We are pleased to introduce the newest driver in our house! Isaac passed his learner’s permit test yesterday. As soon as I got home from work, he bounced into the kitchen, license in hand. Of course, I knew he wanted to go drive. I suspect he had planned on my tossing him the keys and saying “let’s go.”
Although he has driven many times out at the executive deer stand, he had not driven at any real speed with opposing 2 ton hunks of rolling metal coming at him. Instead, I drove him to a nearby neighborhood with flat straight streets. He was a mix of excited and nervous…and so was I honestly.
He got into the driver’s seat and we went over the “make it go forward” checklist. Isaac tended to hug the white line as we drove house, cars, and mailboxes. Of course, he was still a little jerky with the gas pedal and the steering but he was very cautious and seemed to take it seriously enough to satisfy my nerves a little. I guess we drove for 40 minutes and had a lot of fun.
Probably my favorite part of the trip happened at the end of our drive. There is a church near our house where I asked Isaac to pull in so I could take us home. Our road is steep and windy and has a blind crest. We weren’t ready for that yet. Anyhow, we pulled into the parking lot and miscommunicated where we were going to park. Isaac got it between the parking lines so all was fine, but I suppose it looked funny to the older couple sitting in the car across the parking bumper from us. The look on their face was, at first, one of slight confusion with our antics. As soon as Isaac and I got out and switched seats, they got big goofy grins on their faces. It was obvious…we were practicing driving. In response to their big goofy grins, I grinned right back and nodded my head. I suspect they said a quick prayer for both me and them as, that night, a new driver was unleashed on the road!
It seems like we have been involved with a lot of musical stuff lately in our house. The kids have had band stuff pretty regularly since Christmas. They played holiday concerts and, this week, are trying out for “All-County” band which is a band comprised of the best players in the county as determined during a blind audition.
All of that involves a good bit of practicing pieces and trying new things. What has been especially fun is when Abigail (flute), Isaac (tenor sax) and I (clarinet) all get to playing at the same time, we can make a powerful lot of noise in the house. It might be a pleasing noise if we played the same song, or even complementary songs, but that is never the case.
Isaac is the most experienced player and has the loudest instrument, by far. He plays complex pieces and often plays them very loudly. Abigail is playing very well also and her range is fairly high pitched. Finally, on my “squeak stick”, I have a good range between high and low but I am not a great player yet. I just changed reeds so I actually squeak a lot trying to get used to the new feel. All three of us together makes for quite a…performance I am sure.
We practice every evening (or at least 5/7 days) for 30-60 minutes. During that time, Emily holes up in the bedroom where the cats take cover. They literally tremble in fear under the bed covers or wrapped up in Emily’s robe. I don’t think of myself as a particularly cruel person, but there is some sort of special pleasure in seeing the cats respond as they do. I do not know if it is the volume or the tone, or just the squeaks, but the mere sight of our instruments, especially my clarinet, sends them running for cover!
It seems like things have been pretty slow around our place lately but we remain busy with stuff…some of the stuff I can identify, while other things are less clearly identified. Anyhow, last weekend, we had the pleasure of hearing Isaac and a small group of his fellow band members play at the Solo and Ensemble ratings at WV State University.
This ratings event is not a head-to-head competition per se, but the bands compete for highest ratings. It is possible for multiple bands to have the highest ratings so no one gets trophies or certificates exactly although I suspect there is a good opportunity for bragging rights involved. Individual students can perform solos and small groups can perform as ensembles. Isaac’s school had a representation in both areas.
We took videos of the two performances in which Isaac was involved. We didn’t have an opportunity to hear other performances as a lot of people shuffle in and out, but I am so proud of these shows and am certain that there was much greatness to be heard from the other groups from our school as well as other schools in the region. I don’t know how many groups played exactly, but I would guess around 50! That’s a beautiful thing, I think, for the arts to be so well represented! Yeah band!
Most people have touched a Rubik’s Cube at some point or another and most probably tossed it aside after awhile, the blocks approximately as disordered as when they received the cube. Of course, plenty of people know an algorithm to solve the cube and some can even do it behind their backs in a matter of seconds. I am not either of those…I can usually solve one side and part of another, but I have never solved one out-right…I don’t know the algorithm.
I remember when I went to the Knoxville World’s Fair in 1982…the Hungary Pavilion had a large Rubik’s cube as a major focal point of its display. I think 1982 was probably at the height of the Rubik’s cube craze, and it’s inventor, Ernő Rubik is Hungarian. I am pretty sure that’s about the time that I got my first cube. Some people knew the tricks to solve it, but I was 10 or so and without the Internet, there were no real shortcuts. Many of my friends had Rubik’s Cubes and none of us, as far as I know, ever solved them on our own when we were in school. A few people peeled the stickers to solve their cubes and a few people threw them in the river I suppose. Mrs. Donato, one of our elementary lunch ladies knew how to solve the cube so some kids let her solve them during lunch. I am sure my old cube is at my parents’ house somewhere, still unsolved.
