Sick Days

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m staying home from work.  I’m staying home from work because my oldest daughter is sick.  She had a stomach ache and nausea last night after dinner, and she woke up with those two symptoms, and a headache and sore throat on top of that.  It sucks, for her, of course, but also for me.  As a father, I hate seeing my children suffering.  Nonetheless, here I am.

The worst thing about it, other than my daughter’s discomfort, is that this is a bad time to be away from work for me.  Next week is the paper mill’s annual maintenance down, and I have a million and seven things to do yet to prepare.  So, I suppose I’ll have to take my lumps on Monday and hustle my big bum around the mill.

But, since I’m home, I figured it’d be a good time to write a post or two on this here blog before the dust gets too thick upon it.

Anyway, my daughter’s sick day got me to thinking – I hated to stay home from school when I was sick.  I would much rather suck it up and get through the day so I wouldn’t get behind in my work.  This habit has followed me into adulthood.  I don’t like taking sick days.  I’d rather go to work and get something done, even if it is only half my usual work output, than stay home feeling like sorry for myself.  Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s my work ethic, or maybe it’s subconscious masochism, but I have to do whatever work I have on my plate.

This reminds me of one day in high school.  For a couple of weeks, I had been feeling like garbage – fever, headache, sore throat, drained of energy, you get the idea.  My muscles ached!  I had a hard time walking, picking up my backpack, heck – even holding up my head.  One thing that I had never felt before this time, though, was my eye muscles.  Well, the muscles that you use to move your eyes up, down, left and right.  Even those muscles ached.  I had never even given those muscles a second thought.  But, I couldn’t ignore them now, not when even they were screaming at me for using them.

English: Miniature of the sick-bed of Louis le...

English: Miniature of the sick-bed of Louis le Gros, with doctors administering medicine with a spoon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One event in particular I recall about this time was when I was talking to my friend Quigs in school.  I told him about how crappy I was feeling, and explained to him how even my eyes were hurting.  “What?  That doesn’t even make any sense,” he laughed.  “Well, if I move my eyes up, down, left, right, the muscles hurt,” I explained.  “So, if I hold your head steady,” he said, mimicking with his hands how he would hold my head, “then say, ‘Hey, Mark, look over there,’ then you would be in pain?”  “Yeah, Quigs, that’s right,” I answered.  He laughed about it, and, I have to day, so did I.  Granted, the laughing hurt, but I wasn’t going to let pain stop me from enjoying myself.

So, I guess that’s another habit I carried with me into adulthood – I ignore my pain and discomfort, and just plug along.  Maybe it’s not the best thing to do.  Oh, well.

So, how about you?  Do you force yourself through work or school when you’re sick?  Or do you take the day off to rest and get better?

Early School Memory – Car Doors And Hands

William Penn Center

Inspired by Matt Conlon’s first and second post of this blog challenge, wherein he regales us with some early school memories, I will take this opportunity to share with you one of my own.

Way, way back in the mists of pre-history, in the Internet sense of the term at least, my parents enrolled me at the William Penn Center.  I’m pretty sure I started there in 1974, when I was about to turn four years old.  Go ahead, do the math and find out how old I am – I’ll wait…

OK, that’s out of the way.  Oh, while I’m at it: Hey, you kids – get off my lawn!

OK, I’m done now.  Anyway, like Matt, I remember a lot of things from that time of my life.  Sometimes I feel like I remember more of the first half of my life than the latter half.  One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of this school is a scary incident that happened.  Now, it’s not scary like a parent would think of it – no one tried to coax me into a white, windowless van or anything.  But, to a four-year-old, it made quite an impression.

My mom and a few other parents would take turns driving us to and from school every day.  Back in the 1970s, this was no big deal – you didn’t need notes from every parent every morning with fingerprints, DNA samples and whatnot.  What a different, less-paranoid time it was, right?

So, on this particular day, my mom was the chauffeur. I remember sitting in the back seat with one or two of my classmates.  Again, back at the time, we didn’t need car seats.  As a matter of fact, we didn’t even need to wear our seat belts!  Weird – that just came back to me.  So, we were sitting in the back seat, two kids were in the front seat(!), and we pulled up to the drop-off.

My mom got out of the car, went to the passenger side, and opened the door.  She looked at me in the back seat and told me, “Now, Mark, you stay in here.  I’m going to let you out at the next door.”  She let the two kids out who were in the front seat, popped the latch on the seat to lean it forward, and let the other kids out.  Four-year-old me, forgetting what Mom just said, leaned toward the door, stretched out my hand to get out and…

SLAM! Just as my mom swung the door shut, my hand was against the edge.  The door shut – right on my hand.  Immediately I began yelling, scared out of my mind, and tried to yank my hand out of the door.  In a panic, I kept yanking my hand, but it was stuck firmly.  I remember my hand being stuck for like ten minutes.  Of course, it really was more like three seconds.

