Tag Archives: little man

First Days of School, Last Days of School

Remember when the Little Man was born? It seems like it  was yesterday. Turns out it happened over 6 years ago. This morning, the increasingly Not-So-Little Man set off for 1st grade.

First day of 1st grade
First day of 1st grade

First grade is a special milestone, because it is the earliest grade for which I have a pretty clear memory of things. I remember snippets of preschool, and bits and pieces of Kindergarten. But I still remember the songs we sang in first grade. I remember my first grade teacher’s name (Mrs. Sapala) at MacAfee Road School in Somerset, NJ. I remember playing (and intensely disliking) soccer1. I remember walking to school with my best friend. I remember going to the school library, and discovering a book called The Nine Planets by Franklyn M. Branley–a book which set me on the course of becoming a science fiction writer, although I didn’t know that at the time.

Naturally, I wonder what kind of things the Little Man will discover in first grade that will set him on his own course. I don’t remember being particularly frightened in first grade2, and I suspect the Little Man won’t find anything to be frightened of either. He goes to a small school, Pre-K through 8th grade, but only one class per grade. That means that most of his friends from Kindergarten will be back in his 1st grade class. He’ll have a new teachers, but the teaching assistant from Kindergarten will be in the 1st grade class. I’m already excited to hear how his day went.

Today also happens to be the Little Miss’s last day at the Montessori school. Next week, she’ll start attending St. Ann, just like her brother. The Little Man started at St. Ann in Kindergarten. The Little Miss will start in pre-K4. Our kids have attended the Montessori school across the street from our house since the fall of 2010. So today concludes a 5-year period during which we had one or both of our kids in the school. This weekend, we met the Little Miss’s Montessori school teacher for ice cream, to say goodbye. It is the end of one era, and the beginning of another.

  1. Sorry, the baseball gene formed early in me, and baseball snob that I am, I do find other sports lacking.
  2. With the exception of a short period during which I had a to-do with some humongous third graders.

The Thrill of the Cracker Jacks

Nats Stadium

On Saturday, I took the Little Man to an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals. We took the Metro over to Nationals Park, and found our way to our seats, where my friend, and fellow writer Michael J. Sullivan was waiting for us. I think that Michael told me this was the third baseball game he’d ever attended. As it happens, it was the Little Man’s third game, too. He attended a Nationals game when he was a little baby. Then, when he’d just turned two years old, he attended a minor league game up in Troy, NY, between the Tri-City Valley Cats and the Vermont Lake Monsters. But the game on Saturday is likely to be the first that he remembers as he gets older, if for no other reason than he plays Little League baseball, and has more of a sense of the game than he did when he was two.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the game for the Little Man was the thought of getting Cracker Jacks. He knew about Cracker Jacks from the song, of course, and also because Caillou has them in an episode of that cartoon. But the Little Man had never had them before. So when we arrived at the stadium the very first thing that we did, even before going to our seats, was seek out Cracker Jacks. Eventually, we located a bag (they are no longer sold in boxes, at least not at Nationals Park) of Cracker Jacks. We added to this, two hot dogs, a small soda, and a beer. Then we sought out our seats. We were high up, but had a good view of the playing field, which is what I wanted so that I could explains things about the game to the Little Man. We both wore our Yankees hats, and while we sat among many Nationals fans, there were plenty of Yankees fans to be seen around the park.

The Little Man picked up the rhythm of the game quickly, and even learned to follow the scoreboard for balls, strikes, and outs. When the Nationals would make a good play on the Yankees, he’d say, “Aw, man!” When the Yankees made a good play, he became wildly excited. He saw his first home run that game, and that brought the score to 3-2 (the Yanks had been trailing.)

When A-Rod came to the plate, and the stadium booed, the Little Man wondered why. I explained that A-Rod had cheated, and had not been allowed to play baseball for a year, and that a lot of people (myself included) were upset that he cheated.

We stayed for five full innings before the Little Man got too restless and wanted to head home. We left with the Nationals leading 3-2, and that means that we missed the Yankees comeback home run in the 8th inning. But it was still fun. I mean a lot of fun. At one point, entirely on his own volition the Little Man turned to me and said, “Thanks for bringing me to the game, Daddy.” Really, it was perfect.

