young apprentice

  • Hamilton


    We saw Hamilton at Playhouse Square over the weekend. The tickets were our big “family” Christmas present, and we all had a blast. I was reminded of something that happened a few years ago.

    March 6, 2019

    We’re on the way home one evening last week. He’s singing “My Shot” from Hamilton in the back seat.

    “Only nineteen but my mind is older
    These New York City streets get colder, I shoulder
    Ev’ry burden, ev’ry disadvantage
    I have learned to manage, I don’t have a gun to brandish
    I walk these streets famished
    The plan is to fan this spark into a flame…”

    He pauses.

    “Can I have a Tier 1 swear?” he asks. “It’s part of the song.”

    I laugh. How can you not laugh? “Go ahead.”

    “But damn,” he continues, “it’s getting dark, so let me spell out the name,
    I am the
    We are meant to be
    A colony that runs independently.”

    Another pause. “Can I have one more?”

    “Yeah,” I say, chuckling. “Keep going.”

    “Meanwhile, Britain keeps shittin’ on us endlessly.”

    He continues, and I randomly belt out “Her-cu-les Mulligan!”

    He stops. “That part has an f-bomb in it. I’m not comfortable with that.”

    I laugh again, but only on the outside. Inside, I’m crying. For the innocence that remains in him, but is rapidly being eaten up by the world. I want to stop the car. Stop the world. Stop everything and let him be innocent for awhile longer. The highway is flying by at sixty-five miles per hour, but his life is going so, so much faster. So much childhood already behind him; thirteen years and only yesterday he first filled his lungs with air and announced his arrival to the world; only an hour ago he took his first steps; just five minutes ago he climbed on the bus to go to kindergarten.

    Tomorrow: a cell phone, a car, a job, a place of his own, a soulmate. Give me a minute to catch my breath, kid. Slow down. Let today last another few hours.

    Time has stubbornly marched on, as we all knew it would. He’s a junior in high school today. He’s been playing the alto saxophone in the marching band since the summer of 2020 (just a few short months after having surgery on both his Achilles tendons that required he be in casts for six-plus weeks); he had his first job in the summer of 2021; he plays the baritone saxophone in the jazz ensemble; this past fall he was the lead in a play; next month, he’s playing the tenor saxophone in the orchestra pit for a musical; he’s passed the written exam and gotten his temporary driver’s license (we’ve only practiced driving twice, mostly due to his hectic schedule).

    Next week he’ll be seventeen. In a few short months: a high school senior. But he’ll always be two, jamming a cotton swap up my nose to be helpful; he’ll always be five, frowning at me because the line to get into Hogwarts is too long; he’ll always be eight, creating waffle-based superheroes; he’ll always be nine, going to his first concert with me (“Weird Al” Yankovic at Nautica); he’ll always be thirteen, in the backseat of the car, asking if it’s okay to sing “damn,” because it’s part of the song.

    January 13, 2011. Waiting in line at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
    December 31, 2022. Waiting for Hamilton to start at the State Theater in Playhouse Square.
  • Welcome to Parenthood: Want some candy?


    Belle PEZ DispenserThough I do not consider myself a collector of PEZ dispensers, I do have an assortment of the candy-disgorging hinged heads and I keep most of them on a shelf above the television in the living room. Every once in a while, I fill Batman or Spider-Man or Darth Vader with candy and give the dispenser to Kyle, who proceeds to eat every piece in a matter of about ten minutes.

    Some time ago, my niece—who is, as one might expect a young girl to be, a fan of the Disney princesses—gave me a Belle 1The “Beauty” in Beauty and the Beast. PEZ dispenser. Disney princesses aren’t really my thing, 2Exception to the rule: Jasmine is hot. but it was a gift and I like PEZ dispensers so I gave Belle a place on the shelf next to Spider-Man and Chewbacca and the Unnamed Snowman.

    Kyle and I have been enjoying LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga on the Xbox 360, so lately the Darth Vader 3“Darf Vay-to!” says Kyle. PEZ dispenser has been in heavy rotation, but something absolutely magical happened last weekend: after R2-D2 and C-3PO 4“Artie-pee-oh!” says Kyle. escaped from the besieged blockade runner, Tantive IV, Kyle wanted some PEZ.