My mom heard me panicking, and opened the door.  I pulled my hand back and looked at it – no damage.  I wiggled my fingers – no pain.  I was fortunate that my mom didn’t slam the door shut, she only pushed it slowly enough so it would close.

Crying from the panic, I remember my mom looking at my hand.  “It doesn’t hurt?  You can move your fingers?  Well, you’re lucky – you could have broken your hand.”

“What does that mean?”

“Oh, don’t worry about it now.  But why did you do that?”

“I was trying to get out!  I thought you forgot about me!”

“What?!  Mark, I told you to stay in!  You have to get out at the other door.”

“….  Oh,” I mumbled.

I did remember that, now that she reminded me.  Well, no harm done, right?  But I’ll tell you this much – I don’t put my hand near a car door until I’m sure that it’s not closing now.

That this post is for the September Back To School Blog Challenge, hosted by Matt Conlon on Join Something.

September Back To School Blog Challenge

Fond Childhood Memories – Setting My Brother On Fire

OK, the title is a little misleading – I didn’t really set my brother on fire, well, not entirely.  Nor did I enjoy it – at least, not the burning part.

Let me start it this way…

This happened when I was younger, probably around ten years old, which would make my brother around eight.  If I recall correctly, this was in the late summer or early fall – September or October.  I remember it being fairly warm out, but not hot, and my brother was wearing pants.  This will become important to the story later.

The sun was up.  It was afternoon, probably around 3:00 or 4:00 PM.  Throughout the day, my brother and I had been playing with a magnifying glass.  We’re not alone in this, it would seem, as I’ve swapped many stories with friends about using a magnifying glass to burn things – ants, grass, plastic action figures, Matchbox cars, you know – typical boy shenanigans.  Anyway, my brother and I thought it would be a really cool idea to burn some newspaper.  So, we grabbed a newspaper out of the trash that our parents had thrown out, went outside the garage to the driveway, and started focusing the sun’s light.

At first, we only got a smoldering spot that caught an orange glowing ring.  Well, darn!  We wanted to see flame!  We wanted to see fire!  No problem, we said, let’s keep trying.  So, since the sun was off to the side of the sky, my brother picked up the newspaper and held it at an angle so I could focus the light more directly.  We expected more smoldering and smoke.  What we didn’t expect was –

WHOOSH!  The entire surface of the paper caught fire!  Not just a little spot of flame, but an inferno!  Well, to eight- and ten-year-old boys, it was.

My brother yelled out in surprise and a little fear, “AAAUUUGGHH!”  He threw the paper down onto the driveway and picked up his foot.

Stomp!  Stomp!  Stomp!  He tried to stomp out the flame.  For those who have seen paper burn, you know what happens after a few seconds – it curls up on itself.  This paper was no different.  It curled up, and around my brother’s foot.  I saw the flames licking the hem of his pants leg.  I thought I saw his pants catching fire.

“AAAUUUGGGHHH!”  He started to panic a little more.  I could see the flames touching his pant leg, and I got scared too.  I lifted my foot, in the same way as my brother, and –

Stomp!  Stomp!  On the flame I came down, hard.  The flame, however, was on my brother’s foot.

Stomp! went my foot.

“OUCH!” yelled my brother, who promptly fell back on his rear end.  He shook his foot, trying to throw off the burning paper.  I kept on stomping.

Stomp! “OUCH!” Stomp! “OUCH!” Stomp! “OUCH!”

“Stop hurting my foot!”  “Stop moving your foot!”

Finally, the paper came loose.  My brother and I stomped out the remainder of the flame.  As we calmed down, out of breath, we heard an angry voice behind us.

“What the hell is going on?!”  My father scared the bejeezus out of us, moreso than the fire.  “Um, we were using the magnifying glass-”  “And the paper caught fire-”  “And we tried to put it out-” “And it stuck-”  “And my foot hurts-”  We blurted out like a couple of scared kids, which is what we were actually.

“You mean you were starting fires… with this?”  He grabbed the magnifying glass from us.  “And you tried to stomp it out, when the whole time you could have used that!”  He pointed angrily at the coiled up garden hose, not five feet from us.

My brother and I, in unison, replied, “Uhhhh…”

My father yelled a little more about not playing with fire, and getting hurt and all that, and sent us to our rooms, both of us feeling rather stupid.

