Tuesday, what more can I say?

It is almost noon and I must face facts, I am lazy today.  I told MK and Mike this morning at breakfast, before heading out to the gym that I was having a “Rich Day.”  Mary Kay laughed and said that a “Rich Day” is nothing more than a day I spend in running around the house doing things.  She is right, but I am not sure what I should have called it. 

I am still in my leather easy chair but I do have my beloved laptop with me.  I have spent the morning messing around with blogorganization, making sure that I have everything properly documented and filed.  I have done some e-mailing and also a short translation from French into English for Christine in France, who requested that I go over something for a special “Fair Trade” exhibition taking place in a Strasbourg church in the near future featuring bronze statues from Burkina Faso.  It amazes me that a small piece of my work might soon be sitting in a French church.  It also just occurred to me that I forgot to mention to Christine, although with her English I am sure she is aware, that I used the American spelling of mold which would be mould in British English.  Oh well…

Yesterday was absolutely wonderful with Samantha but for some reason it flattened me a bit!  I fell asleep in my chair during her afternoon nap, something I don’t do all that often.  I thought about it and realized that I have really been terribly busy, so why not just have a plain old lazy day?

I had a great workout at the gym early in the morning.  Mike’s was less successful as he was dealing with Charlie’s somewhat unexpected exercise routine that “confused” his own a bit.  Mine was going along just fine, some cardio, my shoulder/chest machines, and then a “super” cardio finish because somehow having Michael next to me on a treadmill had me working harder than I otherwise might have. 

So, I came home, did some organization, a bit of translation, and am quietly sitting finishing up the herbal tea I prepared.  Lunch, perhaps?  Darn, I am going to have to prepare it myself!

I also did some work for MK’s upcoming birthday.  As usual, I will set some “grenades and bombs” of confusion about what will take place and about what she might be receiving for this particular “big” birthday that she wants no hubbub about.  I love the element of surprise and the stress as one wonders exactly what is going to happen.  Honestly, I haven’t done much planning…or have I?  Since she reads this blog, perhaps I am setting her up from this vantage point.  On the other hand, is her birthday this month or next month?  She knows me too well, I am not the normal husband, I remember these things.  My mother trained me well, Queen of Hallmark that she was!

So, although I am blogging later in the day than normal, at least I got to it!  Still keep wondering…the day is young, there are all kinds of mischief I can get involved in!

Samantha, imagining and hiding

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Samantha has found a new hero of late, Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story.  Today, she found it among the toys we have saved from twenty to thirty years ago, and even not so far back, because I am guessing that Buzz is younger.

Samantha is really into hiding.  So we put up a tablecloth and set it up so we could go inside.  Once inside, I asked her if she needed a lamp and a blanket.  She said yes, but quickly divested herself of the lantern.  She did take Buzz inside and talked to him incessantly. 

While taking him around to different locations in the house and inside the shelter we set up, Samantha was weaving stories, something she has been doing for a bit.  Some of it I can understand, other parts, not so much.  She seems to be mimicking us; it is absolutely fascinating how language development is.  She is telling him to come with her, to climb, to fly, etc.  It is adorable.  She is having a relationship and communication with him.  Imagination is amazing and I want her to maintain it as long as she can.   I only wish I were privy to all that is going on in that intelligent head!



Mary Kay's proposed twelve step program...


The kids just got back from Wisconsin and their skiing outing and Samantha just awakened from her nap.  We spent the time of Samantha’s nap playing Scrabble and I was severely trounced.  MK made fun of me as well during our game since I kept score on the iPad and had a few issues here and there as the table wouldn’t always allow me to enter the numbers.  In any case, it kept me occupied and less annoyed at the severe damage I self-incurred point-wise.

As we were sitting and enjoying Samantha as she was coming out her nap trance, discussion got around to, would you believe, shoes.  I say that since they are a very important part of life and unbeknownst to most of us, are probably more important than diamonds to women.

I have a real theory about why shoes are more important than any other part of a woman’s wardrobe, but trust me I shall not offer that theory since it may cause me to be shot on the spot.  There are certain things you just never do.  I know that you should never, ever ask a woman if she is pregnant.  That is quite a dangerous thing to do.  Mysteriously, within the last month I broke this rule (I think my filter is breaking as I age) and actually asked someone if she was.  Miraculously, she happened to be!  I lucked out.  I also know that you never, ever ask a woman how old she is.  There are just certain things one doesn’t do.

Anyway, the shoe issue came to the forefront today and I realized that I needed to get something off of my feet, oops, I mean chest.  I am living with a “shoedict.”  Perhaps she might beg to differ with me, perhaps I am wrong, but sometimes I think that MK is more in love with shoes than she is with me.  I do think that is typical of the fairer sex anyway.

