Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rock and Roll to the Rescue

Both my boys love the song Smoke on the Water, which is so funny because I remember when I lived in Couer D' Alene, Idaho and hearing it for the first time. I was in 5th grade. It was one of two songs having a catchy and distinctive guitar riff—the other being Love is Like Oxygen—hard crunching, repeating, toe-tapping. It was common to see your friend tucking their lower lip under the front teeth and doing a spot-on imitation. It may have inspired many first-time air guitarists, and not a few of the real thing.

At the dinner table Emmett sang his own words to the song instead of eating, real imaginative lyrics such as, "Poop on the water, and farts in the sky," while mom and dad rolled their eyes and said for the hundredth time, "No poop-talk," (trying not to smile).

Then Jackson got into the action, as he didn't like what was on his plate either. When Jackson gets involved, it's like that mythical amp from Spinal Tap that cranks to 11. In other words, it gets loud and out of control.

"Ok, settle down boys," I said, which has the effect of a lion cub facing down a stampeding herd of wildebeests. But after a few gentle reminders that there is food on their plates and that there are people starving in the world that would kill for a single bite (yes, it's true, we've become our parents), the boys went back to a subdued state of planning their next diversion. It came in the form of a question. The question.

Jackson asked, "Where to babies come from?"

Easy: "From momma's belly."

"But how does it get there?"

My wife and I exchange The Glance.

I decided to dance around a bit. I am the master of diversion after all. "It's like a seed, Jackson. Like the flowers we started in the egg carton (irony, eh?) at the start of summer. The seed grows into a baby until its big enough to come out of mommy's belly."

That should hold him.

Jackson is in third grade now. Though it may not sound like much, it was in fifth grade when we were introduced to sex education. If the pattern held true, that's only two years away. Perhaps the timing for modern audiences is a bit late.

"But how does the seed get there?"

Is verklempt a word? If it means to be at a total loss for words, that was me. It was time to pass the baton. My wife smiled as she took it and used it for an air-microphone, took a deep breath and screamed, "SMOOOOKE, ON THE WAAATER…"

And we all joined in, "…and fire in the sky-hayyye."

And that is the story of how Rock and roll saved the day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Over the Weekend

It was our last game of the flag football season on Saturday. We were slotted to play the Chargers, who we beat handily earlier in the year. As game time approached, the Chargers' coach said to me, "We're playing the Patriots instead—it's the closest game we've had all season."

The Chargers haven't won a game all year, so I understood. It also gave me a chance to prove something, even though I was afraid it might backfire.

All season I have taken a backseat to my assistant coach. I was in over my head organizationally. I had to put together the game plan, the order in which kids played and which positions, assuring opportunity at every position for each kid at least once. At first this was a strain, but by the end I had a system that worked easily.

What's been happening over the course of the season is that I would practice the kids while my assistant was at work, then on game day he would ignore everything that I had practiced the kids with and make up plays in the huddles. The kids were confused, fumbling and throwing interceptions. Not only that, but my son was losing interest in the game.

Once you relinquish authority or responsibility, it's hard to take back without causing resentment. But last weekend I did just that. And by some miracle it was accepted not only without complaint, but with support. Still, during the game I got a little friction when it came down to actual decisions.

The problem we've had all year is that the kids were doing in a game something they had never practiced. So I stuck to the basics. I designed a set of three plays that start exactly the same but with different end points. First you give the ball to a running back and have him run around the outside. Next you do the same but have the running back give the ball to the wide receiver for a reverse. Third, and this is where the money is, do exactly as in the latter case, but have the running back fake the handoff for the reverse and go.

On Saturday, when the running back did this, the defender totally bit on it and chased the receiver, leaving the running back with nothing but pasture between him and the endzone. It was pretty sweet.

On defense, I kept telling the assistant to put the fastest kids on the ends to keep the other offense from going wide on runs, forcing the opposing running back to run back into the middle of the field, right where our other kids were waiting. My assistant kept on calling my fastest kids back into a safety position, and even complained that I was taking our best players out of the play. I did the Dr. Evil "double-u, double-u, double-u dot zip it dot com!" to him. The other team only scored one time, and only then due to an illegal block that the refs didn't call.

We scored four or five times. The same team we played the week before and tied them in a shootout. I should have had the confidence to run the team like I knew it should have been run all season. We might have run the table. It was quite an accomplishment all the same. We started the season unable to execute a play, and ended on an incredibly high note, with nary a mistake made.

I'd like to take all the credit, but I can't. Even though I've been complaining about the assistant's handling of the play calling, which just wasn't his strength. In practices before the games, he came up with some drills that focused on handing the ball off on the run and pulling flags that the kids really got into and made it fun and challenging. A coach has to manage and utilize resources to maximum effect.