    “Daddy,” he said. “I want some candy. I want yellow Princess Leia.”

    I’ll admit that it took me awhile to parse his words, but when I finally figured out what my young apprentice wanted, my heart was filled with joy. My son looked at Belle and saw Princess Leia dressed in yellow.

    That’s my boy.

    1 The “Beauty” in Beauty and the Beast.
    2 Exception to the rule: Jasmine is hot.
    3 “Darf Vay-to!” says Kyle.
    4 “Artie-pee-oh!” says Kyle.
  • Welcome to Parenthood: 30 Months


    Sidewalk NapSomewhere just before the two-year mark, parents typically stop reporting their child’s age in months. I had planned to report my young apprentice’s age in weeks until he legally became an adult, but that plan dropped by the wayside when I forgot to actually keep track of how many weeks old he is. I could have easily written a widget to manage that little bit of data for me, but it’s a little late in the game to go back to tracking the weeks; the last thing I want to be is gimmicky.

    Kyle will not technically be thirty months old until the thirteenth of July but I suspect that, developmentally, not a whole lot will change in the next six days. On the other hand, he picks things up very quickly these days, so I suppose it’s possible that he might potty-train, count to twelve, learn to read and develop a cheap, clean and completely renewable energy source by next week. That’s just how far the Pendulum of Parental Expectations™ swings these days.

    Yesterday, as I sat on the couch with a box of tissues trying to cope with an allergy attack, Kyle climbed on to my lap, looked up my nose and declared, “You got a boogie, Daddy.” He then climbed off my lap and headed for the stairs. “I get it!” he exclaimed as he ascended. He disappeared into the master bedroom and emerged a moment later, descending the stairs with a cotton swab clutched in his hand.

    Laura and I occasionally use cotton swabs to clean Kyle’s nose when he has a particularly crusty cold, but those swabs are in a small box, tucked away in his room where he (ostensibly) can’t get at them. However, after watching daddy’s post-shower rituals on occasion, Kyle knows that there are cotton swabs in a jar we keep on a shelf over the toilet in the master bathroom; a toilet that he sometimes climbs when he wants to wash his hands with daddy.

    So, Kyle descended with the cotton swab he got out of our bathroom 1Time, I think, to move the cotton swabs. and climbed back onto my lap. “Oh,” I said, reaching for the swab, “thank you!”

    “I get it!” he repeated, and before I could stop him he jammed the tip of the cotton swab up my left nostril.

    I don’t know if he got the boogie, but I managed to stop him short of drawing blood. Not, however, short of causing a firestorm of agony in my nose.

    Tree HuggerA very helpful and considerate firestorm of agony. And that made it worth the pain.

    1 Time, I think, to move the cotton swabs.
  • How I Spent My Christmas Vacation…


    Laura, Kyle and I spent the last two weeks of December in Michigan’s beautiful (and snowy) Upper Peninsula and, apart from several family members coming down with some sort of gastro-intestinal plague, we had what I will call a grand old time. Here’s just a sampling of the fun:

    • On the 19th of December, Brenda, the older of my sisters (Kyle calls her “Benta, Benta, Benta!”) had her tonsils and adenoids removed and her uvula reduced. This isn’t a big deal when you’re six years old, but is a significantly bigger deal when you’re approaching thirty. She’s recovering nicely, but spent several days with a very raspy voice eating only orange sherbet.
    • Carolers, honest-to-baby-Jesus carolers, came to my parents’ house. In all of my thirty-four years of yuletide celebration, never have I been caroled to in such a manner. My heart grew three sizes that day.
    • There were eighteen people living in my parents’ house over the course of the holidays, including my parents, their six children (plus three significant others) and seven grandchildren.
    • On Christmas day, the number of people in the house doubled.
    • My younger brother bought an eight-foot-tall inflatable Spongebob Squarepants, which he set up inside the house on Christmas morning.
    • Kyle made two snow angels (with my help), fell face-first into six inches of snow (all by his lonesome) and greatly enjoyed being pulled around the driveway in his new sled.
    • On the 26th, my brothers and I (along with the younger of my sisters’ significant other) went to see Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. It was a funny, ridiculously violent movie and I’m pretty sure we all enjoyed the hell out of it. Get to the chopper!
    • My parents now have DSL and a wifi router. On the 27th of December, there were eight devices (seven of them wireless, including an iPhone) with outstanding DHCP leases on the router. My mind was boggled.
    • My mother had a laptop for one day, after which it was returned to OfficeMax. The GPU was bad, causing blue screens of death before I even had a chance the screw up the laptop on my own terms.

