Photo of the Moment

It's Fall. We're still here. Just busy. Here's a great one of Pete (with cousin John in the background). Look for more soon...


It's School Time

The first day of school still feels so big, doesn't it? Rose and I actually felt kind of nervous this year. It was a big one - Vincent in full day kindergarten, riding the bus, wearing a uniform. It feels so much older than a 5 year old. And Peter's first day of Pre-K. His first time out of the house alone, without his brother. Ever.

Turns out, they were ready.

The duo on Vincent's first day, ready to take on the world.

Determined. Marching toward the bus stop. The wind at his back. Jedis on his back.

This one is a killer. We weren't going to be those parents taking a picture of their kid on the bus. We weren't until Bus Driver Carol said, "If you have a camera, go ahead and take a picture." So I couldn't resist. His face is amazing. 50% terror, 50% determination. He had some bus buddies to help him through it. He's loved it ever since.

Big Pete, ready to go. He was all for it. A few separation-induced tears when he stepped into the classroom, but after some curt prompting by his teacher ("Go. Just go. He'll be fine.") he did great.

"Cheeese. Ok, great. Now let's go to school, Mom. You and me. You're staying, right? Can you be the teacher? C'mon - it'll be fun. We get juice and crackers. And we have circle time. C'mon, Mom...."


Sweet Tooth

I know I owe you all some great first week of school photos. I'll get to them. For now though, you have to check this out. Take 4:32 out of your day. It's a song the boys have been loving since the first time I played it for them. "Put on the candy bar song" they say. While it's not written for kids, I've found that very early country or Texas swing songs or songs inspired by them, are great for the boys. There's a bounce and a clarity they love. David Rawlings and Gillian Welch are maybe the best purveyors of that sound right now.

For my musician friends and music appreciators, check out the guitar solo at the 1:30 mark. It's truly astonishing. For you lyric-centric folks, don't listen to the entire metaphor, or you'll suss out pretty quickly that it's a reference to a different kind of sweet tooth, but it's buried so deeply that the kids won't know until they're about 13 or so.

Final note - the crowd in this video might be the best audience in the history of audiences. The hang onto every. single. word. They laugh at the jokes, clap for the solo. They get it. Even though the video cuts out after awhile, this is the best version on YouTube for that reason.

So put on the candy bar song. You deserve it.


So Many Firsts

This is a big week of firsts for the boys, starting with Vincent's first official, organized, uniformed, instructional, competition-oriented soccer game. He's on The Black Team, which no matter which way you cut it, is badass.
Water break. Fighting fatigue, having just finished running for 90 minutes straight.

Action shot, taking the ball up. He didn't get a chance to score much but of the 10 kids on the field, only 3 really did. The rest floated with the pack.

It was still awesome. Go Team Black. Onward to History.



"Mom! Peter just ate a chocolate chip cookie then put on deodorant!"



Try a Lot of Tenderness

I realize that this doesn't seem fair. It's pure cuteness overload. You may think I set this shot up. Hired a kitten. Trained Peter to pet it just so. Feed it grass.

Nope. It's all real.

We were at one of our haunts - Milky Way Farms in Chester Springs - when the little thing popped out of nowhere and started playing with us. The boys were (fairly) gentle when reminded of its fragility, and the kitten was startlingly tolerant of two boys wanting to hang out with it. And no we did not take it home. It belonged there.

We did give it a couple of cool names, though. "Ice Cream" - since we were about to go get some, and "Vincentpetercarolinejohnjoseph" - after the boys and their immediate cousins.

So take it all in. It was a serendipitous moment of blinding cuteness that may never happen again.



Today's Milkzen:
"No Dad. I was gonna jump over your face."



Summer Stories Vol., 2: Paci Separation

Earlier this summer I posted about Blankie & Paci for the first time. They have always been inextricably linked to Our Man Pete. Since he turned 3, we've been discussing life without Paci and how we get there. After much deliberation, we found a solution.

We cut off its head.

After hearing several friends and family members discuss their techniques, this one kept bubbling to the surface. It basically involves having your child help you cut the chewy part of the pacifier off, leaving the handle intact. The child involvement is critical to buy-in. Once that part is gone, so is the attachment to the paci. They have the physical piece, but not the full satisfaction, allowing for easier detachment. It's kind of like smokeless cigarettes. You get the stimulation without the addiction.

