Garbage Smell Gets A Laugh

As you might have guessed, I saw The Smurfs with Lil’B this weekend.  I love having a “little brother” because it gives me an excuse to go see all the kids movies I want to see anyway, but my friends won’t go to with me, without looking like a pervert or predator.  I told Lil’B not to grow up… And then immediately kicked myself because my mother used to say things like that to me all the time and I HATED IT.  (Actually, what I told him was never to get older than 12 because then his ticket price goes up.)

The last time I saw Lil’B we talked about what we would do this time around and I mentioned the movies.  There are a lot of movies out that look good and that I want to see, but I don’t get to the movies that often.  Lil’B has wanted to see Transformers 3, which I saw several weeks ago with Michelle.  It was good and I don’t think it would be a problem for him to see it, but there are a few whole sections in the movie (as with so many these days) where they play pretty fast and loose with incidental human life.  Many, many innocent bystanders would have been hurt or killed if there was an ounce of reality to the scenes on the screen.

Anyway, he had mentioned that he still wanted to see it and I suggested that we could go on our next outing (this past Sunday) if it was still out.  He seemed happy with that.  So when I picked him up on Sunday I told him, “You have three choices.  We can go see Transformers, The Smurfs or Captain America.”  (I was hoping he’d pick Captain America but I’d be happy to see any of the three movies.)  Before I even finished saying “Captain America” he was saying “The Smurfs!”  He was very excited.

Yay!  You really are still a kid! I thought.  Which, of course he is.  He’s only 9, but I’m aware that we’ll be coming up on a time, very soon, when he will be in that awkward, in between stage, where he’s still a kid, but kind of not.  I am, in equal parts, looking forward to and dreading that time.

He watched the movie in his usual position (with his head buried in his Icee cup), but no longer with the seat trying to swallow him alive – when did that stop?- and while he was busy slurping away on his Icee, I was thoroughly engrossed in the movie, laughing at all the lame and corny jokes…  Well, almost all of them.  When Tim Gunn, playing Henri, a character whose purpose I still don’t understand said to Neil Patrick Harris’s character, “Make it work”, I groaned.  And when Smurfette, voiced by Katie Perry, suggested a marketing slogan to NPH, “I kissed a smurf and I liked it?”, my palm may, possibly, have met my forehead.  What was kind of fun, for me, was that the mom two seats down from me, seeing the movie with three kids lil’er than Lil’B, and I kept laughing at all the same places.  This movie is full of grown up jokes, which is a sign of a well thought out movie.  Unfortunately, it also tends to prompt lil voices to ask, “What happened mommy?  Mommy, what happened?  Mommy?  Mommy?”

Off. Track.

As I was saying, while Lil’B was buried ears deep in his Icee, I was laughing at all the jokes and puns and visual comedy and so it was all the more gratifying to me, when in the scene when Gargamel, or as Sofia Vergara’s character calls him, “Garbage Smell”, get’s his due, Lil’B actually laughed out loud!

There’s hope for this kid after all!

If I Were A Smurf

If I were a smurf
Even smurf for a smurf
I’d smurf outta smurf in the smurf
And smurf on what I smurfed then smurf
Smurf smurf with the smurfs
And smurf after smurfs
I’d smurf it with who I smurfed
And I’d never get smurfed for it.
Cause they’d smurf up for me.

If I were a smurf
I smurf I could undersmurf
How it smurfs to smurf a smurf
I smurf I’d be a better smurf.
I’d smurf to smurf
Cause I smurf how it smurfs
When you smurf the one you smurfed
Cause he’s smurfen you for smurfed
And everysmurf you smurfed got desmurfed

If I were a smurf
I would smurf off my smurf
Tell everysmurf it’s smurfen
So they’d smurf that I was smurfin’ alone
I’d smurf myself smurf
And smurf the smurfs as I smurf
Cause I smurf that smurf’d be smurfful
Smurfin’ for me to smurf smurf (Oh, to smurf smurf)

If I were a smurf
I smurf I would undersmurf
How it smurfs to smurf a smurf
I smurf I’d smurf a smurfer smurf.
I’d smurf to smurf
Cause I smurf how it smurfs
When you smurf the smurf you smurfed (smurfed)
Cause smurf’s smurfen smurf for smurfed (smurfed)
And everysmurf you smurfed got desmurfed

It’s a little too smurf for smurf to smurf back
Smurf its just a mismurf
Smurf I’d smurf you like smurf
If you smurfed I would smurf for you
You smurfed wrong

But you’re just a smurf
You smurf undersmurf
Smurf you don’t undersmurf
Smurf it smurfs to smurf a smurf somesmurf
You’ll smurf you were a better smurf
You don’t smurfen to smurf
You don’t smurf how it smurfs
Until you smurf the smurf you smurfed
Smurf you’ve smurfen smurf for smurfed
And everysmurf you  smurfed got desmurfed
But smurf just a smurf


Guess what I did this weekend?


