Kid catcher

When I was a much younger man, I had blond hair. Now my hair is one part dark, one part gray, and one part gone – these parts are neither equal nor listed in decreasing order. In my young, blond days, I would sometimes let my hair grow long. It would get very curly on the ends. Historically astute friends compared my locks to those of Lt. Col. (a.k.a. General) Custer.

doppleganger

My hair twin. He was brave, warlike, and a heavy greaser. I am none of these things, which may explain why I have outlived my hair.

During one of my Custer periods, I worked with a Native American woman. My historical doppelgänger notwithstanding, we got along well. She made dream catchers and one day she presented me with a very attractive dream catcher as a gift.

If there were any irony in this hand-made Native American craft being given to the look-a-like of General Yellow Hair, it did not stop me from accepting the gift. To this day, it hangs over my bed.

It works pretty well at catching bad dreams. Unfortunately, it does nothing to stop children from coming to me in the night. What I really need in my room is a kid catcher.

The other night, Big Brother woke us up to announce that he’d had a bad dream. I know he has his eye on my dream catcher, but he’s not getting it. I earned that dream catcher by proving that all guys who look like Custer aren’t jerks to Native Americans.

Custer's dream catcher

It used to be a bit more ornate, but time and curious children have taken their toll.

I was too tired to endure him climbing over me, so I moved over and let him sleep on the edge. That’s when I remembered how much I hate the middle. There was no hope of rest between two such interpretive sleepers as my six-year-old and my wife.

I was saved from this spot by the silhouette of Buster, back-lit by the hall night light, standing still in the doorway. Whether he’d had a bad dream, or was merely plagued by too many toddler worries on his mind, he did not say.

As Big Brother gets less creepy about coming into our room in the night, Buster picks up the slack. Buster silently hovers in the doorway, a mini shadow of the human form. The mere vibe of it, spurs everyone to full wakefulness.

Since there was no room for a fourth in our bed, Mommy got a brilliant idea. Both kids should sleep in Big Brother’s bed and keep each other company. “Would you like to sleep in Big Brother’s bed?” she asked Buster.

“No,” he replied. “Sleep with Daddy.”

Her great idea wasn’t a total flop. She somehow used the momentum of it to get Big Brother back into his own bed, even without the company of Buster.

But that still left us with an extra human in our bed. Buster tossed and turned as he thought his deep thoughts, and so did I, even though my thoughts were comparatively shallow.

We do have a kid catcher in our room after all. Mommy and Daddy have always called it by the wrong name: our bed.

 

Reading is fun, except for all those words

I was helping my 1st grade son with his homework. This isn’t the perfect bonding exercise, as he does not like doing his homework and I do not enjoy watching him not like doing his homework. It leads to impatience in my voice, which he likes almost as little as he likes doing his homework.

Earlier this year, as I was dragging him out of bed for school, he told me, “I don’t like learning. It’s not really fun for me.” Dragging him out of bed in the morning is not really fun for his parents, but I suppose that’s an issue for another day.

Part of his homework that night was a questionnaire from his reading teacher. I guess she wanted to get a feel for each child’s attitude about reading before getting too far into the year. My son is a pretty good reader, when he has to be. And when he doesn’t have to be, he’s playing with LEGOs.

When it comes to reading practice, he’s lazy. I could compare him to a mule or other reluctant worker, but that’s not quite strong enough. The only simile that fully captures it is: he’s as lazy as a six-year-old.

The first question on the homework was: “Reading is _________”

The boy thought about it for a second, then filled in the word fun.

I raised an eyebrow. “Really? You don’t act like reading is fun.”

“Reading is kind of boring. But I think this is what the teacher wants me to say,” he explained.

It would be hypocritical of me to make him change his answer, since much of my own school career was based upon political expediency.

What books?

He loves going to the library. They have fun toys and games there, and you can even borrow Sponge Bob videos.

He answered a few more questions about his favorite subjects to read before he got to the question: “The best thing about reading is _________”

He didn’t have to think about it at all. He quickly went to work answering the pictures.

This didn’t sound much like a reading is fun kid, but maybe you can like to read and still like the pictures even a tiny bit more than the text. I let it go.

The next question was: “The worst thing about reading is _________”

He didn’t miss a beat. “The words,” he said, quicker than he could touch his pencil to the paper.

I had to slow him down this time. If you are going to start off playing this game of hiding your opinions behind the expected preferred opinions, then you ought not directly contradict yourself by letting your true feelings out later.

I should have let him look foolish with his incongruous answers, but I was in no mood to be dragged down with him.

We discussed it and decided the hard words made a better answer.

So it boils down to this: reading is fun, especially when accompanied by numerous illustrations, but the enjoyment can be diminished by an overabundance of difficult passages.

That sounds like a perfectly reasonable opinion, doesn’t’ it?

