Monday, April 28, 2008

Sometimes It's Just Too Easy

Last night at dinner the girls engaged in a game of "Can You Read My Mind?"

Kyra: "OK, Kailey. Guess what I'm thinking."

Kailey: "I'm stupid?"

Game. Over.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Joy of Sax

Here are the girls channeling their inner David Sanborn, laying down what they believe to be some smooth jazz licks.



In reality, it's a bit more like the mating call of the Canada Goose.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Swell Season Indeed

Well, adult night out did not disappoint in the least as Diane and I thoroughly enjoyed the opening leg of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's Swell Season tour at the beautiful Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix. The event transcended the mere concert experience. It was more of a celebration of Glen and Marketa's achievements through the movie Once, with a thousand of their closest friends in attendance. The movie has had such a profound impact upon so many people, and this concert setting was the perfect opportunity for audiences to give back to it's two main characters. The energy in the theater was unlike anything I have experienced in a concert setting before. Glen set the intimate tone by coming out solo to the very front of the stage, sans microphone, and performing Say It To Me Now, recalling his gut-wrenching street performance from the movie which starts in a long shot and slowly zooms in to the song's conclusion. The theater was deathly quiet, taking in every moment of Glen's performance until he paused to ask, "Am I doin' OK?" The place exploded.



Marketa then joined him up front, to thunderous applause, for one more unplugged song before they retreated to their microphones. They were joined by three members of Glen's band, The Frames, on bass, electric guitar and violin, and the music they produced was amazing. The rest of the evening played out like a VH1 Storytellers episode with Glen telling long and often hilarious stories of many of the song's origins and fielding questions and comments from the audience. Some of his more interesting stories included leaving his worn Takamine guitar with a complete stranger for repair, standing in a grave he bought for his goth girlfriend's birthday to impress her, and lying drunk and freezing in a field in the middle of the night. It's amazing what life experiences will inspire good music.



Calexico opened the show and were amazing as well, performing as a duo with Joey Burns on vocals/guitar and John Covertino on drums. The concert was just what the doctor ordered. Our lives have been so hectic lately that it was good to have a little road trip to enjoy time with each other, great music, and some much needed laughs.

Please forgive my crappy photos. My PowerShot A530 didn't like being zoomed in in a darkened theater from 19 rows back.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Trailer Trash

Alright, another installation of shameless self-promotion. This is my latest video editing project: producing a fake movie trailer. We were given a bunch of raw footage from the movie Saturday Night Fever and challenged to transform it into a trailer promoting a completely different film. My submission? I present to you Becoming Father Vinnie.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Little Adult Time

Tomorrow Diane and I are going to take a little midweek respite from the organized chaos that is our lives to enjoy a little one-on-one adult time. It's OK. You can think dirty here. I can't wait, and not just for the dirty part either. We're heading up to Phoenix to see Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, of Once fame, on their The Swell Season concert tour at the Orpheum Theater tomorrow night. Once was one of those movies that stuck with me for days, and I found myself constantly humming or singing Falling Slowly, this year's Academy Award winning song. When I found out they were coming in concert, I jumped at the chance to get tickets. I'm stoked.

We're going to spend the night in Phoenix, sans children, and after the concert the sky's the limit. Perhaps we'll go out and have a few drinks, do a little salsa dancing, sing some karaoke, and generally party 'till the cows come home. Yeah right. In reality, we'll check into our hotel room and fall asleep watching Leno. We're becoming old souls in our not-so-old age. Oh well, at least we're getting away.

Enjoy the clip!




Monday, April 21, 2008

Bad Dreams

This is the interaction I had with Kyra last night at around 9:30. She does this all the time where she wakes up crying, we take her to the bathroom, she pees, we get her back to bed and coax her back to sleep. And she never remembers any of it. It's kinda freaky.

"What's wrong?"

Kyra, sitting up in bed, holding her stomach, rocking back and forth and crying: "I want you to be in my poster."

"What?"

"I want you to be in my poster."

"You want me to be in your poster?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because then I'll know you're OK and I'll feel better."

"OK. I'll be in your poster."

"Thank you, Daddy."

