Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What My Kids Did On Their Summer Vacation

Okay, need to get back to blogging. Will try harder.

This summer the girls discovered the thrill of roller coasters. We went to Hershey Park and rode basically every coaster they had. The wooden ones were awesome - very big, loud, rickety and bone jarring like a wooden coaster should. Jesse is especially fun to ride a coaster with - she talks a mile a minute throughout the entire climb up, then switches between screaming and talking through the rest of the ride. We also went on steel coasters that went upside down. I felt like I was a kid again.

We spent a decent amount of time at the pool this summer. The girls do all sorts of flips and handstands for hours on end.

We did get to ride waves in the ocean again, at both Ocean City and LBI. We also checked out the water parks - we had a blast. I might have been more scared than the girls on some of the drops. They are pretty fearless.

Jesse and I also managed to squeeze in a lot of video games. She is the queen of playing all kinds of games, and we had many a battle on mini-golf.

I also introduced the girls to a summer ritual from my childhood - a long game of Monopoly. The whole family played one Saturday, and it was fun watching the girls wheel and deal with each other. That Monday I came home from work and the board was out on the dining room table; I assume the girls quickly learned the game isn't fun when it's two people.

The girls are fully back into the swing of things at school, and the fall has lots of fun things going on. But summer is still the best.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pool Shark

Jessica's love of games goes beyond board games, card games, and the Wii - it also includes a new found love of playing pool. For the last couple of months Jess and I have been playing, mostly on the weekends but occasionally on a weeknight. I'm no longer that concerned that she'll tear up the felt with an errant shot. She is still too small to reach a lot of the shots but that doesn't dampen her enthusiasm or her determination. Neither does the fact that she often whiffs on the first two or three tries at a shot. The two of us have lots of fun, and I love watching the way she jumps around the table. It's pretty hard not to laugh and have fun playing any game with Jess.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This Notes for You

Recently Stef has figured out how to "read" music by ear. The other night she wrote down all the notes for the Star Spangled Banner by singing it and humming it and then translating it into notes that she played on the clarinet. For someone who only "hears" music, I thought this was amazing.

I asked her if she could do "Here Comes the Sun" (a song she likes, perhaps proving that the Beatles will eventually outlast everyone and everything, including the beetle). For the next several minutes she hummed the song, then wrote down the notes and played it on the clarinet. She said she doesn't know how to officially write down all the notes, but she understands it the way she writes it. It reminded me of this story of how Phil Collins cued the horn section to play on his first solo album - he couldn't write the notes, so he jotted down a series of short and long lines based on how he wanted it to sound.

Next, I wanted to see if she could play ABACAB, because I heard Genesis named it that because those are the musical notes. Alas, it was time for Stef to go to dance practice, so ABACAB will have to wait for another time. Perhaps the next rainy day I'll ask her to do Stairway to Heaven.

Monday, February 28, 2011

From Jonas to Justin

It's over for the Jonas Brothers. There was no exact point in time, no overt clues, or actual discussions. There never is in these situations. Just ask Leif Garrett. But make no mistake, the days of Jonas Brothers music, TV shows, posters, and assorted paraphernalia in our household is over. Cue the slow motion flashbacks (with Jonas Bros. mid-tempo music, of course): the girls and I at the Izod Center concert in the summer of '09; Stef and I at MSG in 2008; the 3D movie somewhere in between; the teen mag. poster pullouts; and countless car rides listening to Nick, Joe, and the other guy, the one who plays guitar.

But weep not for the girls, or the Jonas's's', because something new, something better, always steps into the void. His name - Justin Bieber. His hair - immaculate. Stef has full-on Bieber fevor, while Jess is just along for the ride at this point. Stef bombards us daily with facts and figures related to his JB-berness: his favorite color (blue), his favorite outfit accent color (purple), his shoe size (8), his favorite team (Lakers), how many minutes it took him to sell out MSG (22) and his approximate fade from the spotlight (2012, hopefully).

Bieber espouses the same "if you work hard, you can achieve anything" mantra that I heard repeatedly throughout the Jonas Brothers' MSG show back in 2008. I guess Bieber is working a little harder right now. Or maybe the Jonas boys are working really hard at regaining their anonymity. Or maybe it's just zeitgeist fellas.

I actually enjoyed the Jonas run. So here's to you Nick (the talented one) Joe (the cute one) and Kevin (the other one). May the girls cheer you again in the summer of 2041, with their kids, when the reunion tour hits the Chris Christie Garden State Arts Center. If I'm still around I will join them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mancala Madness

After nearly 487 battles, I finally beat Jessica at Mancala. I told her I would mark the date; she asked, "Are you serious?" and I replied, "No, of course not." Then I remembered the blog.

I followed up the historic win with another loss. That makes 1 win, 488 loses, and 9 "time to go to bed" disqualifications.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Helping Out

There were a couple of instances in the last week that made me realize how thoughtful the girls are.