Two years ago, when I was contemplating becoming a Big Brother, I was looking for an opportunity to do something of value in the community.  I wanted to do something that would make a difference.  I wanted to do something that was ongoing, not just a one time deal to make myself feel better and then move on.

I suspect I wanted to fill a void in my life that can not be easily filled through more “natural” means, yet not fill it so much as to take on a 100%, full-time commitment that maybe I can’t afford to take on.  I liked the idea of having the opportunity to influence a young person and, hopefully, make a positive difference in his life.  The thought may have crossed my mind, once or twice, that I might be able to “save” a troubled kid; help him to find a better way to live.  Maybe I wanted someone to idolize me, perhaps to aspire to be like me, though I really hoped to give him more to aspire to than I have done.

There have been times, more than a few in fact, where I felt like none of that was happening.  Lil’B is a good kid with no problems to speak of.  (I hope he stays that way, but he’s only nine.)  With the exception of one outing when he was seven, the first day after Halloween, when he’d had much too much candy for breakfast, he’s never misbehaved and he accepts the limitations I place on him (that his mother has requested) without any trouble.  When we go to the movies and we go to the concession stand, when the cashier asks us if we want anything else, I see him point at the candy in the display case.  I laugh, tell him no and tell the cashier that our order is complete.  Lil’B laughs and we go on about our day.  (Mom doesn’t want him to have very much candy because he misbehaves if he gets too much sugar in his system.)  An occasional piece of candy, every once in a while is allowed, but not all the time.  He knows this and doesn’t get upset when I tell him no.

I’ve tried to enquire about deeper issues.  Is he hurting about anything?  Is there anything that’s bothering him that he wants to talk about?  But of course you have to be subtle about such things, you can’t come right out and ask.  He always tells me he’s fine.  He doesn’t talk a lot.  As often as not, I ask him a pointed question (i.e. What did you learn about in school this week?  What did you have for lunch today?) and he answers with “I don’t know.”  I feel bad when we’re driving down the road in silence, but I’ve run through my list of questions to ask him and he’s answered “I don’t know” to all of them, so, in silence we drive.

There have been times when I felt like maybe this relationship wasn’t serving any purpose after all.  I wanted to make a difference in his life, but maybe I’m not.  I wanted to feel warm and fuzzy, knowing that I was important to him, but I don’t.  I thoroughly enjoy the time we spend together, but some weeks I feel like I’m going because I’m supposed to, not because I want to.  I feel badly about that, and I hope he doesn’t see it.

Sunday afternoon was my regularly scheduled time with Lil’B.  Neither of us really knew what we wanted to do.  Our last few outings have been movies, which are always fun, but I – and I hope he – likes to do other things besides sitting around in a cold, dark room not talking to each other, sometimes.

I showed up at his house right around 2:00, our usual time and while he was finishing getting ready his mother called out to him in Spanish; something about “la escuela.”  He still has one week left of school, but he already has his report card and she wanted to show it to me.

He did very well in school.  They had three terms and for each term they were assigned a numeric score; not an average, a number.  I didn’t memorize the meanings of the numbers but essentially a 3 was average, or meeting the standard.  A 4 was proficient in the particular skill.  I’m not sure how those numbers relate to the letter grades and percentages out of 100 that I remember getting, but whatever.

For the first two terms he got 3s for both reading and writing, but then in the third term he got 4s.  This is a bi-lingual school.  So he was rated proficient reading and writing both English and Spanish.  For the other subjects, Science and Math (and it seems like there was one more) he had gotten 4s throughout the entire year.

Lil’B’s mother told me she was very happy that he had gotten such good scores; both Lil’B’s older brother and younger sister got good scores as well.  Then she told me that the day he brought the report card home he was very excited and he told her, “Be sure to show this to my Big Brother!” (Warm)

I told him I was very proud, and I am.  He’s worked hard this year.  In the second grade we had to bring his homework with us sometimes and spend some time on that and he didn’t much like having to do that.  In the third grade there was an after school program that he was in and he had time to do his homework there.  He got his homework packets done every week in the after school program and, we are told, he even helped the other students with their homework (particularly the math, yech!)