    There are photos, but I’ve not gotten around to retrieving them from the camera yet. Speaking of photos and cameras, Laura and I had a serious case of camera envy while we were in the U.P. There were a half-dozen digital cameras in the house, most of which were smaller than ours, all of which were faster than ours. I fully believe we’d take more photos if our tired old HP PhotoSmart was more compact and didn’t take 30 seconds to write each photo to the CompactFlash card.

  • How Not To Grow a Beard: Week Three, Day Three


    Today’s HoNoToGroABeMo photo is a little late. I usually try to take the picture between about 5 and 7 o’clock so it still kinda-sorta fits with Evo Terra‘s “5 o’clock shadow” meme. However, Laura and I were at a party this evening and I took precisely zero photos while I was there.

    This shot was taken by the light of the end table lamp at about 11:15pm, shortly after we retrieved Kyle from Laura’s mother’s house. Kyle was originally supposed to stay at grandma’s tonight, but we stopped there on the way home to check on him; he was sleeping, but apparently heard me because he woke up just as we were leaving and we had to go back and get him. He’s sleeping upstairs, Laura’s watching CSI and I’m fulfilling my blogging/beard growing responsibilities for the day.

    The party? Yeah, we had a good time. There was pie.

  • Tvstuff: The Wonder Pets


    One of my many responsibilities as a parent is ensuring that the television programs my young apprentice watches are educational, wholesome, enriching and appropriate for his age (currently 20 months). As a public service, I present the first in a series of informative reviews of television programs geared toward preschoolers.

    The Wonder Pets
    The Wonder Pets is one of Kyle’s favorite programs, and it’s not hard to see why: there’s plenty of music, oodles of cute animals and more music. Parents (and corporate managers) will undoubtedly appreciate the core message the show consistently delivers: that cooperation and teamwork are essential in any problem-solving effort. On the surface, it seems like the perfect show for young children. A closer examination, however, reveals that The Wonder Pets is one unfortunate example after another of parental negligence.

    Each episode begins with Linny (a guinea pig), Tuck (a turtle) and Ming-Ming (a duckling) relaxing in their schoolhouse home after all the children have left for the day. Their leisure time is interrupted by the phone (“the phone is ringing!”), a can-and-string contraption that alerts the trio to a baby animal in peril. Donning capes and hats and assembling the flyboat (a vehicle constructed from a Frisbee, some markers and various other bits), The Wonder Pets race to rescue the youngling from some horrible situation using (“what’s gonna work?”) teamwork and music.

    Once the chick, kit, fawn, foal, cub, joey or calf has been rescued, the irresponsible parents arrive on the scene, probably returning from the local watering hole, brothel or cock-fighting ring. Oh, sure, there’s the requisite gushing over how brave and amazing The Wonder Pets are, but rarely is there an explanation from the reprehenible parents as to why the children were left unattended in the first place. The best thing Linny, Tuck and Ming-Ming (too) could do to help the baby animals in trouble is contact the local Department of Children’s Services.

    Coming soon: an intrepid explorer, a singing moose and a whiny turtle.

  • Friday Feast for 27 July 2007


    It’s been a while since I participated in Friday’s Feast, so here we go…

    Describe a toy you remember from your childhood.
    Optimus PrimeI was in Toys R’ Us a couple of days ago with my young apprentice and couldn’t help but linger at the new Transformers toys. I was disappointed to find only one Optimus Prime toy that actually transformed into a semi. This particular Prime was celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Transformers: The Movie, and would spout various lines from the movie. The Prime I had as a boy was much smaller and had no voice chip, but included both tractor and trailer. In robot mode, Prime’s hands attached to his headlights (which became the ends of his arms when he transformed); in vehicle mode I stowed them in his passenger compartment. Theoretically. The tiny blue fists were constantly getting lost—camouflaged perfectly against the large, dark area rug that covered much of the living room floor—and found again later, almost invariably by a bare foot whose carpeted footfalls were rudely interrupted by a nigh-indestructible hunk of plastic. It wasn’t until I discovered the joys of Dungeons & Dragons that four-sided dice replaced Optimus Prime’s fists as the most unpleasant toy to tread upon with bare feet.