I am convinced, for example, that most of her supposed “game playing” on the computer is, in fact, research for new “shoeportunities.”  I think MK has more “shoesites” than anyone else!

Back to “shoedict,” a term I have just coined.  It is someone addicted to shoes.  Mind you, I have not counted the shoes in my house and frankly, I am frightened to do so since I might find out something I really don’t want to know.  Sometimes, it is just better not knowing the truth.  Sometimes, people just don’t divulge everything since they know that the truth hurts more than not giving all the info.  I know couples where the husband does his best not to know the damage that is being inflicted on his bank account by the credit card when his better half is shopping.  Frankly, I think there are more examples of that than we would ever believe.

I am torn here, wondering whether or not I should stage an intervention.  I am wondering if there is yet, in fact a “Shoes Anonymous,” AKA  “SA,”  where people can go and profess that yes, they are “shoedicts.”  Maybe I should start one.  We all know it is an issue, isn’t it time we deal with it?  I mean, if the shoe fits, wear it!

BTW (I am impressed with myself that I actually know this is “by the way!”), I have never been in enough hot water to have to vacate the queen size bed in the master bedroom but…

Samantha and the iPad

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Samantha is no stranger to technology and that certainly is normal for a child growing up in this world.

Mary Kay noted this information from The Week magazine recently. To recap what she put on her Facebook page, she said that twenty percent of the two to five year olds can do smart phone applications. 

The other day, Samantha asked us to pull out either the iPhone or iPad to see one of the apps.  She has consistently enjoyed Talking Carl, an app that repeats what you say and things like Wordbag, which features Pim, who speaks in French if you so choose and introduces everyday item words and pronounces them, or Peekaboo Barn, which when you tap the barn door produces an animal and the word for it. 

My mind was wandering as Samantha poked at the iPad (which was readily available in our vicinity) and I noticed right away that she was able to see that I had filed the kiddie apps in the game folder and then she tapped on the Peekaboo Barn app.  She continued until she had viewed all the animals.

The next day she noticed I had my iPhone in my hand and we went through the same process, this time she did the same thing but noticed that the apps were in a folder called “Jeux” since, geek that I am, my phone is in French.  She went for the Wordbag app and “Petit Pim” appeared. “Pim” is the panda who is multilingual. She started tapping on his backpack so he would introduce the everyday items.

Am I the typical Grandpa, or plutôt the Papi who thinks his Granddaughter is just the smartest kid in the whole wide world?  Yes!  Wait a sec, is that what I really want or think?  Perhaps not, I know that Samantha is a well-adjusted young lady and I believe that our family will provide her with a stable network to get her through life’s trials and tribulations, but I also know that she, like anyone else has certain gifts and then probably areas where she is less gifted.  It is hard for me, as Papi, to currently recognize any flaws because, wow, she is just the “bee’s knees” to quote my mom. 

At present, Sam is playing Papi like a violin, and I must admit it is darn cute.  When she comes to “Papi House” as she calls it, she now plays quite the coy, coquettish young thing and makes me work for her affection.  If I don’t get the immediate hug and I go into a sad funk, she will run to me and put her sweet arms around me and give me that hug and kiss.  But sometimes she just makes me wait.  In her world, she has her ducks all in a row and knows she is loved and cared for by so many people.  Since I am a “certainty” in her life, she can most assuredly play the game and make me seem like a secondary fixture at moments.  I know better.  I know my place and her momentary putting aside Papi’s feelings doesn’t bother me one iota.

When I was younger and less self assured and had three children I learned a valuable lesson from MK who was often treated like Samantha treats me by the three boys, who for some reason must have deemed me needier in the emotional area.  They were right, I was.  I watched as they played the Samantha game and MK never flinched a bit.  I think I may have even mentioned the time Christian decided to go to school with me one day when he was quite young.  I told him that he couldn’t because I wouldn’t have time for him while I was doing my job.  He told me that I would have to because he couldn’t stay with Mommy because he liked me better!  Parents need to understand that these commentaries cannot be taken the same way they would be if they were coming from an adult.  Sometimes, that is easier said than done but as kids are feeling their way through emotional development this is often what ensues.

So, is Samantha brilliant? I am her Papi and she is the most amazing young lady in all aspects and has a beautiful future ahead of her.  Will I feel the same way about Samantha’s future siblings and cousins?  You are darn right I shall, that is what a good Papi is for!

Oh, and by the way, thanks for all the comments on how cute Samantha is and how she is growing into a beautiful, intelligent young lady.  (Papi is beaming!)

Day Thirteen of Daddy Boot Camp

So, we have arrived at day thirteen of Daddy Boot Camp.  Life is settling into the routine that it seems my body and personality so crave.  Am I totally comfortable with the new routine?  Yes and No.  Do I miss the old routine?  Yes and No.  Has it been smooth?  Very, with a minor blip or two along the way.  Frankly, if there were none, I would be worried.