Anyhow, back to now…Isaac and some of his buddies are into cool stuff…ciphering and figuring and, of course, puzzles and games and stuff like that. The other night, Isaac brought a Rubik’s Cube home to solve. One of his buddies learned one of the algorithms to solve it and Isaac was busy learning as well. Of course, being into things like that, he dedicated a fair amount of brain time to learning the tricks that night and can solve it on his own now. Honestly, as a kid stuck in 1982 (apparently), I was amazed that someone in my own house could solve the Rubik’s cube!
I am having a terrible time getting back into the swing of life after a really great holiday season. Winter is always tough for me to bother getting out of bed, and since this holiday seemed so fun this year, I guess I am a little more weird than normal this January.
So, what, you may ask, are we doing to occupy our time during the cold Winter months? My brother gave Isaac a new game for Christmas and we have been enjoying playing it of course! The game is called “The Settlers of Catan“. I have seen it before and sort of always figured it was a little more deep than I wanted in a board game…and by deep I mean I had no intent in playing a game that would take 17+ hours to play or required me to think super hard or that required me to keep the cats away from an elaborate board covered with important pieces. We just never bothered to look into it any further. On our fiasco trip to PA a few months ago, we ended up walking through a book store that had the games for sale. Since we were a somewhat captive audience, we read more about the game and thought it might be worth a go. When my brother gave Isaac the game, it seemed like perfect timing.
It seems a bit complicated at first read of the rules, but the idea really is pretty simple…build settlements (and later cities) using the basics of civilization building – wood, wool, bricks, ore and wheat. (As a side, this makes me think of the saying, “…with caffeine, nicotine, and kerosene, one can take over the world”) It’s a fun mix of Monopoly (but nowhere near as tedious), RISK (with a lot fewer moving pieces) and chess.
All 4 of us played several rounds of the basic map and we have just started making our own maps (it’s all very simple to lay out with the map tiles). We trash talk and make under the table deals. We laugh and fuss (and sometimes cuss) and actually talk with one another. It’s a great diversion from life and just challenging enough to be interesting, but fast enough and simple enough to be a fun evening-time game for 4 nerdy fantasy lovers.
If you are into board games and like fantasy (although it isn’t dwarf or elf-laden at all…it just feels fantasy-ish to me but I suppose I am imposing that on the game), give Settlers of Catan a try. It’s a little spendy, but it has revived our board game playing and has already made for several evenings of laughter and talking and fun!
Abigail started taking flute lessons in 3rd grade. It’s had its ups and downs but mostly she enjoys playing and she has done very well playing in various school events in elementary school. Now she is in middle school where she is in the school band, a five-days-per-week endeavor. Of course, with a lot more playing time, she has really seen a jump in her ability. Practice makes perfect of course!The other day, her band had the opportunity to play various duets, trios, etc at the local mall. It was packed with shoppers and felt all festivey, especially with the beautiful music the kids played. I am always amazed at the ability of these kids and their band instructor to make kids, many of whom had never touched an instrument, into pretty amazing musicians in a year-and-a half or two years! It’s really wonderful and makes me so proud!
Anyhow, Abigail was (I think) the only 6th grader to play in the group. She had a duet and a trio. I recorded both but the acoustics in the mall along with my position make it harder to hear in the video than it was in real life. Anyhow, I loved hearing the groups play Christmas songs and carols and have a good time!
At the end, they decided to walk to the next stage area over and have a group shot with Santa. He was a pretty good sport!
I can’t believe that Isaac is another year older already! All parents say this I know, but I can’t believe he isn’t still the tiny little baby who had such a horrific start. It seems like yesterday we were learning to ride a bike and here he is about to drive a car! Although he has had some issues, he has grown into a fun and wonderful young man of whom I am so very proud!
Last night we heard his Christmas band concert, and it was a thing of beauty! He is the first chair tenor sax player in his concert band which makes me very proud. He loves to play his horn and with a band that can make music like they can, who wouldn’t love it?!
Anyhow, we celebrated Isaac’s birthday among family the other night and had a great time celebrating both Isaac and his uncle who share a birthday. It’s such a fun and wonderful time as they both get into the party and make it a lot of fun for everyone.
I think as much as anything, I was happy to see Isaac, both at his birthday party and at the band concert, just having fun and making people laugh. His name is Hebrew for laughter and he has always been one to make people comfortable and happy through his laughter and sense of humor. He is one of my true joys and I am so proud to be his father!