Did it work, though? To an extent, yes. There were a few nights on edge at first. A few sad moments, but nothing like what we were dealing with prior when we'd take the real thing away for large portions of the day. Without the true satisfaction he adjusted.

That doesn't mean he doesn't still carry around the relic. He takes it to bed with him along with Blankie. He just holds it as a remembrance of the golden days. Maybe he dreams of the times they used to share. Hey - we're cool with it still being around since it's no longer dangling from his lips several hours of the day.

We're impressed. The kid basically went cold turkey.

Ok, room temp turkey. Way to go, Pete.



Many of you already know how random kids can be. It's one of my favorite things about being a Dad. It seems that one or both of the boys pull a thought from the ether and put it out there for the world to hear. I've decided to start a new feature where I capture the best ones that I can remember and share them. Let's see how long I can keep it up for. And by all means, feel free to contribute your own.


Tonight, while resting in the dark with the boys for a few minutes before I left their bedroom, Pete creeps within centimeters of my face, looks me in the eye and whispers deliberately, "Daaaaaaaad? Whyyy does Grampa sleep...uuuummmm...with a pillow over his eyes?"

I reply, "So the light in the morning doesn't bother him."

Pete: "Oh."


Summer Stories, Vol. 1

Let's go back and revisit the summer, shall we? Let's start with our early July trip to Vermont, where we accomplished quite a bit, actually. Chocolate factories, driving our car onto a boat, hot air balloon festivals, stray cats we almost kept, naked Slip N' Slide rides (the kids, sickos), one lost appendix (sorry your trip wasn't so great, Joe) and much, much more. Here are the highlights with my smart-assed comments. Go Green Mountain State!

The greatest hikers that ever lived. This was either just before or just after our 2.2 mile trek on the Long Trail South. Both boys did pretty great considering the rocky, muddy terrain. Oh, and get this, they weren't even the youngest in our group. That honor goes to their cousin John, who was also a beast. We weren't messing around.

The family shot at the top. And yeah, behind us is a straight drop (it's not as close to us as it looks in this photo). Sooo...we didn't stay up there too long. But man is it amazing to take in.

Your standard green grass freedom runners shot. Am I getting predictable?

The Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory. In all honesty, it's not the greatest tour in the world (one room behind glass, people) but I can't say much considering I missed most of it while on a conference call. I'm a jerk. But hey, it's chocolate. And it's near a beautiful lake. So everybody wins.

Pete and John making good use of that clean well water. They took turns running and jumping into the freezing pool, cracking each other up.

Slip N' Slide action shot. And I know it looks like Pete's head is about to snap off but I guarantee you, this was fun. And no whiplash to speak of. What you see behind yours truly is a stark naked Vincent dashing for his next turn.

The tractor ride back from a terrifically hot Shelburne Farms trip with Nonna. Note that the "sweat" you see pictured here has been enhanced by several dunks under the handwashing fountain. You know how we do.

Vincent the Serious, Shelburne style.

I'm on a boat! My wonderful wife taking in the sights on a ferry ride from VT to NY.

We're at a hot air balloon festival! Don't take pictures of us, Dad! Take pictures of the numerous amazing hot air balloons all taking off simultaneously! Do it! Do it!

That's much better, isn't it? And this doesn't begin to do it justice.

And still time for a quick arm painting at the festival. Pete wanted a pink cat, Vincent a yellow.

The crew. John, Joe, Vincent and Pete. Look at little Joe holdin' it down in the middle. They were boys all week long - playing, running, scheming, battling, crying and ultimately, scheming for the future...

More summer moments to come...


Sometimes You're the Windshield...

I know, I know. It's been awhile. I've actually missed the heck out of blogging. No excuses. Let's just have at it.

I'll start back with an observation that's grown more keen over the past year or so. The hero/villain aspect of parenting. It's amazing how quickly we go from the ones they're coming to for help putting the stormtrooper's head back on to the one they don't want anything to do with. Let's give some examples:

Me home from work, walking in the door: Hey guys! How was your day?!
Me: Um. Ok.