We decided to go Miniature Golfing for our outing which was a lot of fun, except that I don’t know where my sunscreen is and I was wearing short sleeve’s, shorts and flip-flops.  I now have some very oddly laid out sunburn.

It’s the end of the school year for a lot of students.  It was also the first really nice day we’ve had so far this summer.  Mother Nature seems to have forgotten that this here is California, land of sun and fun; also that it is mid-JUNE and we like to not have to wear coats this time of year.  Naturally, the mini-golf place was very busy and there was a back log of parties on the course.

Lil’B and I got stuck behind a party of six, spanning in ages from “Grandma” all the way down to “Little Lexie” who was “not quite three and doing surprisingly well” (if you count carrying your ball over to within two inches of the hole and then using the narrow end of the club head and a double ham-fisted grip to hit it toward the hole – and still missing half the time).  Clearly a completely unbiased opinion from Grandma.  I opted not to get mad, because as much as it’s no fun to sit around and wait, I don’t like to feel rushed either and the party of six was every bit as entitled to enjoy their time in the sun as Lil’B and I, and all the people behind us.

So Lil’B and I would play our hole and we’d move ahead to wait for the next one after “Little Lexie” finished making her play.  Since we were only two, and they were six, there was a lot of time waiting between rounds.  We’d finish playing, move to the next hole and sit on one of the many benches around (Well, I sat.  Lil’B usually didn’t.)  When we were finished, the family behind us, two little boys – probably close to Lil’B’s age – and their two young parents, would play.  It seemed that only the boys were playing.  Mom was there to keep score, and I would guess, dad was the money.  (Actually, mom and dad may have been on a date.  At one point I heard one of the boys say, now I want to try this hole with my mom.  I would only be guessing to say what that meant.)

It was around the tenth hole, when I was sitting on the bench waiting for Little Lexie to finish her play and the family behind us finished their round on hole number nine.  I scooted down to the end of the bench and the two little boys sat down next to me.  Just then Little Lexie moved on and Lil’B stepped up to take his shot.  I guess the family behind us had been watching us closely because when Lil’B took his shot and his ball stopped fairly close to the hole, one of the little boys looked at me and said, “Your son is pretty good.”  (aaaand fuzzy)

I didn’t correct him.  It seemed like it would be unkind to point out an error he couldn’t have known he’d made.  Besides, “I’m not his dad, I’m his Big Brother” is no explanation at all, since you can’t see the capital Bs when you talk.  I think we all know by now, Lil’B is mexican…  I?  I glow in the dark.  Clearly we do not share any blood, so we can’t be brothers… unless one of us is adopted I suppose.

I simply answered, “He gets a lot more practice than I do.”  And from then on we were all chatting together and having fun together.  It may have become apparent later that maybe I wasn’t his father when I talked to Lil’B about our outings, but nobody questioned it.

And I realized something.  I would be proud to be his father.  Maybe someday I’ll get the chance to be a father, but if I don’t, at least I’ll have had this time with my Little Brother, and that’s pretty special, too!

The End of The World As We Know It

I’m continuing this habit of going to the gym during the workday in order to make sure it happens.  So far so good, but on my way back to the office today something unexpected happened.

As I walked up the tree-lined sidewalk across from the park next to my building a strong gust of wind blew down the street.  The gust of wind is not particularly unusual.  The far end of Harrison Street begins by emerging from an underwater tunnel from Alameda, serving as the primary means of reaching downtown Oakland from the far side of an estuary.  In other words, the street begins at the edge of a body of water.  Alameda is a relatively small island, and beyond it is the San Francisco Bay.

Incidentally, the beach on which I spent my afternoon yesterday, flying kites with Lil’B and, as it turns out, getting a rather unusually shaped but bright red sunburn on my right forearm and backs of both calves, which, naturally I was completely unaware of until later in the evening when I randomly scratched an itch on my arm with my meant-to-clip-those-a-week-ago too long finger nails before crying out in pain and looking down to see my glowing red flesh with the half inch wide pale strip where my LiveStrong bracelet had protected my skin, was in Alameda and the waves that rushed upon the shore were in fact from the San Francisco Bay and not the Pacific Ocean.   (Was that really all one sentence?  Heather Armstrong would be so proud.)