It made me wonder who really had more fun, him, for me, watching him. I thought about my Dad taking me to baseball games when I was very young, and had a sudden realization that it must have been fun for him in the same way that it was fun for me on Saturday. The Little Man got to see the game, and got to eat a bag of Cracker Jacks, and I got to sit there and watch him do it. I imagine we will be doing it again, before long.

The Little Man and the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

I was in the shower when the Little Man let out a shriek that would raise the dead. He had been sitting on our bed, watching Power Rangers Megaforce when a bug that had been crawling along the wall landed on his knee.

Little man, meet Halyomorpha halys; brown marmorated stink bug, meet the Little Man.

After he calmed down (his jets had launched him well beyond the orbit of the moon), he asked what it was. “A stink bug,” I told him. You’d think a five year old would instantly fall in love with anything that had the word “stink” in it. Perhaps I should have called it a fart bug.

It was really a minor thing, except the Little Man now worried that Mr. Halys might somehow find his way into his room, and worse yet, into his bed. Kelly tried to assuage this by giving the bug an exciting ride down the toilet. This seemed fine for a little while. Then, after the Little Man used the facilities, he said, “Daddy, we have to make sure to close all of the toilets in the house to make sure that the bug doesn’t come up.” We made sure all of the toilet lids were closed. Stephen King, eat your heart out.

Once in bed, the worry crept in that this bug would somehow come back, and bring its legions with it.

“I’ve got it covered,” I told the Little Man, “Zekie (our cat) will patrol up here tonight.”

“What will he do?”

“Well, if he see the bug, he’ll eat it.”

He’ll eat it?” the Little Man said, shocked.

“What’s your favorite food in the whole world?” I asked him.

“Candy.” Of course.

“Well, for cats, stink bugs are like candy.”

“Not uh,” he said.

“What happens when you eat too much candy?” I asked.

“You get a tummy ache.”

“And don’t we come home sometimes to find that Zekie has been sick on the floor?”


“Well, what you do think made him sick?”

That seemed to make him feel better. I tucked him in, gave him kiss, turned off the light. His brow furrowed, “But Daddy, how will Zekie see the bug in the dark?”

Stop obsessing over the bug, I wanted to say, you’ll give yourself nightmares for no reason. “Well, Zeke is cat, and cats are nocturnal. Do you know what nocturnal means?”

He nodded, “It means that they don’t sleep at night, and can see in the dark.”

“There you go.”

He considered this logic for a long time, and then seemed satisfied. “Okay, Daddy,” he said, “just make sure you bring Zeke upstairs right now, okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

The Little Man slept soundly through the night.

His father, on the other hand, had dreams of stink bugs swarming his bed, crawling all over him, and getting in between the keys of his keyboard, making it particularly difficult to write.

The Wiggly Tooth

The Little Man had some exciting news for us this morning when we woke up. He came into our room, unusually bright-eyed, and said, “You know what? I have  a wiggly tooth!”

So he does. And that marks a new milestone: the Little Man’s first loose tooth. It’s his lower left-center tooth, what a dentist would call, I think, 24d, or a central incisor. I have some vague memories of my first loose tooth, at roughly the same age as the Little Man, and I seem to recall being slightly terrified of the whole matter. Not the Little Man. He was eagerly enthusiastic, and it was catching. The Little Miss started checking her own teeth, on the off chance that she, too, might have a wiggly tooth.

In my Going Paperless posts, I’ve written about how one of the ways I use Evernote is to keep track of our kids’ milestones. I sometimes get questions about what those milestones might be, or what they look like in Evernote. Well, this is a good example of one of them, and here is what it looks like in Evernote (filed in my Timeline notebook and tagged with the Little Man’s name, and “milestone”):

Little Man Loose Tooth

Advice to My Kids as They Begin Their Education

Next month, the Little Man will start Kindergarten. He has been in pre-school since he was 15 months old, spending his days from 7 am – 4 pm at the school (as does the Little Miss) and so he is used to the long days, but this will be at a new school, and it will be the real beginnings of his education. This got me thinking about my own schooling, which in turn got me thinking about what advice I’d offer to my kids as they started out with their own education. It didn’t take me long to come up with 4 things to pass along:

1. It is okay to make mistakes, get things wrong, and occasionally fail at something, so long as you try to learn from those mistakes.