I can’t sing worth a nickel…maybe I could, at some point, sing better, but I have never been much of a singer. For some reason, though, I was in chorus in school. I was even in show choir. For me, I guess it was to be around more females. You see, in my little school, males didn’t really do chorus. I figured my odds were better that way. Not being worth anything as a singer, all I can figure is that the director just needed warmish male bodies to move the risers and the piano.
I’m in both pics…I look a little different now…these pics are not mine but I appreciate using them
So, in addition to chorus, I participated in a production of Bye Bye Birdie, the musical. I’ll leave it to you to find the story, but it was a fun musical in which I had a small bit-role. I honestly don’t even remember what the role was, but I am sure I was brilliant in it! It’s funny, but that production, or rather it’s music has really stuck with me. Whenever I hear someone say “bye bye”, I always sing in my head, “…birdie, good bye…bye bye birdie, don’t cry…”. I try it on the kids, but they always look at me like I am crazy.
Ok, so to the real point of this…I shaved off my offering for No-Shave-November at the end of last month. It really had gotten to be a nuisance and I was happy to see it go…bye bye beardie, good-bye…bye bye beardie, don’t cry. Gee whiz I was happy to see it go. God bless people who have beards and who like beards, but it just isn’t for me! I always felt like I had things crawling on my face…strike 1. Emily called it No-Kiss-November…strike 2. Many people said I looked older and with all of the gray that has apparently developed, I am out with strike 3!
Anyhow, I always like to shave it off in bits to see just how ridiculous I can look. It doesn’t last long…maybe a few days…just long enough to irritate Emily and embarrass the kids!
I guess it’s been over a week now, but I had another birthday! I like having birthdays…the more the better of course! Like most December birthdays, mine runs the risk of getting lost in the Christmas hubbub. My family is really good, though, about making sure that both Isaac and I get birthdays apart from Christmas.
So, this year we went to my favorite Japanese steak place…you know, where they cook out in front of the guests. We had 15 or so people come and have a fun time eating way too much food. I got some cool gifts too! I got some gift cards and money and a new piece of cast iron cookware. I cook breakfast for the family every morning and I love using cast iron to cook. Maybe it’s the trendy thing or something…maybe it is so heavy it just cooks better…anyhow, more cast iron is always better!
The big surprise came from my lovely wife. You may remember, I recently bought a record player. She bought me a new record…the soundtrack to Footloose, one of my all-time favorite movies! As a purist, I only recognize the existence of the original Kevin Bacon movie release in 1984. The 2011 “movie” doesn’t really count. Anyhow, I was thrilled with the original soundtrack on LP. To top off my 80s music-filled birthday, she got us tickets to hear John Mellencamp in the spring! Everyone knows Jack and Dianne and a few of John Mellencamp’s songs, but my all-time favorite is “Rain on the Scarecrow”. I hope I’ll get to hear it live! I am so excited!!! We have seen a few bands from when we were kids and it is just absolutely some of the most fun ever! We heard Billy Joel and Elton John for our anniversary in 2009 and Bryan Adams last year…and now we add John Mellencamp (gosh I want to call him John Cougar Mellencamp)!
So, getting older is just fine and we still have a lot of 80s bands yet to see! Let’s just hope we all continue to be able to R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.!
As always, I am late to the party as Thanksgiving was nearly a week ago. I had Black Friday shopping to ignore…and of course, we had to ignore Cyber-Monday as well. I had a lot of shopping not to do between Thanksgiving and now. Actually, we did absolutely all of our Christmas shopping in one night…on-line. We basically had wishlists set up on Amazon and just bought out of the lists…slick and easy and done! That sounds like I am only giving gifts out of obligation, but that’s not how we feel about it. I just prefer the actual giving rather than the shopping.
Anyhow, even though we didn’t do any real shopping, we have been busy. We worked on the executive deer stand a few days and I had to manage my killer beard as well! But the real event was Thanksgiving day…we gathered 20-some people together and ate a lot of food. I guess it was probably too much food, but we have never been ones to go too hog-wild. I like a nice serving of turkey and taters and gravy…maybe a few slices of pie, but not too far overboard.
I am not sure I can say the same for Isaac. He was pulling sugar straight from the can…truly it was a thing of beauty!
We took a bunch of group pics, but not everyone wants to be seen with me online so I will only show Abigail prepping for the family to sit around the bench…I think she was staking out a napping location, honestly. So, we had a pretty nice Thanksgiving and a busy but nice mini-break from school and work. I think that Thanksgiving is probably one of my favorite holidays (after Groundhog Day of course), because it is mostly a relaxing time with family…and pie!