Lil’B spent more time with his kite in the air and looking at the ground collecting Sea Shells than he did actually paying attention to his kite which only prompted me to reprove him, I don’t know, A FEW HUNDRED TIMES.  “You’re getting too close to that tree, you’re gonna get tangled up.”  “You’ve got to keep your distance or our kites are gonna get stuck together.”  “My kite is not coming after yours, but that’s why you’ve got to keep a little distance between us.”  Finally, I reeled my kite in and followed him around as he wondered up and down the beach looking for more shells.  He told me, though how he would know I have no idea, that he’s going to have to collect sea shells for his class next year in the third grade.  I’m not sure what was behind that statement, but I told him I guessed we’d have to make some more trips to some more beaches then.  So all of that is to say that you can potentially look forward to more beach pictures that are of the actual Pacific Ocean in the future… Maybe.  Also, that my skin really hurts.

But I digress.

This wind tunnel affect on Harrison Street is not an unusual thing especially since there is a “lake” on the far side of the park and my building is surrounded by wind causing bodies of water.  So as I walked up the street, it wasn’t the gust of wind that caught me by surprise; I’m used to that and it felt kind of nice after heating myself up in the gym.  No, what surprised me was the considerable number of dried or drying leaves that fell from the trees.  It is still July, isn’t it?

I am not a fan of extreme heat; it’s the reason I moved away from Oklahoma, after all.  I don’t mind it so much in the evenings when I’m at home and I can open up the doors and windows and wear fewer clothes to keep cool, but during the work day when I have already had my work-out and showered and I’m heading back to the office, I sure don’t want to be getting sweaty all over again if I can help it.  So with that in mind, I know better than to complain.  But I’m a bit surprised because while it is still July, it is also July and we haven’t had summer yet.  We’ve had only a handful, maybe a child sized handful, of days this year that have gotten into the 80s and many that have gotten just barely into the 70s, but most days it is in the 60s.  Being anti-heat (anti-sweating) as I am, I’m truly not complaining about this.  It’s just that, well, it’s rather like waiting for the other shoe to drop.  You know its coming.  It should have already happened, but it’s not.

A lot of the continent is experiencing summer now.  Places that are farther north than I am are having blazing hot, humid weather.  Even the southern half of the state I live in is having high heat, but here in the bay area…

And now we’re starting to experience autumn?  Are we skipping summer altogether this year?  Is this the end of the world as we know it?

Where The Wild Things Aren’t

In my check-in with Hadley last week we discussed the homework issue and determined that I’d spend an hour or so each week with Lil’B  working on his school work and I decided to ask his mother to look over his packets first and mark the pages she most needed me to help  him with so we could cover those first.  I told her I’d spend an hour or so each week on his school work but I wanted to be able to do other  things with him too and last week it took several hours to do his homework.

I also had a conversation with Lil’B about doing his work during the week.  I reminded him of the time we went to the Children’s Fairyland and how much fun it was.  And then I reminded him of the time we went Miniature Golfing and how much fun it was.  And then I reminded him how last week we just sat at my house and worked on his homework, and how that wasn’t as much fun.  I told him, “If you work on your school  work a little bit each day, then there won’t be as much for us to do on Sunday, right? And then we can do other stuff, right?”  He told me he’d work on his school work during the week and I reminded him, in front of his mother, when I was dropping him off.  I’m crafty like that.  (We’ll see if it works.)

I picked Lil’B up on Sunday at 11:00.  I had told his mother, we would go somewhere and work on his school work for an hour or so before we  did anything else.  When I arrived I asked him to get his homework and he didn’t know where it was.  He checked his backpack and his  mother’s car and his bedroom and he couldn’t find it.  Turns out his mother lost it! There are many reasons why this concerns me, but for the purposes of this post the significance is that with no homework packet to take with us, we were off the hook for the school work. Pumpkin faceHowever, I was going to take Lil’B to Half Moon Bay for the Pumpkin Festival and I knew it would be a bit of a drive.  I also know that he’s supposed to do a certain amount of reading every day so I told him to grab a couple books and he could read them to me in the car.  (I don’t know what a traditional second grade reading level is, but Lil’B is a really good reader!)