The Little Man in particular gets frustrated when he makes a mistake, or when he doesn’t win at a game. I’m not sure where this comes from because I’m of the opinion that mistakes are how we learn. Natural geniuses aside, learning is rarely easy. I can remember how halting I read when I first learned to read. I had to sound out every word, mangling half of them. It seemed to take forever to get through one page. But one day, I no longer noticed the words. Instead, I noticed the story that they told. It took practice (a lot of practice!) but I got there.

Even failing at some things shouldn’t get you down. We can’t be expert at everything. In college, I took a macro economics class. I attended every lecture. I did all of the assigned reading and homework. I ended up with D in the class. To this day, macro economics stumps me. In many respects, the earlier you learn your trouble-spot, the better you are.

The most important thing is to try to learn from the mistakes you make, in school work, and socially as well.

2. Write in your books!

I wish I had done this more. Write in your books! When you are reading, write your thoughts in the margins as you go. Include your opinions (“This passage is wonderful!”, “Was Doyle on crack when he wrote this?”). This will say you work when it comes time to talk about what you’ve read. But by writing in your books, you also make the book uniquely your own.

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Winston Churchill are just three people who wrote in the margins of the books that they read. You will be in very good company.

3. It is okay to have an opinion about things; it is okay not to like something you have read for school.

Through about 7th grade, I went through school thinking that every book I was assigned to read had to be good, because otherwise, why would it be assigned. (The notion of learning what not to do by reading a bad book was foreign to me.) Sometime in 8th grade, however, we had to read Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. I read it, and loathed it. Looking back on it, I just think I’m not a fan of the loquacious Victorian style. What bothers me most, in retrospect, was that I was afraid to express my opinion of the book in class out of fear that I’d get in trouble for not liking the book.

At some point (probably in 10th or 11th grade) I did express my opinions about books in class. What I found was that my teachers seemed to like this. Looking back on it, I think it is because it was clear that I read the book and formed an opinion about it.

There will be things that you read that you won’t like. Read them anyway, learn what you can from them, but don’t hesitate to express your opinion about them. It is part of the joy of reading.

4. It is okay to go beyond what you are learning, if you find it interesting.

If you find yourself interested in something you learned in class, or read about for class, by all means, pursue it. Don’t feel like you have to be hemmed in by what you are given in class. If you read about Soviet-era Russia in a social studies book, and want to learn more, go to the library and check out a history book. If your science book spends a few paragraphs on black holes and you want more, go to the library (or online) and learn more.

It is okay to go beyond what you are learning in class if you find it interesting. You can also use what you learn later, and if you are entertained while learning, that is all the better.

The main problem with advice like this is that it usually has be learned from experience. That may be so, but this is the advice I would pass along to the Little Man and the Little Miss as they begin their journey through school.

Blood-Sucking Ticks and Clocks

We seem to have a tradition for the Fourth of July that goes beyond spending the holiday in the small town of Castine, Maine. Last year (2013), the Little Man, slipped coming out of the bathroom, and cracked his head on the floor. He didn’t require any stitches, but there was a good deal of blood and crying. Fortunately, my cousin is a doctor and he took a look at the wound and said it would be okay. This year, I jokingly told him I’d make sure the Little Man avoids any slips or spills. And to his credit, the Little Man did not fall on the Fourth of July.

But after the morning parade, I got a text from Kelly. I’d walked back to the house with the Little Miss, while Kelly took the Little Man on a firetruck ride. She texted with the gleeful news that the Little Man had managed to acquire a passenger: a small tick, which found a comfortable spot on his head. Not wanting to freak out the Little Man, Kelly said nothing to him, but when they returned to the house, my cousin, the good doctor, took a look, and, as Dr. Seuss once said, with great skillful skill, and with great speedy speed, successfully removed the tiny hitchhiker.