And with that she settled into her pillow and immediately began snoring. I covered her and crept out of her room, happy to know that in her eyes I am poster-worthy. I also slept with my door locked.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Grounded

I crossed into a new frontier of parenthood earlier this week when I dug deep into the archives of disciplinary action and plucked up this gem: "KAILEY, YOU'RE GROUNDED!" Up until now, grounding had no effect seeing as how Kailey had nowhere to go or no one to play with on the block. But now that the girls have discovered a friend down the street, grounding is back in play!

We've had a rough time getting through to Kailey that hitting is not an acceptable form of venting her frustration. The girls get into an argument, Kyra doesn't do what Kailey wants her to do, Kailey whacks her a good one, and I lose my frickin' mind...for the millionth time. I've tried just about everything to curb this behavior, including letting Kyra hit her back (moronic, I know).

This happened, again, on Sunday afternoon...in the van. I should have known better. I usually don't let them sit together in the same row for this very reason, but they had been getting along really well, prompting my momentary lapse of sanity. As we were driving they started arguing because Kyra wouldn't play Kailey's game. I pulled up to a stop light and told Kailey to get in the back row, and as she did, whap, she slapped Kyra in the head. I watched her do it in the rear view mirror. I summoned the strength within to postpone my breakdown until I was at least able to pull the van off to the side of the road.
Then I lost my mind. Right there. In the van.

"WHAT DO WE SAY ABOUT HITTING!"

"No hitting."

"THEN WHY DID YOU HIT HER!"

"Because she wouldn't play with me."

"WRONG! TRY AGAIN!"

"I wanted her to play a game and she was mean."

"WRONG! TRY AGAIN!"

I could see people slowing down and reaching for their cell phones while trying to decipher my license plate number.

"WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN KYRA DOES SOMETHING YOU DON'T LIKE?"

"Use my words?"

"WHICH MEANS?"

"Tell you or Mommy?"

Yes, we've been through all of this before. Then I said it:

"KAILEY, YOU'RE GROUNDED. THERE WILL BE NO PLAYING OUTSIDE WITH YOUR FRIENDS, NO TV, AND NO TREATS FOR ONE WEEK!"

It's official. I've become my parents. I threw the car in gear and got the heck out of Dodge before the police could arrive. We completed our errands and returned home where Kailey's punishment commenced.

I've since come to wonder who grounding punishes more, the kid or the adult. TV and playing outside gets the kids out of your hair for a period of time. Taking it away means you have to entertain your kids (like that's a bad thing). Kailey fought her punishment at first, acting all mad and pouty at me, but she eventually embraced her fate and the two of us were actually able to enjoy some one on one time while Kyra played outside with friends. Whether it will end her hitting habit remains to be seen. And I'm still waiting to see if the police are going to show up at my door.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

She's Got the Bug

"We've got to practice my song because the talent show auditions are next week!" It was Monday night and Kyra was in a mild panic. And that mild panic was about to transform into major panic.

"No, Sweetie, talent show auditions are this week. They're Wednesday afternoon."

Cue the breakdown. Fortunately, the two of us had already worked on a song for Kyra's birthday, so we already had a tune in the can. Meltdown averted. As you can probably tell, Kyra is our passionate performer. It's one thing to do karaoke in your family room, but quite another to get up the nerve to take your act to the next level: performing before your peers. I was proud of her drive and initiative, so we practiced. I told her that I could record the guitar track for her audition, but she looked at me with a pouty face and said, "But I want you to play for me." Remember all that crap I wrote about being the "co-keeper of the dream"? Time to put up or shut up.

Auditions were yesterday after school. I worked the morning shift, which allowed me to attend, but meant that I had been up since 3:30 in the morning. I'm not using it as an excuse...I'm just saying. I arrived at school to pick up the girls, and Kailey led us to the classroom where the auditions were being held. It was packed full of kids and a few parents. I didn't see any other parents lugging around guitars. I was hoping there would be a sheet posted with audition times, but no such luck. We would have to wait around until Kyra's name was called, and that could be a very long time. Fortunately, they sent all the kids who were playing instruments to another room to audition. We stuck around to watch a few of the acts...two girls with a gymnastics routine, two older boys cracking each other up with terrible jokes (What's the difference between a teacher and a train? The teacher says 'don't chew gum', but the train says 'choo, choo, choo'!), and two girls singing a duet...before someone noticed my guitar and sent us to audition with the instrumentalists, even though Kyra was singing. I didn't complain though. We probably cut our wait time down from an hour to ten minutes.

