 03, 2007

How I Spent My Dude-a-Palooza

First, I bit the bullet and bought a new camcorder/video editing software package. The reason was that our twins are STILL cute, and while The Cute Stage lasts a little longer with identical twins, it does end eventually. We have WAY more video of Max in his cute stage, and every other stage, than we have of the twins. My own slow realization (see: last 2 years transition from Corporate Man to Work From/Stay at Home Dad) that THIS is the time of my life, that my time will NEVER be more valuable than now, has reminded me that I'll want to look back on this time later when my time is less valuable, when my kids are more independent.

Another reason to bite this particular bullet is that I've always LOVED editing video into little movies. You may have heard the undergroud buzz about "Naked Stunt Sunday" or "The HERC Tape" or "Alabama Cart Surfing"? Well these were done WAY back in the day on my brother's computer in MO, when there was no such thing as consumer editing software or computers. That was about 7 years ago. Then about 4 or 5 years ago, I bought the consumer software (no longer needing a high-powered computer) and tried to edit video again. This was a nightmare, and had the physical & emotional effect of closing a garage door on top of my cranium. Repeatedly. The problem was that I had used pro-level software before, and THAT was not yet available to consumers. So the software was dumbed-down and gave me none of the flexibility or creative freedom I loved about editing video into little movies.

I re-entered the market cautiously and with a looming sense of dread for these reasons. My awful expectations were satisfied, when, the night after buying a new DVD Camcorder (I'd spent 1.5 days straight researching the purchase), I learned that you CAN'T EDIT VIDEO FROM A DVD CAMCORDER! Can you believe it? It's a dirty little secret. You can film stuff, edit it a little in the camera, then finalize it with DVD menus and stuff, and POW you can pop it right into your DVD player & watch it on your TV. If that's what you want, go get one they're cool. But if like me you want to edit the video in another program, you'll have to do backdoor workaround things tantamount to outsmarting the (very smart) DVD Camcorder Designers Guild of Japan.

This led to me spending 2 hours in Circuit City, re-researching the re-purchase, deciding if I should go up a notch to hard-drive camcorder or down a notch to Mini-DV. I'd already spent a chunk of my education fund, didn't want to spend more, so we now have a Mini-DV Camcorder. Oh, and one half of those 2 hours was spent convincing the salesperson that the Dirty Little Secret of DVD Camcorders was truly true. She finally believed me when I took her to a computer and made her Google "handycam dvd editing".

Wow. I really made that long story long didn't I? Sorry. The whole IDEA was twofold. Yes, we needed to capture more of these magical moments for posterity. And? Our boys? They'd LOVE to act up and act out and make little movies! The idea came while I was in CA to help Mom, and I spent some time with an old theater friend. We only see each other every few years, but when we get together (same thing with LV Ben. U out there LV Ben?) I. Laugh. So. Hard. I turn into a goofy, punchy, well, . . . theater guy. I turn into the person I started as. I reflected on this, between belly-aching bouts of laughter, and thought it actually sad that I'm never like that around anyone else. Why? Because my KIDS WOULD LOVE ME THIS WAY! I am goofy. I speak in character voices and I see the world through Funnyglasses.

So when I pondered on how to make this Daddy/Max Dude-a-Palooza a very special one, the way was clear. Max and Daddy were going to make a movie :). We plotted and planned while I got to know all the new doo-dads and software and instruction manuals. He had GREAT plans (I told him he could be the next Spielberg or John Woo, he said he wanted to be like Spike Jonze) and I had to keep reassuring him that we would make MANY movies. No, we don't have to do them all at once, and actually we should start simple so we can learn how the doo-dads all work.

So except for Sunday, which was rainy and gloomy and lazy, when we only went bowling and watched a lot of movies. . . . this is how I spent my Dude-a-Palooza:

To recap (WILL I EVER GET TO IT???), we've see the original Sesame Street masterpiece with it's pre-Floyd muppet and some Fezoobs. We've seen the brilliant Sandra Bullock's version from Muppets Tonight. We've even seen Brak and Space Ghost riff on this timeless masterpiece. With all respect to Cake (the band. Though the desert rocks as well) , and the entire "For The Kids" album (one of our family car standbys for long trips) . . .

The video quality is weak here, I'll have to learn how to make things look better on Google Video & YouTube. It'll look better next time!



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.








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