Jump-cut ahead to a few days ago. The Little Man was taking inventory  of his many wounds, tiny scratches that he has on his legs, for instance, the kind of scratches and scrapes that all five year old boys and girls collect. He called the more prominent of these scrapes “blood holes” which sounds gruesome until you actually see what he is talking about–and then it takes all of your will not to smile or laugh. He was explaining why he needed one snack or another.

“It will make new blood,” he said, “to replace the blood that came out from the blood holes.” We’re talking volumes of blood measured in microliters, picoliters, even.

“You really didn’t lose that much blood, buddy,” I said. “Those are very small scrapes.”

“But Daddy,” said he, “I also had the clock.”

I stared at him, utterly baffled. “The clock?”

“Yeah, the clock. Remember, in Maine. It got on my head and drank my blood.”

I stared at him some more, thinking I’d stepped into some alternate reality populated by blood sucking clocks, à la Salvador Dali. I had no idea what he was talking about. I just stared, mouth agape.

“Remember, Daddy? At the parade?”

And then it dawned on me and I couldn’t help myself. I burst into laughter. “A tick!” I said. You mean a tick?”


This, of course, was yet another insight into the mind of a five year old. After the tick was removed, we showed it to him and told him what it was. A tick. Five year olds know nothing of ticks, except that they are half the sound made by–you guessed it–a clock. In this case, a blood-sucking clock.

I have a feeling I am finally beginning to understand from where Dr. Seuss derived much of his inspiration.

An Excerpt From “Conversations at Our Dinner Table,” Ep. 1

Toward the end of our pasta dinner this evening, the Little Man looked at the kitchen table before and pointed to something.

“What’s this, Daddy?” he said.

I looked at it. “Looks like a stain in the wood.”

“No, because feel it.”

I felt it. “Maybe it’s a stain from food. Probably maple syrup from one of your waffles, don’t you think?”

“No!” the Little Man said, “It can’t be from one of my waffles, Daddy. I never eat my waffles at the kitchen table.”

I thought about how he sat in the rocker in our bedroom in the mornings, eating waffles while he watched Disney Junior and could offer no response because his statement was unanswerable. He was absolutely right.

The Little Man Turns Five

The Little Man went to bed excited last night, because today is his birthday and he couldn’t wait to be five years old. And so he is. It’s pretty crazy how quickly the time goes by. When he went to bed last night, I was thinking about the evening, five years earlier, when Kelly and I tried to get a good night’s sleep, knowing it would be our last for a long time. (The Little Man was delivered via a planned C-section, so we knew he was coming and there was no dramatic rush to the hospital the following morning.) Looking back on that morning, everything seemed calm.

Five years later, the Little Man is a week away from graduating from the Montessori school he’s been attending for the last 4 years.  In late August, he will start Kindergarten. He has seen (and loved) all of the Star Wars movies. Indiana Jones, too. He has more Legos than I ever had, and he builds cool things. He is creative and is constantly drawing pictures for me, Kelly, and the Little Miss. He’s curious. He’s funny. And he has a good heart.

Another strange part of seeing the Little Man turn five is that turning five is the first birthday for which I have fairly clear memories. Certainly, I can remember going to Kindergarten, and so the Little Man is entering an age which I remember myself.

The Little Man had a birthday party on Sunday to which all of his friends came. He is bringing cupcakes to school today to share with his classmates. And this evening, a few friends are coming over to celebrate with pizza. He is overflowing with excitement, and that is just delightful to see.

Happy birthday, Little Man!

Building a Block Airport with the Little Man

I did something amazing last night. Together with the Little Man, I built a block airport. When I was the Little Man’s age, I loved playing with blocks. And since many who read this may be digital natives, unfamiliar with the term “blocks” in this context, I’m not referring to ASCII drawings or anything that involves a computer, or even electricity for that matter. I’m talking about plain ol’ wooden blocks.

Some of my clearest memories of playing when was four or five years old concern these wooden blocks. I’d make roads with them, after being in the car with my parents. If we visited a restaurant, I’d come home and build a restaurant with them. The long cylindrical blocks would be ketchup bottles. Three square blocks stacked one atop the other would be a hamburger.