We arrived in the music room which was considerably less crowded with only about fifteen students waiting to audition. Much better. We listened to four auditions, all of which brought back memories as students played clarinet, flute, and saxophone arrangements of the very same tunes I learned at that age. Then the teacher turned to us. "And we have a guitar here?" she asked. Sharp as a tack, that one.

"Yeah, I'll be accompanying my daughter today."

"Great! And what song are you going to be singing today, Kyra?"

"I Miss You."

And with that, we were off. Kyra, did a fantastic job. She wasn't singing as loud or performing as animated as she had practiced, but that was understandable. This was her first audition, she was singing to a room full of strangers, and, oh yeah, she's seven. I watched her as I played, and my heart overflowed as she worked her way confidently through the song. I saw flashes of fame and fortune in her future, and it all started right here.

Then came the key change. Now I don't know if I was too focused on Kyra, too focused on my visions of grandeur, or if I was just plain tired, but I blanked...I couldn't remember the chords in the key change. I could feel the panic building from within, so I just stopped playing and collected myself for a moment. In the meantime, I thought Kyra's eyes were going to take over her head. I regained my bearings, gave her a cue in, and we finished the song to a modest applause, visions of grandeur blown to smithereens. Who knows, maybe I'm subconsciously trying to sabotage my daughter's music career.

I packed up my guitar and as we walked out to the car, Kyra, channeling her inner diva, stopped me. "Daddy," she deadpanned, "If we get picked, you're really going to have to practice."

She's so ready for Hollywood.


Monday, April 14, 2008

You Wouldn't Like Her When She's Angry

After Kailey's first outing as a pitcher, I knew that if she wanted to pitch with any regularity she was going to need to practice...a lot. And I also knew that I was going to need to carve out some more time to practice with her. So yesterday we made a quick trip out to Sports Authority so I could replace my softball glove that somebody "misplaced", a.k.a. "lost" (you know who you are), and then returned home where we proceeded to break my new glove in. I got a pretty sweet deal, BTW. After a 25% off coupon and finding a glove on sale for another 20% off, I got an $80 glove for $48. You can check the math.

In the girls' softball league, the distance from the pointy tip of home plate to the pitcher's rubber is 32 feet. That's a long way for an 8 or 9 year-old to throw a softball, underhand, with any sort of velocity on it, or accuracy for that matter. It takes a lot of practice. The good thing about pitching in softball is that, though it doesn't seem like it, the underhand motion of pitching a softball is more natural than the overhand pitching of a baseball. Baseball pitchers require several days to rest their pitching arms after an outing. Not so with softball pitchers. They can pitch day after day after day. And that's a good thing in a sport that requires an endless amount of practice to hone the technique and skills to become a pitcher. The only thing is, they have to want it, bad. So we're about to see how much Kailey wants to become a pitcher.

We headed out to the back yard and started warming up. She started with a Karate Kid looking drill called "The Flamingo" where she stood on one leg, pointed her gloved hand at me, and rested her hand with the ball on top of her head. It was quite amusing. In one fluid motion, she stepped toward me, pushing off of that back foot and simultaneously swinging her arm down and flipping the ball to me. Steeeee-rike! Of course we started this drill at about 20 feet and moved back a couple feet every five pitches or so. By the time she got back to 32 feet, she was all over the place. Then she started losing focus and screwing around.

This is where it becomes tricky for me. I'm not naturally one of those super-testosterone-infused sports dads, but when the girls start messing around when I feel they need to be focusing on the task at hand, I can feel my temperature start to rise. When I told Kailey to stop being silly and to focus, she got mad at me and wanted to quit. When I told her she couldn't quit, she started coming up with excuses: her tummy hurt, she was hungry, she had to go to the bathroom. I'd had it. Like Dr. Bruce Banner morphing into the Incredible Hulk, my transformation into bastard sports dad was complete. "Listen," I told her, "you are going to throw twenty more pitches. If I hear any more complaining out of you, you're gonna throw twenty more. Got it?"

