Friday, May 31, 2013

Commencement pt. II

Ten things I learned from Justin's graduation proGRAM
  1. There should be an accent over the gram in program (00:14)
  2. If your partners start with the wrong part of the performance, don't play along.  Just talk over them and pretend it never happened (00:18)
  3. S-T-O-P spells duck (00:29)
  4. Justin needs an earlier bedtime (00:46 / 2:12)
  5. 14 is the silent number on the number line (01:05)
  6. "Telling time helps us to know when school time ends. Off to play we go!" The period and exclamation point in that sentence are totally optional (01:35)
  7. If the microphone is not cooperating with your performance, just give it a good whack with a large piece of foam board (02:58)
  8. Even if you've never spent more than 24 hours there, the word ARTIST is to always be pronounced with a heavy New York accent (03:01)
  9. Justin's going to be that musical group member that inevitably breaks off and goes solo after their third album (03:28) Either that, or he's just really loud.
  10. Audiences are generally not that smart.  You should always cue them on when to clap (03:56)

Okay, so about this "I want to be an artist" thing... First of all, with parents who both have engineering degrees, we kind of knew this was inevitable: At least one child would test our fortitude with a love for the humanities.  Secondly, I can at least say that it's a step up from last month's aspirations of wanting to be a waiter... although the two do seem to go hand in hand (starving artist by day, waiting tables by night).  But the truth is, Justin is undoubtedly obsessed with drawing and coloring.  It's the first thing he does when he wakes up, the last thing he'll do before bedtime, and his first option for an activity every minute in between (okay, well maybe a close second to playing video games on the computer, but he has at least figured out that video game mastery is not a profession).   I'd say that his artist aspirations started about 2 months ago when he randomly gave me his declaration of 3 or 4 things that he'd never do.  One of them was that he'd never take his training wheels off his bike.  He said it was too dangerous, and the gain in speed wasn't worth the risk of injury (all righty, then... SMH).  I can't remember all the others, but the last one was that he'd never get a job.  This was based on his observation of me going in and out of the house and off to work each day.  Now mind you, I have just about the most flexible job in the world; rarely missing breakfast, lunch or dinner with the fam.  Nonetheless, this discussion lasted about two weeks, and would come up as occasional questions during casual conversations.

Question: So... don't you get tired of going to work sometimes?
Answer: Sure I do. But you've just make sure that your job is something you really love.  This way, the good times outweigh the bad, and going to work when do don't feel like it is suddenly not such a bad thing.

A week later, this whole getting a job thing was still on the brain, and he was trying to figure out how anyone could like something enough that they'd want to do it (and worse of all, leave their family to do it) every day. And then it happened.  As she was cooking in one room and he was coloring in another, Venesa brought up the fact that there are even people that draw and color all day for a living... and Justin just about fell out of his chair (which... actually.. doesn't mean a whole lot, because he falls out of his chair at least twice a day... mommy's clumsy gene... but you get the point).  His eyes got huge, and he said really?! And she said, really!  And then he turned to me and asked, is she serious? Because this had to be joke.  In his mind, there was no way that anyone could actually get paid to do the most funnest super awesome thing in the world all day long.  And when I confirmed it (yep, people who draw and color all day are call artists)... Justin cheesed the biggest cheesy smile you could possibly imagine.  And since then there's been no turning back.  Before that conversation, I didn't think that he could color any more than he already did each day, but I'd swear that he has doubled his efforts since then as if he's now trying to intentionally hone his craft.

"My name is Justin Reyes, and I want to be an artist when I grow up." (03:01)

Well... what can you do besides applaud his dedication, fasten your seatbelt, and enjoy the long ride to first-born adulthood.  We'll see how this one ends.  And when all else fails, hey, maybe his two younger sisters (neurosurgeon and world-reknowned architect) will be able to financially support the family of their starving artist brother.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Justin graduated from Kindergarten last week, which turned out to be more of a momentous occasion than I anticipated.  When Venesa first pitched the idea of a kindergarten graduation, I made it clear that I thought it was pretty silly.  I thought of it as just another way that society has conditioned us to celebrate mediocrity and borderline accomplishments... kind of like the whole "everyone gets a trophy" little league philosophy.  My thinking was, let's celebrate when he has really done something... But with a "sure, why not" approach, we went forward with the graduation plans anyway; and a funny thing happened along the way.  Once the moment came and it was time to zip up the graduation robe and send him on his way, I got filled with pride just like every other parent.  Suddenly, the other side of the argument was clear to me:  He did deserve his moment.  For over a year, he had lulled us to sleep with his intelligence and his diligence with learning.  Lesson after lesson, he excelled and (without realizing it) our high expectations became the norm.  No more, wow he can read!... no more kudos for adding four digit numbers in his head.  No pat on the back for solving logic puzzles and converting ounces to pints.  Instead, it was always off to the next task and skill, and we spent more time discussing his deficiencies (like why his penmanship wasn't up to par with his spelling) than his accomplishments.