I can't wait for next season. The parents have been telling me that the kids had a blast this season, and all but for a few games I had perfect attendance.

Tomorrow I have to tell you about a conversation we had with our kids. The dreaded question: where to babies come from?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Kids, Elections and Progress

Both of my kids participated in elections at their schools in the week leading up to November 4th. I'm sensitive to any bias teachers put forth to students. If I were to ever find out that a teacher or school official exerted any sort of political influence on my children there would be hell to pay. We all know how academia stands on the political spectrum, and it's my job to teach my children to think for themselves. As I will demonstrate.

In both instances though, the teachers didn't offer any opinion, and the ballots cast were anonymous. You can guess who won in an overwhelming landslide at both schools. In Emmett's preschool, the results were posted on each classroom door. One classroom over from Emmett's reported that it was Obama, seven votes to one. In Emmett's however, McCain won eleven votes to three. 

Emmett has always said that he was going to vote for Barack Obama, but of course he has heard his parents talking about it. I kind of liked that he was thinking on his own instead of taking everything we said as the gospel. After picking him up and on the ride home, he told me that he voted for John McCain.

"Why, Emmett? I thought you were voting for Obama."

"Leighton talked me into it."

"How did he do that?"

"He said we were best buddies and that I had to vote for John McCain."

Leighton's mother was in the armed forces and went to Iraq for Desert Storm

This upset me just a little. "Don't get me wrong, Emmett, I love that you voted for McCain, but you shouldn't vote for someone because it makes someone else happy. You have to make up your own mind and do what you think is right."

He chewed on these words, then happily reported, "But I wanted to vote for John McCain."

That night Emmett wrote Senator McCain a letter. He drew a picture and had his brother inscribe, "Dear John McCain, I'm sorry you lost the election. Will you draw me a picture back?"

Jackson wrote two letters, one to each of the candidates. To Obama he told him what a lopsided victory he won at his school, and that he was happy that he (Obama) had won the election. And "could you send me a signed picture of yourself?"

To John McCain he sent a similar letter (sans election results), expressing regret that he lost the election (the irony was not lost on me), and that all his ideas were right and Obama's were wrong.

Ok, so you think I've ruined my child. But rest assured that what I am telling my kids is that Obama is now our president, and as such our respect is his to uphold. That is a far cry from what I have observed in the reverse, and I plan to be an example of how to support a president whose ideas and ideals I oppose. There may come a time where that will be stretched to the snapping point, but I hope to remain constructive and open.

As for all the simple-minded rednecks that can't handle a black president (am I allowed to notice that?) drive yourself over the next available cliff. The Klan party is over, has been over. I'm surprised that there is still a forum for this kind of thinking, if this can even be termed thinking. This aspect of the election makes me happy and proud that race is no longer a majority issue among free-thinking people. Maybe during upcoming elections the opposition won't accuse the other side of racism. But as Steve Martin would say, "Naaahhhhh!" As long as it works to silence critics it will be used, but at least now there is precedence and history to counter with, dampening its effect.

To wrap up, my grandmother voted for Obama. She lives in Ohio. She's always been a Democrat, and is bitterly opposed to the war, which tipped her hand towards Obama. But grandma is just short of a klan type. She has never had a nice thing to say about blacks, and that's putting it kindly. In her own words, she justified her vote for a (insert n-word) because Joe Biden is a good man, and, well, let's just say she doesn't have high hopes for Obama's health. 

We have a long way to go in this world. But progress has been made. My grandma voted for a black man. Read that again slowly: my grandma voted for a black man.  Do not underestimate the size of that mountain.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Doing Ok

No surprises in the election.  Obama won and my blog buddies are vindicated after eight long years.  I'm trying to be optimistic that Obama will be a fair leader.  Now everyone gets to find out what he is really like, beyond the hype and the promises that even the heralded says he can't possibly keep (same for McCain; I read more than a paragraph).  All I pray for is that he puts country and security ahead of party, and that he'll seriously consider the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before it is ready to take care of itself.  You can be strong without being a bully; put your fists at your side and relax if you will, but be ready for the sucker punch, because it's coming.

These are serious times.  Stand up to our enemies and be diplomatic in equal measures; be tough and compassionate.  Show us that there is iron in your words, and I for one will support you to the end.

Please, don't lambaste me in the comments.  Nor do I want to hear how wonderful he is and how he will win me over and yadda yadda yadda.  This is your day and you've never been prouder to be an American.  I wish I could share in that optimism.

There are no words that will make me believe.  I'll have to see it for myself.