Me: Ok - that's fine. But we have to figure it out because not everyone can sit next to her.
Pete: I don't lllwwwike you!
Me: Um - how'd we get here?

And so on. After a while you chalk it up to them being kids and it rolls right off. And it seems much more pronounced with Pete due to the extreme ferocity with which he approaches everything in life. Instead of, "Oh man. I was having fun with Vincent and Chief. Now Daddy's home and we have to get baths and hit the sack." It becomes, "NO! GO AWAY!"

Then one minute later it's all hugs and high-fives again. I'd actually like to play some Freaky Friday and try that out myself one day. "THIS BAGEL IS TERRIBLE!!! AAAAHHHHH!.....oh wait. It's fine. I wiped some of the cream cheese off...(whistling) doo dooodoooo."

Stay tuned for some summer catching up. Long haired kids, giant vegetable gardens, trips to different states. Let's do this thing.



How I haven't written about these two pillars of our family life yet, I don't know. Blankie and Paci. Otherwise known as "Blankiepaci." They've nearly been as big a part of our family as our family itself over the past three years.

Immediately upon arriving on Earth, Peter developed a fierce attachment to both. For a while, they went with him everywhere. Now they're pretty much relegated to naptime and bedtime. Blankie is given a bit more leeway than Paci since, well, Paci should really be moseying on by this point. We've given him a reprieve. Pretty soon he'll be given away to the boys' new cousin, Joseph (lucky you, Joseph!) and the dependence will cease - just like that, right? Isn't that how it works?

Blankie can stay around forever. I mean, it's getting crazy ragged at this point but it keeps hanging in there. Pete has even taken to brushing it's loose threads every so softly across his formidable cheeks for comfort. How can we take that away?

So world, meet B&P. The fellas behind the scenes holding up one of our lead characters - until the fateful day when the safety net is pulled back and he's left on his own to swing across the stage.

Ok wait. How did I get here? No more blogging late at night anymore. I need my Paci.


Summer's First Harvest

Our first homegrown produce! It worked! The time and work paid off! We get to eat....oh....it's lettuce. Oh well. The exotic zucchini and Swiss Chard will be ready soon. For now, let's pop this onto some tacos and raise a toast to sustainability! And lettuce!



Ok, so I know over 18,000,000 people have seen this, but it's worth seeing again. The PS22 Chorus is a group of 5th graders at a public school in Staten Island that have had their renditions of pop songs displayed for all to see on the ol' internets. Normally, this would seem a little exploitative. But then you watch it and you get it. These kids are not messing around. They've had this amazing environment created for them where they're completely unafraid. No fear of embarrasment or ridicule. They're singing (and sometimes dancing) their hearts out and not giving a lick.

My good buddy Jason introduced me to this (I'm #18,000,001) after saying, "With all the terrible s**t in the world, this may have just restored my faith in humanity." I totally agree.

It reminds me of the Langley Schools Music Project that my friend Scott introduced me to years ago. This is basically the digital age version of that. Where the Langley stuff stayed obscure save for a few music geeks passing it along over time, the PS22 Chorus blew up with the help of YouTube. I think there's value in both.

For now, enjoy their version of Phoenix's "Lisztomania" - one of the best songs from one of my favorite records in a long time.

And if you've seen it all before, good for you. Watch it again.


Self Portrait

Photo of the Moment. Self portrait on the bus ride home from a school trip to the Norristown Zoo.


Little Bear: Zen or Evil?

What is it about this little Canadian fella? He's long been a TV staple in our house. At first, it went against our young, hipster parent credo. It wasn't oddball enough. Or terribly fun. I mean, it's just about a little bear who lives with his Mother Bear and Father Bear (who always wears a 3 piece suit with pocket watch, even while fishing) and plays with his friends, aptly named Duck, Owl, Cat, etc. He has little adventures through the wilderness but never encounters any real danger or challenge.

He just...is.

Vincent has always loved it. No matter how crazy the day, we could always put an episode on (divided into three, eight minute vignettes) and eight minutes later, he's totally mellowed out, breathing deeply and ready for bed.

Peter didn't take to it at first but he didn't really take to any TV. It wasn't until about 6 or 8 months ago that the same thing started happening to him. Same blank stare. Same zen-like trance.