But then graduation came.   And my focus changed.  It's like a veil was lifted.  Suddenly I was reminded of his love for learning.  I saw his character and the extent that he had matured over the past 9 months or so.  I saw the fun we had as a family getting him to where he is today.  I was reminded of his love for reading and the number of grade levels he has probably skipped in his ability to read and comprehend.  I flashed back to the consistent model that he's been to his sisters in both his level of integrity and his academic pursuits. I saw him reading to his sisters at bedtime.  I remembered his love for the bible and the countless hours he had spent reading his kids' bible on his own.  I remembered the dozens of verses he had committed to memory, and how inquisitive he is with his pursuit of holiness.  And above all, I saw his smile.  That absolutely brilliant smile that lights up our whole house... each and every day.  I saw his uniqueness. And I saw his development into a kid that was ready to sprout wings and take on first grade like a champion... all to fulfill his dream of being (drumroll, please) a waiter.  Yep... a waiter... because, according to Justin, they don't seem like they have to work too hard; so that seems like a pretty ideal occupation.  So yeah, we're still kind of working on that spirit of laziness... but even with that, I had to admit: We have a lot to celebrate.

Congratulations, Justin.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Slither Hither

At 4:03pm, I got a text from Venesa that read...

Big lizard in house.
Come home now!!!

And like Bruce Wayne responding to the Batman signal in the dark skies of Gotham, I was off and running! Home in a flash and packed with plenty of jokes to poke fun at my hyperventilating wife.  And I was ready to crack my first joke... until I saw the lizard.  Okay, so she had a point.  At about 16 inches long, this particular space invader was probably double the length of the slimy fellows that we've gotten used to seeing in the yard. And he was in the house.  Ready to make himself a ham sandwich and watch some television. Anyhow, fast forward a few minutes later and Roberto (hey, a lizard that big deserves a name) was scooped up and out the door.

But wait... there's more.

5 hours later, the kids and I arrive home from Awana.  It's already past bedtime and I'm mentally mapping out the optimal strategy for getting them from the van to the bed in 10 minutes or less.  I click the garage remote opener, the light comes on and... bam... right there in the middle of the floor... Roberto the lizard? nope... That wouldn't be nearly as interesting.  This time it's a snake.  And all I could think was... seriously?!  Here we go. I'm back in animal hunter mode for the second time today.  But first things first: Back away slowly... get the kids out of the car... and bring them closer to the snake for a little science demo and discussion.  Hey... we homeschool! No way I'm missing a free science lab opportunity.  One less thing we have to cover tomorrow.  Science lesson? check!

But before I could make the switch from biology teacher to snake charmer, the serpent was around a corner, behind a bookshelf and gone.  Thirty minutes and a lot of rearranged furniture later, still no dice.  He probably slithering between the walls somewhere, and I had no choice but to hedge my bets and assume that he'd find his way out the same way he found his way in.

Sure enough, the next afternoon I walked by the side of the house and bingo... same snake, headed away from the house and towards the swings for a little recreation. I boxed him up (after a photo opp and a follow-up lesson, of course) and helped him on his way.  Through the woods and hopefully far enough from our property that he won't be back for an encore.

Unexpected guests.  Four legs. No legs, and everything in between.  The virtues of living in the woods.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Byerly Park

Bahama Mama

For spring break this year, Venesa and I did something rather unexpected... we snuck away for our first kidless vacation since... well, since we were actually kidless. Wow. It's hard to believe that Costa Rica was seven years ago. But then we got pregnant with child #1, and just like that a vacation went from being a two-week out-of-country adventure to being redefined as a trip to the grocery store without kids in the shopping cart. Children sleeping past 8am: the new paradise.

But this was real. Four days and 3 nights on a Royal Caribbean cruise. To the Bahamas and back in the blink of an eye. The activity options were endless.  They had everything from rock climbing walls and beach volleyball; to belly flip contests, sporting events, scavenger hunts, and potato sac races.  If the pool on the ship didn't float your boat, there was also the water park and lazy river at Atlantis in Nassau. Aquariums. Jet skis. Nature walks. Snorkeling. Kayak excursions. Take your pick. Us? We chose... none of the above. For 4 days and 3 nights we pretty much... slept.  And we ate.  And we found a nice spot by the pool or beach (whichever was closest) and we slept some more... until it was time to eat again.  And then Venesa got a massage.  While I slept.  The difference between this vacation and every other vacation that we'd taken prior? This was the first time we'd ever been on vacation and actually needed a vacation. Man, we were tired. All of that activity stuff was for the birds. Somebody find me a hammock. Besides, didn't I already say that Costa Rica was seven years ago? I'm an old man now.  Raising three kids has left me with a bad back and a worrisome spirit. Zip lines? Save that for those crazy young people who have nothing to live for.  Been there, done that.   In less tha 48 hours I'll be back to grading papers, changing diapers, and preventing Justin and Jasmine from killing each other.   I'm taking a nap.  Wake me when we dock.  Or when it's time to eat again.

Anyway, we had a good time and the next cruise vacation is already on the radar: The spring or summer of 2015.. Alaskan Cruise to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. By then, I think we'll be ready for adventure again.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Jail Break

Sound the alarm.  We've got a fugitive.

In other news, Naomi finally made it to her 15 month check-up today (yes... she'll be 21 months in a week... shut up)...  Her shots are up-to-date, and we now have 25 pounds (60%tile) and 32 inches (24%tile) of baby on the run.

As for her jail break and her not-so-subtle request for a toddler bed, I was just thinking... we've had a crib set up in our house for almost 6 consecutive years now.  It's going to be weird to see it go.  Wow.  The end of an era.   Not sure whether I want to pop the cork or grab a tissue.  The truth is, it's perfect timing:  Since she's potty training, she needs to be able to get up and go to the bathroom on her own (mommy reported that she went by herself quite a few times today)... Yet and still, the progression still throws me for a loop.  But ready or not, here we come.  The last jailbird has escaped, and the inmates are poised to take over the asylum. Brace yourself.

Hide yo kids. Hide yo wife.