Kailey glared at me. She was pissed. This exercise that was meant to be fun had become anything but. She wound up and let the ball fly. Ssssssssssss....crack. Right over the plate. Right into my glove, stinging my hand. It was as beautiful a pitch I've ever seen a nine year-old deliver. "That's it, Kailey! Again!" She was still mad, and delivered the same stinging pitch. Steeeeeeeee-rike! At this point, after seeing she had delivered two beautiful strikes in a row, Kailey's mood changed. I could almost see the switch being flipped inside her head. She dialed in, delivering three more beautiful pitches in a row. She was now having fun and so was I, and she probably ended up pitching around 35-40 more balls. She kept throwing strikes and I kept saying, "Good! Again!" until she finally asked if we could be done. I was thankful that we ended a potentially catastrophic practice session on a good note.

All of this has left me evaluating my role as a parent. Ultimately I want my girls to have fun in any activity they choose to participate in, but I also feel that in certain instances that I, as a parent, need to become a sort of co-keeper of their dreams, knowing when to push them and when to back off. I have no doubt that the girls will be able to do anything they want to do in life, but I would be doing them a disservice if I just let them wander through life with no focus or determination. I just don't want to become too overbearing in the process. If Kailey really wants to become a good pitcher, I feel like I need to embrace that as well because I know what it's going to take for her to get there: lots of practice and lots of repetition, even when she doesn't feel like doing it at that very moment. And if after putting in the work Kailey decides that pitching is not for her, I'm cool with that. We'll move on to something else.

For now, one thing's for sure. The next time Kailey pitches in a game, I'm going to get her nice and pissed at me, because when Kailey pitches angry, she's lights out.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

We Want a Pitcher!

Softball season has been in full swing again for the past month. The girls are on the same team this season with yet another team name and another team color, and their dresser drawers are now beginning to overflow with past uniforms. At least we won't have to shuttle between two sets of practices and games this season. Yee ha.

Still, I've felt a bit out of it because between work and my classes, I haven't been able to make any of their practices and only half of their games. I really hate that, but I look at it as a short term problem where hopefully in the future I'll be able to see all games and practices.

I was able to go to their softball game this morning where Kailey pitched in her first game. We were so excited and so was she. Kailey has been practicing hard on her pitching this season, coming an hour early to practices to learn and work on her technique. Throwing a softball underhand, hard, and accurate is no easy task. It's much more difficult than pitching a baseball, at least in my opinion, and I'm proud of the way Kailey has dedicated herself.



Her first outing was a little rough. She pitched one inning, threw two strikes, hit one batter, and gave up three runs. But she looked damn good doing it!



She said she had fun and wasn't nervous at all. That's OK because Diane and I were plenty nervous for her. It's a little nerve wracking when your kid's pitching and the crowd is dead silent, waiting for her to throw a frickin' strike. When she finally did, everyone cheered like the Cubs won a pennant.





When she finally got out of the inning, she came over to us grinning from ear to ear. Someday she'll gauge her performance by the numbers she produces, but not today. Today she was the pitcher, her team won the game, and that's all that mattered.



Oh yeah, and Kyra played one heck of a catcher!


Friday, April 11, 2008

Time for a Little Re-Organimization

Does anyone else's hall closet look like this?



Just wonderin'.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Squeezing the Charmin

Last week Kailey waddled into the family room with her pants down around her ankles, bent over and asked me, "Daddy, do I have any toilet paper on my bottom?", giving me yet another reason to hate Charmin toilet paper.

What's to hate about Charmin, you ask? Well, nothing...if you have a home full of adults, or at least older children who are able to economize when it comes to TP usage. You see Charmin likes to boast that their toilet paper is so much thicker and so much more absorbent than their competitors that it requires fewer squares to wipe your tender derrière. See for yourself:



And it's true. Charmin is so thick that, if necessary, a single square would be sufficient to wipe the butts of a family of four for a week. But trying to explain to your kids that they can and should use less is a whole 'nother ball o' wax. Their main concern is not getting the poop off their butts. That's secondary. Their main concern is not getting poop on their hands, and that requires a hell of lot more than three puny squares. To ensure hand cleanliness requires no fewer than twenty, 12-ply squares of Charmin...per wipe, which means:

  1. The average spool life of a roll of Charmin in our home is approximately one day, or four bowel movements. Whichever comes first.
  2. The rubber from my plunger is practically sucked off the wooden handle from overuse. I spend more time in the bathroom unclogging toilets than I spend on the throne catching up on my reading. That's a lot of frickin' time.
  3. Our water bill is through the roof from multiple flushes, mainly because I'm too lazy to go get the plunger. I usually have to flush three times, bringing nasty water to the very brim of catastrophe before retrieving the plunger. You'd think I'd learn.
That's my initial reason for hating Charmin toilet paper. Then came the Kailey incident, which I know was incited by yet another Charmin commercial, a commercial that I can't find on You Tube. Perhaps you've seen it. In it star the same cute bears you see in the clip above, but in this one Baby Bear has used a competitors toilet paper, and as a result, has FLECKS OF TOILET PAPER ALL OVER HER ASS. She must have had quite a blow out. Momma Bear tries removing it...with a BRUSH...but those flecks aren't going anywhere. She finally has to get out the vacuum cleaner to rid Baby Bear's bum of that pesky TP. Are you kidding me?

Kailey has never asked me about sticky TP down under. Never. And the fact that she was cackling while she asked me (bear, er, bare bummed) clued me in to her little joke. So now I hate Charmin for putting crappy ideas into my kids' heads. Don't I have enough problems already?


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cold Turkey

Last weekend, Diane called me at work with some news: "Guess what? Kailey just gave up her blankie."

"Really?"

"Yup. I just finished putting her to bed when she walked out and told me she was too old for her blankie. So she folded it up, put it in the linen closet, and went back to bed."

My heart sank and I literally had to fight back the tears. It was another indication that my baby girl was growing up. While I'm proud of her maturity and the way she came to the decision on her own, there's a part of me that has a hard time letting go.

I knew this was coming. Diane has been prepping Kailey for this moment for months. "OK, when your birthday comes, Kailey, it's time to give up the blankie because nine year-olds don't have blankies." What's the big deal? I thought. It's not like she carried it around with her everywhere she went, holding it to her head and sucking her thumb. She just used it at bedtime and in the mornings when she got up. And besides, even Diane has a "blankie"...she likes to sleep with a quilt that her grandmother made. So I told Kailey, "You just tell Mommy that you'll give up your blankie when she gives up hers."

I'm not sure what it was about this particular blankie. Like most babies, Kailey had about one million blankies in which we used to swaddle her, then cover her at nighttime as she got older. But this was the blankie that she became attached to, the chosen one. Perhaps she liked the green and white checkerboard pattern on the one side, but more than likely she was attracted to the cute farm animals on the other: tiny chicks, lambs, and cows in a varying pattern. This was her blankie, the blankie that became the subject of nightly pre-bedtime searches for the past nine years, the blankie that calmed her fears and accompanied her into deep, peaceful sleep night after night.

Well Kailey's 9th birthday came and went. Diane reminded her of her position on blankies and nine year-olds (while I rolled my eyes), but didn't force her to get rid of it. A week later, it was neatly folded and lovingly deposited with care in the hall linen closet. Something in her mind just clicked and she decided she didn't need it anymore, that Mommy was right: she was nine and too old for blankies. And I know what's coming. Soon she'll be too old for stuffed animals, too old for dollies, and too old for Barbie's, each graduation bringing with it a fresh wave of bitter-sweet pride where we celebrate Kailey's transitions into womanhood while mourning the loss of her childhood.

The other night I went into Kailey's room to check on her before retiring for the evening, and I was happy to find her snuggling with her blankie. She had retrieved it from the closet and told Diane that she thought she needed it for "just one more night". And I think that's OK. It's hard to quit anything cold turkey. She slept with it that night then returned it to the linen closet, this time pushing it way to the back where it has stayed ever since. Until this morning. I retrieved it to wash it, perhaps for one final time before it becomes yet another artifact of Kailey's childhood. I'll wash it, then return it to the back of the closet. That way, if Kailey has one of those nights where she feels she needs a little help, it will be there waiting for her.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Wassup?

So I've been keeping pretty busy with classes, family, and home projects...so busy that I've totally neglected this blog. I have a bunch of incomplete posts that I've just been too tired to finish, but I thought today I'd at least try to give you a little sample of what's been sucking up my time. These are a couple of the assignments from my digital video editing class...kind of fun.

In this assignment I was playing with different filter effects to manipulate the video. The result was a psychedelic trip. Adding the intro to Loser by Beck was the perfect finish.

video

This assignment dealt with layering video, creating multiple windows of video, and setting it all in motion.

video

I've learned a ton and am thoroughly enjoying the class. Now if I could just translate it into full time employment.

Please hire me.


 

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