We went to McDonald’s to get some lunch (and so I could get some Monopoly game pieces) and he ordered the chicken nuggets happy meal.  The woman behind the counter asked what  he wanted to drink and I looked at him.  He was quiet for a second and then he looked at me and said, “Coca?”

“You want Coke?!?” I asked.  “You never have that.  Are you sure?”  He nodded so I nodded to he cashier.  While the cashier was filling our order I leaned down to him and asked him if he was supposed to have Coke?  I can’t remember if his mother told me anything about that or not.  I just know he’s not supposed to have very much candy.  He nodded yes to the question and I asked him why he wanted it.  He shrugged.  And then it hit me.  “Did you order that because you see me drinking it all the time?”

He nodded and said, “Yes.”

“I guess I need to set a better example for you then, don’t I?” I said.  I have a definite addiction to Diet Pepsi, but the thing is it is diet.  I don’t even like the taste of regular soda.  I pointed out to him that I don’t drink sugary drinks but I think the point was lost on him.  Instead I made a point of how I don’t like regular Coke.  How it’s yucky and nasty and he only drank about a third of the small cup he had.  Mission Accomplished… perhaps.  I’ll have to work on not drinking so much soda around him.  I’m also not going to let him order it again.

We finished our lunch and headed out to the festival 30 miles away.  Things went fairly smoothly for awhile.  We crossed the San Mateo Bridge, my least favorite bridge because it’s the longest, and most of it is really low to the water… But I digress.

Just as we were approaching the highway 92, highway 280 interchange (I’m sorry, I know this means nothing to those of you not local) traffic  came to a complete standstill.  I decided to take a risk and I switched over to 280.  I went nearly 10 miles north out of my way, before switching over to the beautifully scenic California State Route 1 along the coast line.  The risk paid off and even though I went 20 miles out of  my way, we got there much faster.

Pumpkin Carving Finally we arrived at the Pumpkin Festival and we began making our way through the  crowd.  The Pumpkin festival was along several blocks of Half Moon Bay’s Main  Street.  There were tons of booths all along the street, and I told Lil’B to let me know  if he saw something he was interested in.  He headed straight down the street, ducking between people and around crowds.  That boy’s legs are half the length of  mine and I have a hard time keeping up with him sometimes…  Of course he is a  seven year old boy so he has, like, six times the energy I do, but still!  It was all I  could do to keep up with him.  He stopped a couple times to look at various things  but never wanted to do any of them.

We spent about ninety minutes there, had made it all the way up the street and back again and he was ready to go.  However, we still had three hours before I was supposed to take him home, so we decided to go see Where the Wild Things are at a theater in San Francisco.

When I first moved to the Bay Area there was an entertainment complex called The Metreon that had just opened.  The Metreon used to be an impressive place with multiple restaurants and stores, and a movie theater.  It is much less now.  On the top floor of the building at the time was an entire exhibit and store based on the book Where the Wild Things Are.  When my mother and sister came to visit, we went to The  Metreon and my mother was very interested to see the exhibit.  She seemed to be familiar with the story.  I don’t know if she read the book to me when I was a kid or not, but I have no memory of the story.

I took Lil’B to see this movie at his request, feeling like it was safe for his age, even though I didn’t know the story.  I’m sorry to say that I  failed to see the value in this movie.  I do not understand the message it was trying to convey.  When the movie was over and we got in the  car, I asked Lil’B what he thought of the movie.  He was silent for a long few seconds until I said, “It was kinda weird wasn’t it?”

He smiled and nodded, and then he said, “My favorite part was when he stood on the counter and said ‘Feed me Woman!’ and then ‘I’ll eat you up, Roaaar!’”  I told him I strongly recommended he not try that with his mother.

The movie is only an hour and thirty-four minutes long and the show time was 4:30.  There must have been more previews than I expected  because the movie didn’t let out until about 6:25.  I had told his mother I’d bring him back between 6:00 and 6:30 depending on traffic.  I gave her a call as soon as we got to the car and fortunately, she was fine with our being late.  I felt badly though.  I’ve been his Big Brother for  seven weeks already and we have a pretty good rapport going, but it has been only seven weeks and his mother and I don’t really know each other very well.  It wouldn’t be hard for me to imagine that she was worried or upset so I was glad that she was not.

Next week we’re going to see Astroboy.  Hopefully this one will be more entertaining for both of us.  I told him and his mother I’d pick him up at 1:00 so we had time to work on his school work first (or after – depending on show times)

I think I’m getting the hang of this!