A while back, Kelly picked up a tub of used wooden blocks for the Little Man, and last night, he and I build a block airport. As a former pilot, I modeled the airport runway layout on one of my favorite airports to fly into, Santa Barbara airport.

Aerial view of our airport
Aerial view of our airport
Another aerial view, with the control tower
Another aerial view, with the control tower
The Little Man makes an adjustment
The Little Man makes an adjustment
A cropduster lands on runway 09L
A cropduster lands on runway 09L
A twin-engine lines up on runway 02
A twin-engine lines up on runway 02

I had a blast building the block airport with the Little Man. I think he might have had some fun, too. It was one of those strange, harmonic episodes where I could see myself at his age, doing exactly what he was doing with me.

Being A Big Brother

We slept in later than usual for a Saturday. The Little Man, almost 5 years old now, came into our room sometime before sunrise and got into bed with us. Sometime later, after sunrise, we heard the Little Miss, 2-1/2, calling for us. We both wanted to sleep in1 and in an act of small miracle, the Little Man got out of our bed, walked into their shared room, and greeted the Little Miss.

The morning routine involves the Little Miss using the potty before she comes into our room. We both lay there, waiting for the call, “Mommy, Little Miss needs to go potty!” But it didn’t come. We lay there and listened in wonder as the Little Man took charge.

“Do you to go potty, Little Miss?” he said.


“Okay, let’s go. You want me to help with your pajamas?”

“I can do it,” the Little Miss said.

We could hear her unzip her feetie pajamas and sit on the potty. We could hear her start to go. What we heard next was one of those things that, as a parent, melts your heart. The Little Man said, “Little Miss, I’m very proud of you for going potty.”

He helped her back into her pajamas and then walked her into our room and into our bed, where the four of us lazed around for a little while longer. The Little Man might have been proud of the Little Miss, but we simply beamed with pride at what a good big brother he has become.

  1. I’ve found, as I’ve gotten older, that “sleeping in” is a relative term. Anything after 6 am feel like sleeping in, even on a Saturday. Anything past 7 am feels almost lazy. We slept past 7 this morning.

Playing Trains with the Little Man

Last night, the Little Man and I played trains. Usually, he plays with his trains down in the family room where all of his various tracks and tables and paraphernalia are located, but yesterday, he was feeling Puckish, perhaps thanks to his pink-eye, and brought a basket of wooden tracks up to my office. Together, we build a fairly elaborate, a completely random track layout.

Playing Trains

We took a break to eat dinner, and then returned to drive our trains around the track. To add atmosphere to our play time, I put on this song, which I remember seeing on Sesame Street or Electric Company or something like that when I was a kid. The Little Man had seen it many times before, too, but it made the game all the more fun:

We both had a blast. Later that evening, when we were finishing playing and the Little Man had his bath and it was time for me to put drops in his eyes, I managed to get the drops in quickly and easily without the panic or tears1 that had come on previous attempts.

I blame it on the train.

  1. From him, not from me, although I can understand the confusion.

Inherited Traits: Or, What I Have Passed on to the Little Man and Little Miss

When you have kids, you kind of expect there are certain things they will inherit: eye color, hair thickness (or thinness), etc. These are all physical characteristics, and our kids have a good mixture from both of us. But I’ve noticed more and more non-physical things that they have inherited from me.

The Little Man has inherited my ear for lyrics and music. He remembers all of the songs I sing, and I sometimes find him singing them to himself. I’m not talking about children’s lullabies, either. I’m talking things like R.E.M.’s “Superman” or Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong’s “Gone Fishin'”.

The Little Miss has inherited another of these traits. I have this strange ability to quote from any episode of M*A*S*H, and do so frequently when in the company of willing conspirators, much to Kelly’s chagrin. Sometimes, when an episode of M*A*S*H is on TV, I’ll often say the lines just before the actors, which I know can be very annoying–but I just can’t help myself. The Little Miss seems to have inherited a version of this peculiar talent. Except, instead of M*A*S*H, she quotes lines from Caillou–often immediately before the character says the line. I noticed this for the first time a few nights ago and it was slightly disconcerting. She has done it more than once, since, but I think she does it now because she knows how proud it makes me. She will be a very good TV episode quoter, just like her dad.