I think that blips are sometimes blown out of proportion.  Blips are a necessary part of the healing process and are part of just about any process. I have counseled countless parents over the years who complained or worried about their “normal” kids because they would have an issue or two, not be as academically motivated as they should, or just not be as “perfect” as the kid next door.  My take is that the mini issues are a normal part of growing up and that the so called perfect ones are the ones I would really worry about. So often that “perfection” hides some very scary things that might surface at a later time.

Although a blip might well be unpleasant, it is necessary and it must be dealt with and not shoved under the proverbial rug.

It is cold outside and the heat seems to be going nonstop since early in the morning when our house started to warm up again after its thermostatic setback for the night.  Ali is sleeping in a semi awake pose at my feet as I look out the window as I write. She is getting ready to greet the rest of the family when they wake up and come downstairs.

Mike has pretty much been cooking up a storm here.  He has always loved to cook and he does it extremely well; it is also a great way to heal as you creatively mold the food items into a sparkling dinner array that soothes the soul, and it really does.

It is going to be a somewhat busy day.  I have three tutoring sessions in French today in the afternoon to attend to.  Tutoring is a most amazing experience at times as you see the light bulb go on in a student’s head as he/she finally understands the concept. It can be deadly as well when you are tutoring someone who is being tutored because the parent is unhappy over the French grades and yet the student hasn’t bought in.  As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to the water but you cannot force it to drink.  One thing I try to impart is the love of the language and culture in general.  Sometimes, that is lost in the usual French class and as a tutor I can actually easily inject that in the one on one situation. 

The most important thing I need to impart when tutoring is confidence which leads to motivation.  When the confidence isn’t there, and it usually isn’t when I have to tutor someone, the language learning is severely impacted. I find so often that the students just really think that they cannot handle it and I remind them that millions of less than brilliant French children learn to speak French every day!  Perhaps they shall not all reach French speaking nirvana, but they can earn to communicate well, if they have the inclination.  For some reason, in our teaching of things, the one thing we could truly work more on is in intimidating them less. 

I have mentioned that things happen for a reason in my life and I am currently reading a book by one of Christian’s friends from high school, Sum Lucid by Jason Shimberg.  Jason explains that the title is in Latin and means “I am sane.” I find it to be a therapeutic moment and my understanding is that his writing served that very purpose for him.  Jason acknowledges the fact that he is bipolar and has had an often frightful journey through life reaching his tender age of the early thirties.  He talks of “incarceration and hospitalization” and helps the reader experience the pain of living in a society that neither understands nor accepts his situation.  Last night as I was lying in my bed with my therapeutic night read before going to sleep I chanced upon a sentence in his book of prose intermingled with poetry that clearly is sitting in my head, “I was in and out of psych wards like balanced people go through socks.”  I just keep wondering about all of the various issues that arise as we journey through life and keep questioning why we cannot learn to better deal with them.

Jason’s book is not one that I would ever normally pick up and read, it is not my genre.  Given that he is a friend of my son’s, I made sure to purchase a copy and see what it is all about.  I am so glad I did.  Not only is it an interesting read, it gives so much insight into the plight of a really good, talented, intelligent individual.  He is trying to make his way through life and finds that there are a million roadblocks above and beyond his actual illness, roadblocks that probably inevitably destroy most people, but as I can see, will not destroy him.  He has the human spirit necessary to heal and to help others at the same time.  He has figured out what he needs to do.  He is helping himself, helping people who are bipolar, and others like me who are dealing with different, yet similar issues.

Mary Kay is up, the little coffee left in my Christmas mug is no longer hot, yet it still tastes good to me as I sip it bit by bit.  Snow is falling lightly and although the sun isn’t shining, it is one beautiful day in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  Life goes on and it is still good!


I am somewhat freaked out by the number of hits my blogsite has taken today. On one hand I am happy as a clam at the numbers, higher than they ever have been before, way higher in fact. On the other hand, I keep wondering what I can do to maintain and/or surpass this in the future. My competitive side is now in full gear.

I have been meaning to apologize for any typos I may have incurred so far. As a French teacher, I have spent any inordinately large amount of time teaching, would you believe, English? My wife and I have almost daily banter about English usage and grammar. We are those crazy people who obsess about differentiating between who and whom and who are driven virtually batty by the issues of it’s, its, their, there, they’re, affect, effect, and knowing when to use the subjunctive in English (I wish she were here). I am annoyed with myself when I end a sentence with a preposition and I have caught myself and even allowed myself to do so with the excuse that this is a blog! I am incessantly making corrections as I reread my posts, I hate these mistakes. A few years ago, one of my classes and I actually complained about an expensive (new edition) text we were using. We wrote a letter to the publishers to that effect. They asked for the corrections. We responded that remuneration was appropriate. They sent each person a rebate check and killed off the text the following year.