Last week during one of the many snowstorms we had, I was out shoveling the car so I could get to work. After about 10 minutes, Stef came out in her coat and pajamas. "Dad, I want to help you shovel" This was quickly followed by Jess, who also wanted to help, and who was also in her coat and pajamas.

Yesterday I was trying to clear off what could easily be called "shrice" (a mixture of slush,rain, snow and ice) from the walkway. It was miserable out, but after a few minutes, both girls were at the door with their coats on. "We want to help," they said. It was way too shricy out for them, so I told them thanks but they should really go back inside. They did reluctantly.

Then last night I came home, and Stef had made my entire dinner herself, as well as an awesome brownie concoction with chocolate icing in the middle.

It made me realize that helping someone when they don't ask for it is even more impressive and appreciated then helping someone who does.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Time Capsule

Every once in a while Steffi will hear me talk about politics (imagine that). She recently asked me if I was a Democrat or a Republican and for the first time, I wasn't sure. I remember being about her age and starting to read the newspaper because I was just getting very into sports. Occasionally I would glance at the front of the paper or watch the news with my mom. Between this and comments I heard from my parents, what little I knew about the Presidents could be boiled down to this:

(then current) President Jimmy Carter: nice guy, peanut farmer, trying to make peace in the Middle East (I always thought Camp David should be called something more formal).

JFK: Great President. He was Irish (so are we) Catholic (so are we); he helped get man on the moon and challenged us to "ask not what your country can do for you..."

FDR: THE GREATEST President. He ended the Great Depression and improved the lives of millions of people with the New Deal. Built the middle class. Elected 4 times!

Nixon: He was a crook and then Ford took over and he was clumsy.

I bring this up because if Steffi were to ask me to point to great Democrats in history, I basically have to dust off the 1977-78 talk track above. Oh, and the current President is a Democrat who really wants to be Reagan.

Now excuse me, I have a sports page to read.

The Dance

Saturday was the annual daddy daughter dance for Jess and I. She was not feeling well but as expected, she did not want to miss the dance. As I noticed with Stef, the older Jess gets the more she actually wants to dance with me. Of course she spent a lot of time running around with her friends, dancing, comparing jewelry, outfits and the candy they took from each table, but we did get to dance to a few numbers before she ran out of steam due to not feeling well. The only thing we missed was the obligatory "livin' on a prayer" closer from the D.J., but I'm never sure if that one is for the girls or the middle-aged guys pretending they can reach the high notes of the chorus.

Overall we had a blast and we can't wait to see the pictures.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Basketball Personality

I finally convinced the girls to go to the open gym at the Y to play basketball. Last Saturday we spent a couple of hours shooting hoops, and I thought the way each of them played reflected a part of their personality. Stef had a quiet confidence about her, finding that being a few inches taller then the last time we went made all the difference in being able to reach the ten foot basket and make shots. She hit a lot of bank shots from all angles and was really getting the hang of shooting.

Stef also wanted me to teach her how to do a layup. She spent quite a bit of time determined to get the hang of jumping off one leg and hitting the spot on the backboard that I told her would guarantee the ball would go in. It reminded me of how she puts her mind to certain things in order to master them.

Jess, on the other hand, must have taken 700 shots and made about 4. She had a most unorthodox shooting motion, hopping on both legs, landing, then jumping up again, then shooting. I hadn't seen anything like it since the Felix Unger leg kick. She was getting nowhere near the basket, but she didn't get upset, angry, or defeated; she smiled ear to ear while chasing down every errant shot. She is always about being in the moment and enjoying it to the fullest, and if that included hopping like a bunny and shooting a ball 3 feet short of the basket then so be it. I gave her some advice on shooting but really, she seemed to care less about making a shot. I think she just liked being with me and Stef.

So the girls learned a little about basketball and I learned a little more about what makes them tick.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I have been very conscious of trying to instill and reinforce confidence, self-esteem and a positive attitude in the girls. When they talk about the future, I tell them they can do anything they want if they try hard enough. So I was really forced to think through what I've sometimes used as a flippant remark about, of all things, the Dallas Cowboys. They were playing about a month ago and Stef asked, "Which team is that?" I said, "The Dallas Cowgirls".

"Why do you call them Cowgirls when the team is the Cowboys?" she asked. Which made me think "yeah, why do you call them that? Like the old comment, "you throw like a girl," am I trying to say that that is somehow inferior to a boy? Stef got the vibe that I meant it derisively. It did seem a little cavemanish the more i thought about it. Especially when I tell the girls there are professional women's sports teams that they could play for when they grow up.

Earlier today, out of nowhere Stef said, "Dad, remember you called the Dallas Cowboys the Dallas Cowgirls." "Yes," I said. "I don't know why I said that. But I do know one thing. A team of Cowgirls would beat a team of Cowboys any day of the week."

"Yeah!!" Stef yelled as she went back to her room.

Yeah indeed.