 

Way of the peaceful toddler

Periodically, one or more of my boys will spend an hour or two at work with me while my wife does the things she has to do to bring home some extra bacon for our household. Despite what I just made that sound like, she is not a call girl. She does perfectly legal work, on top of the work of managing three boys every day.

Last week, Buster spent a couple of hours with me. My bosses are pretty tolerant of my trailing a duckling behind me once in a while, but I still like for the children to be as inconspicuous as possible. It’s a handy privilege that I don’t want to lose.

To that end, my wife sent her iPad with Buster so he could play games on it while I got some work done. It’s a good theory, and it worked reasonably well for a while. The problem is that Buster only mostly knows how to play the iPad games. There is a point in every game when he gets stuck. Then he gets frustrated. Frustrated two-year-olds are not good at keeping themselves inconspicuous.

a day at the office

They pick up on things so quickly. Eyeing the telephone with suspicion is one of the keys to surviving an office job.

In order to keep Buster from voicing his frustration in his most piercing toddler voice, I rolled my chair over to him and encouraged him to take deep breaths. “Breathe in. Breathe out. Like this. Whoooooo. Ahhhhhhh. Doesn’t that feel better?”

I may have over-exaggerated the depth of the breaths I demonstrated and he found this amusing.

Before long, he was copying my deep breathing and smiling his bright smile. He was forgetting his frustration and enjoying the breathing game I was playing with him. Of course, it was useful because it was a game; he wouldn’t draw the connection to the calming properties of the deep breaths themselves.

In this way, we eked out the remaining time without any loud whining. My wife picked him up. I took a few calming, deep breaths and went back to work.

Now, Buster is a sweet boy, but he is also a toddler. And you can’t spell toddler without issues. (All of the non-parents are saying, “Wait, what? There’s only one common letter in those two words.” Ah, the innocent spelling rules of non-parents.)

One of Buster’s issues is that he often wakes up angry from naps.

Soon after I got home from work, we heard crying from Buster’s room. I went to rescue him from his nap, but he wouldn’t talk to me nor come to me when I put my arms out for him. I told him to come downstairs when he was ready and left him on his bed to work out his feelings.

A few minutes later, my wife went to check on him. She brought him down with her. He was much more relaxed.

“What was he doing up there?” I asked.

She laughed. “He was sitting on his bed taking deep breaths.”

Sometimes it’s Daddy who isn’t ready to draw the connections.

Books: so much more appealing when they have covers

Occasionally I take a post off from Daddy Blogging in order to talk about blogging or writing in general. This usually happens when another blogger tags me for some type of event that’s going around the blogging community. Then, I put the kids to bed and talk about my blogging process or the writing life.

This is like that, but different. I’m taking off the Daddy Blogger hat, but not at the behest of other bloggers. I’m doing it on my own, in order to make some exciting announcements.

The thing about me and announcements is I’m not very good at them. They make me nervous. People will know my plans, so now I have to follow through on them. I’d rather finish my projects and then say, “See? That’s what I did.” But that doesn’t build any hype, and hype is part of marketing, and marketing is what you’re supposed to do at times like this. So I’m told by successful writers.

And I want to be successful.

So, announcements.

We have cover art!

Last time I took off the Daddy Blogger hat, I mentioned that I’m working on publishing a new book. It seems like I’ve been working on publishing this book forever. One of the delays was finding the right artist to do the cover. I finally found her. Her name is Jessica O’Brien. She did this awesome artwork.

 

ice4

 

I just have to get the final proofing done and we’ll finally have a book. Cross your fingers.

And when will this final proofing be done? Ha! You actually expect a man with my dread of announcements to give a date? Don’t worry; I’ll make an announcement.

I’m working on a new blog.

As part of this book rollout, I’ve replaced my author website with a new WordPress blog. My static website was a completely amateurish endeavor, built by me, a completely amateurish web designer. In moving to WordPress I hope to do more with less (time and money). That savings should allow me to maintain two blogs at once. We’ll see about that, won’t we?

At the other blog, I will be writing about writing. If that’s the sort of thing that excites you, you probably have issues, so you should go here www.scottnagele.com and click “follow” right away.

This blog will remain.

I’m proud of this blog. It’s not the most widely read blog, but I think it has its entertaining moments. (Click the Index of Posts tab at the top to see everywhere it’s been.) But when you are trying to publish a book, write another one, transition a website, work a full-time job, and raise three boys, time can get tight. (Note to the homeowners association: this has nothing to do with why my lawn is eight inches high; it rains every time I try to mow, so tell it to the weatherman.)

I cut down to posting once per week here over the summer. Maybe once my obsession with this new book eases, I’ll be able to post more. I hope so, because Daddy Blogging is the most fun writing I do.

P.S. My apologies to those who read the title and thought this would be a fun post about toddlers tearing the covers off books.