My wife and I are always on the prowl with language and discuss the issues with others. We sometimes even call ourselves the “Language Police.”

Add into the mix that I blog using several different means: PC laptop, iMac, iPad, and even an iPhone. The reason I mention those is because they sometimes mess me up with their corrections, keeping in mind that I use both French and English and the keyboards seem to like to flit between the two at the whim of the moment.

Again, I am overwhelmed and thank all of you out there who are taking your valuable time to read my thoughts. I am extremely appreciative! Please keep reading!

The Art of being self-conscious

At a very early age I learned to be self-conscious, or should I say that I was, perhaps, genetically predisposed to it.  As an educator I have been able to help many a student in a similar predicament.  I have always felt something special for the individual who is a victim of himself/herself and doesn’t know how to proceed.  At the current time, I am tutoring several individuals, both of whom are having a tough time participating in class because of feelings of inadequacy and shyness.  These are things I have known most of my life.  Deep down, I knew that this was a false sense, but on the surface they were omnipresent and somewhat paralyzing at times.

As Cyrano de Bergerac said, my nose precedes me into a room.  That has been the main source of my self-consciousness from a very early age.  Add to that that I was always uncoordinated, a late bloomer, and I skipped a portion of second grade.  I was also relatively bright, if I may say so, and kind of stuck out just from that. 

The nose thing is something that has taken a lifetime to deal with.  In my youth, I was “Pinocchio” and I must say that my treatment from others was somewhat scarring, to say the least.  The daughter of the local funeral parlor was one of my many tormentors, she being probably the most notable.  I am guessing that the fact that she was rather homely in looks and had acne that actually begged for medical help (more than my proboscis!), might have been the reason why she lashed out at me.  In any case, people didn’t have to know how Gloria treated me to come up with the appellation of Pinocchio for me.

Not growing into my 5’10” body until much later didn’t help on the bullying scene.  When I moved to the suburbs at the age of seven or so I found the treatment I received reprehensible and it was in a Catholic School!  The awful treatment on the playground was a daily occurrence and so many of us were knocked down incessantly by others.

In elementary school I began to be almost physically ill the night before my physical education class.  The scene of being pushed around and last chosen made me aware of the little actual supervision and guidance being provided by the educators and truly was a big factor in my wanting to be a teacher.  I thought that perhaps I could make a difference.  This treatment in PE class gave me a real disdain for organized sports which, in our society is a real problem for a guy because so much “small talk” among men is base on this.  Somehow, I have managed to get around this.  More often than not in the past, I would just automatically agree and/or just try to “fake” the conversation. 

College was a great equalizer and the “nose” thing was less of an issue.  I have to say that I always toyed around with the idea of rhinoplasty but as I aged it became less and less of an issue.  This is not to say that I forgot about it, I just put it more into perspective.  I did say to my wife when we married that I would offer it to my children as I think that despite the idea that the concept is wrong, it is reasonable to try and spare human beings the experiences I had had.

My shyness was always an issue and was certainly related to my nasal issues.  I never liked being shy.  As I grew older it was more of reserved than shy.  At parties, my wife always noticed that it was not the easiest thing for me and sometimes I came off as being snobby or above it all. As time went on, this also got easier.

I have often told my shy students that I forced myself to deal with the issue of shyness by becoming an educator.  Not only an educator, but a language teacher!  A language teacher is tested each time the mouth is opened.  Speaking another language is massive risk taking.  I took that one step further and despite my reputation for being shy and retiring, I decided to go to France and live with a family for a whole year.  My mom actually told me she didn’t think I could do it.  I have to say, when your parent doesn’t believe in you, you are up the creek without a paddle.  I decided and did prove her wrong.

Teaching saved me in all areas.  I have to admit that as the years have gone by I have seen the looks when my students have looked at my face.  I have heard the comments.  One thing I also know is that students will notice anything that is out of place and/or different.  The teacher has to have a strong sense of self and not take anything too personally.  I learned to deal with my issues.  My shyness was something that I had to work on since I was at a school where we were expected, on a daily basis, to perform.  We would perform in the classroom, perform in front of colleagues, and perform in front of community members.  I taught at a school notorious for correcting memos, you would get them back with corrections in red!  Luckily I never received one of those since I was so paranoid about getting one that I made sure to proof everything before sending it off.

Getting in better shape and helped immensely as well and then it has the benefits of being physically good for you!

Aging puts everything into perspective.  Maybe aging is the wrong term, maybe it is just growing up!  I only wish I had grown up sooner.