    On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest) how observant are you?

    I’m nowhere near as observant as I’d like to be; I guess I’m at about a 4 or 5 on the scale normally—I completely failed to notice a vase of roses on the dining room table a couple of weeks ago, even after being in and around the dining room for about an hour—but depending on the situation I can peak around a 7 or 8. I’m definitely more observant when I’m making an effort to notice things. At work, I often take a 20 on my Spot and Listen checks when I’m working on something tricky.

    Where would you rather be at this very moment?

    Where ever I could go to comfortably finish listening to Jim Dale read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows without interruption.

    Main Course
    When was the last time you learned something new?

    About an hour ago I learned that I can get a discount on Apple computers through work.

    Fill in the blank: I have ____________ but I haven’t ____________.

    I have taught my young apprentice many things, but I haven’t completed his training.

  • Geekstuff: The Birthday Rundown


    Well, I’ve been thirty-four years old for a week now and I’ve gotta say I’m liking it so far. There are times when being an adult is all about socks and shirts and ties, oil changes and mortgage payments, but I’m happy to say that my family and friends know that I’m still all about the books, comics, toys and games. Apart from a very nice polo shirt from my mother-in-law, most of my birthday bounty would have been eagerly received by seventeen-year-old me.

    • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the Xbox, from my young apprentice. Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
    • The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, from Laura.
    • A Boba Fett t-shirt, also from Laura.
    • The Ultimate Fantastic Four trade paperbacks volumes 1-5, from Miscellaneous G™.
    • Three Hellboy comics signed by Mike Mignola, from Chris.
    • A green FlyTech Dragonfly, from my sister-in-law and her family. A remote-controlled ornithopter! How cool is that?
    • A musical Batman card from my elder, bigger little sister.
    • Filthy lucre from my parents, mother-in-law and grandparents-in-law, which I used to buy:
      • 18 by Moby (CD)
      • Play by Moby (CD)
      • Hellboy: Sword of Storms (DVD)
      • Dune: Extended Edition (DVD)
      • Blade Runner: Director’s Cut (DVD)
      • Pan’s Labyrinth (DVD)
    • Last but not least, pumpkin pie from my grandparents-in-law. Yes, it’s more of a fall pie. I don’t care. I will eat it now and then, I will eat it anywhen!

    [EDIT: I forgot a couple of things!]

    • Police Squad! The Complete Series on DVD, from the Wiitalas. Police Squad! didn’t succeed as a television series (a shame, because it’s hilarious), but it eventually evolved into three Naked Gun movies.
    • Spamalot Original Cast Recording, also from the Wiitalas. Laura and I saw Spamalot last year, and it was fantastic. My favorite song is probably “The Song That Goes Like This”, but they’re all good.
    • The first season of Arrested Development on DVD, from my sister and her boyfriend. Despite several people telling me I should have been watching this show when it was originally on the air, I’ve never seen it. I’m probably directly responsible for its cancellation.
    • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, also from my sister and her boyfriend. I’m not sure, but I think this book has something to do with that “fourth meal” I’ve been hearing about at Taco Bell.

    Are my friends and family not awesome? Yes. Yes they are. They made me a very happy birthday boy.

  • Meme: Friday’s 5 O’Clock Shadow


    Five O’Clock Shadow - 22 March 2007
    Today’s five o’clock shadow was aged two hours because at the appointed hour I was hip deep in the Windows 2000 registry and nobody wants to see that.

    I actually had some stubble this morning, but decided to shave before leaving for work, despite the fact that I was running about an hour late. The day started off with a bird stuck in the chimney and a trip to the drug store to pick up some cough medicine for Kyle, who is a bit under the weather at the moment.

  • Welcome to Parenthood: Fourteen Months


    The boy is dangerous. They all sense it, why can’t you?