There are times it happens to Rosalie and I, too. Originally, I chalked it up to the pastoral, classical soundtrack. Not to mention, we were usually watching it around 8pm when we'd both be ready for an evening nap.

But I think there's something more to it. I think the creators have something going on. Some kind of bad Juju disguised as zen. Pretty soon, we'll all be enveloped in one of Little Bear's adventures, watching him scamper about through the woods and BAM, there are paratroopers breaking through our windows, ET-style.

What are they after? I dunno. Haven't thought that far ahead yet. I just know something's up. A little bear told me.


Open Road

Nothin' like an early morning ride on a long weekend. Happy Summer, friends.


The Flying Dutchmen

The past month also saw us take a trip out to Dutch Wonderland for Pete's Birthday. I gotta say, for an amusement park that sits right on a fairly major roadway in Lancaster, PA, this place has it together. It's clean, well maintained, appropriately staffed and they even offer "healthier" food choices. At an amusement park. In Lancaster. The boys didn't care about any of that though. They just concentrated on trying the place out.

They loved her. Like, gaga love. As in wanted to smooch. Not Lady.

"LOOK AT US! WE'RE IN....oh....it's a pretzel." What you can't see is a little sign to the right of this that said, "Please don't climb on the pretzel."

Breaking for lunch in the sequestered Lunch Bringers area near the monorail station. Major confession here. What you see Pete drinking is the first ever parent-sanctioned cola beverage. They were running really low on energy and we had lots more playing to do. So we did what any smart parent would do - we let them share a Pepsi. Sure, we were kind of guilty but I gotta say, it made the rest of the afternoon amazing. And who cares, it's not like there's any scientific proof that soda is bad, right?

They went on some really exciting rides that they talked about for days after. This wasn't one of them. As evidenced by their expressions. We don't have footage of the Log Flume, Giant Slide or the Kids' Coaster since we were all enjoying them too much to snap a shot.

Sadly, this was taken early in the day. What is it about this time in your life that makes you look tired a lot. Oh yeah - I remember now. Oh well, that's what Pepsi's for. Big ups to the Disutch Wondizzle. We'll be back for more.


Growth Opportunities

I could offer you multiple excuses as to why we've been absent for so long. Work excuses. Home excuses. Travel excuses. They'd be boring, though. And none would make me a better blogger. So I won't bother. Instead, let's focus on what's happened over the past month, and what's happening at the moment. Because there's a lot. Including, some positive growth opportunities on the home front, in the form of our first vegetable garden.

As all good ideas start in this house, this came from Rose. We've been frequenting farmers' markets through the spring and summer months for the past couple of years now. So much that we figured, let's take a chunk of our backyard and cultivate the shit out of it in order to grow our own healthy habits. Done.

But first, we had to get through the rocks. Hundreds of them. Hundreds and hundreds. With each shovel into the dirt, we'd hit two or three. We flexed muscles pulling them out of the dirt. We gave them to the boys to throw. We made a rock border around one of our flower beds (reuse, recycle, re....whatever). And we still have more.

All in all, it's going to be pretty awesome. Rose planted dozens of little seedlings and patiently and painstakingly cared for them until they started sprouting. Swiss chard, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, beets, lettuce, basil, zucchini & string beans. Oh, and an awesome blueberry plant we had to try out. So look out for a vegetable feast coming your way soon. Or kind of soon. Or however long this stuff takes to grow. I don't know, I just dig.


The Lip Whistler

What? These are my real lips. And yes, they whistle. What of it?


Three Years

As all parents say, it's hard to believe our child is another year older. But alas, Pete is three today. We had his party a couple of weeks ago, so I figured I'd share some highlights to commemorate the smiliest, loudest, funniest (that's a shared title) kid around.
Happy Birthday, kid.
"Ok, Dad. I'll show you my pretzel. If it'll make you happy that you have a good shot for Chachi Milk. You got it."

With Auntie Kate, eyeing up Caroline's drink even though he most likely has the exact same thing.

One of the rare, shy moments so far in his three years. "Wait - I love cake and all but I really don't need thirty people singing, clapping, staring and waiting for me to make this fire go away."

Before the wreckage.