    When Jedi padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi spoke those words to his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, he was referring to Anakin Skywalker, whose passion and anger would eventually turn him to the Dark Side.Or perhaps he was trying to warn George Lucas about casting Jake Lloyd as the boy who would grow up to become Darth Vader. That is a discussion for another time. My young apprentice has not yet started down the path that will forever dominate his destiny, but since we began weaning him off baby food and feeding him “real food”, Laura and I have witnessed the Dark Side.

    I’m talking about poop. Specifically, the ever-intensifying foulness of that which darkens the diaper. In the beginning, the diaper biscuits were largely odorless, but as we slowly change the nature of what goes into Kyle’s mouth — abandoning bland jars of baby food in favor of more interesting fare like spaghetti with meat sauce, ice cream and peanut butter — so do we unwittingly change the nature of what comes out the other end.

    Where the diaper change was once a thirty second affair involving — at worst — a vaguely unpleasant odor, a few moist wipes and the danger of an unexpected golden fountain, today the affair might potentially involve an eye-watering, tongue-shriveling pungence, a half-dozen or more moist wipes, a kicking, flailing child whose mood changes from unbridled glee to unrestrained outrage and back four times in as many seconds, and the danger of an unexpected golden fountain.

    Diaper changes are often preceded by a faint odor that inevitably leads to a period of denial, wherein the parent who must ultimately perform the task attempts to assure the other parent that the growing stench is “just gas”. To be fair, Kyle does seem to be propelled by rapid-fire flatulence at times. As with most denial, this is a defense mechanism, for with every diaper change there is also the threat of that most disastrous and unpleasant event, the Blowout.

    The Blowout is exactly what it sounds like: the capacity, fit or structural integrity of the diaper is exceeded by the viscosity, volume or sheer tenacity of that which fills it, resulting in failure of the containment field. When this happens, plasma is vented into space, Yes, it’s a euphemism. There are only so many times I’ll use the word “poop” here. necessitating special hazardous materials cleanup processes. It ain’t pretty.

    Thankfully, there is more life with my young apprentice than the occasional journey to the Dark Side of the Diaper. In early January, he made a sudden transition from crawling around on his belly to pulling himself up on furniture and “cruising” around the living room, dining room and anywhere else he could get. The amount of stuff he could reach tripled and end tables were no longer safe havens for keys, iPods, cell phones and the like.

    Right around the time Kyle started “cruising” he also, much to our surprise, began climbing stairs, which necessitated the use of a second baby gate in the living room (the first preventing a fall into the downstairs hallway). Now, when it is time for a diaper change, a bath (one of his favorite activities) or a nap, Laura and I simply remove the second baby gate and follow Kyle upstairs. He has not yet learned that sometimes a climb up the steps means it is time for a nap (by far his least favorite activity).

    As Kyle’s mobility has increased, so has his curiosity. The farther an object is out of his reach, the greater the lengths he will go to retrieve it. Objects with many buttons are particularly alluring, as the connection between pressing of buttons and something interesting happening is one that Kyle made several months ago. The object he most desires is the remote control, and if it is on the back of the couch or on the bookshelf near the couch, he will climb over Laura and myself to reach his prize.

    When not attempting to steal the remote control or “pet” the cats, Kyle researches new ways to foil the latches on our kitchen cabinets. His library is vast, and he will sometimes roll around in a pile of Richard Scarry, Dr. Seuss and Sesame Street books, much like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin. While the wealth of knowledge at his disposal may not help much in the realm of breaking and entering kitchen cabinets, Kyle has learned much about the BTFD (Busytown Fire Department), the challenges inherent in keeping oversized pets, the folly of trying to touch the moon, and the ticklishness of crocodiles; information which will undoubtedly prove valuable in years to come.

    The next big adventure for Kyle will be walking without hanging on to a couch or coffee table. As with most of his advances, I have mixed feelings about Kyle walking. I am at once excited to see him learning and growing every day and saddened that it seems to be happening so quickly.

    Just this week, Laura and I stopped giving Kyle a bottle before bed, and I felt strangely wistful when I put him to bed. I miss cradling him in my arm as he drinks the day’s final bottle (which, in the past month, had become the day’s only bottle). I’ll miss his Army-style belly crawl when he starts walking, and I’ll miss his enthusiastic chanting of “dada” when he really starts to talk.

    I won’t miss changing the Diaper of the Dark Side, though. Not one bit.