I never forgot that lesson – use a hose on a fire when one is nearby, and take the magnifying glass farther away from home.

Daughters And Blogging, Take 2

I’ve been privately lamenting my lack of blogging lately –  “privately” in the sense of, “beating myself up.”  There are more than a few reasons for it, but they’re only tangential to this post.

You see, while I’ve been wallowing in self-beratement, my daughters have been blogging furiously.  I’ve mentioned in a previous post how they asked for a blog of their own.  One daughter in particular has been steeping herself in writing lately.  I’m very proud of her – she is writing not only so often, but also so well.  The quality of her writing is ten years beyond what mine was at her age.

So, I’m advertising for her right now.  Her latest post is Five Things, in which she not only shares five things for which she is thankful, but also links to the other blog that gave her the idea.

The previous post, AAH! The Beach!!, describes one her her favorite places – the mountains. 😀  No, actually… it’s the beach.

Anyway, check out their blog.  Comment on it, if you like – they’d really appreciate that.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get out of this funk and write more regularly.

Of Daughters, Writing, And Blogging

You may have noticed in some of my previous posts that I am a father to three beautiful, intelligent, wonderful daughters who never cease to amaze me and make me proud.  Well, recently, the two older girls came to me with a request that has me bursting with pride.

The Proposal

“Daddy,” they said, “we were talking about it, and we want to start a blog.  We’ll write the articles ourselves – they’ll be about fashion and book reviews and that sort of stuff.”

Pleasantly surprised, I said, “Wow, that’s great!  But, you know, you have to be careful not to say anything about yourselves specifically.  You need to keep your identity from random crazy people.”

“We know – we already talked about that.  We’re going to come up with fake names and write stuff like, ‘Hi this is Blah, and I was thinking….'”

Wow.  They already figured out that they were going to use pseudonyms, and how to use them.  “But we need your help to start it, because we don’t know how to set up a blog, or where to go to do it.”

“OK,” I answered, “I’ll talk to Mommy about it, and if we think it’s OK, we’ll go ahead with it.”

“YAY!”

The Deliberation

Blogging is relatively new to me, at least as far as my own experience is concerned.  I have two blogs, both less than a year old, and a far cry from anything close to even semi-known.  But, like most bloggers I presume, I write because I want and like to write.  Of course, it wasn’t too long ago, in college even, that I hated writing.  Even a few simple paragraphs were enough to have me pulling my hair out in frustration.  I do not want my daughters to feel that way, and this is one way to foster a love of writing in them at the early ages of nine and eleven.

But, I am concerned about their safety.  The last thing I want is for them to be in the spotlight personally.  The pseudonyms can be there, but that’s their purpose.  If we allow this blog idea to happen, I will take every last precaution to keep them safe.

Another concern of mine, and you may not know this, is that people on the Internet can be not nice, even downright mean!  I swear – it’s true!  Now, I do plan to mitigate this by turning on comment moderation and filter the comments myself.  Also, I plan to set up anonymous e-mail for contact, and be the only one to read that, at least at first.  But, I admit, the mean people don’t concern me as much as the crazy people.  I plan to explain this to them, and use it to teach them how to handle criticism.  This is a lesson they should learn earlier in life rather than later.

The Decision

So, what’s the result?  Well, I’ll be honest – my wife and I haven’t quite decided yet.  Like I said, I want to nurture in them that love of writing, because I know it is a skill that will serve them well in life.  I also want them to learn to live with criticism, and to use to to improve themselves.  But I don’t want to expose them to any dangers, either.

In the meantime, they have been bugging me to make the blog already.  I love their enthusiasm, and am proud of their tenacity.  I know that we have to decide soon before those fires die down.

How about you?  Do you have or know of any children who write their own blogs?  What advice can you give my wife and me?  How about for my daughters?

Sunday Funday - Check It Out!

Daddy Moment #5239: School Play

I have to take a moment to write about my middle daughter, Gabriella.  Based solely on each of their personalities now, I have predictions about what each of them will be when they grow up.  Gabriella, as far I can prognosticate, will be the entertainer of the family.  Thus, it was no surprise to me when she announced that she would audition for her school musical play.  Moreover, she was aiming for a solo.  I told her to do her best, study for the part, and that I would be rooting for her to win.

Of course, I, being the pragmatist I am, prepared myself for the role of consoler.  I knew there would be many children vying for the same part.  Add to that the fact that she had never performed on stage before, and I thought there was a good chance that my Little Angel would learn a lesson in disappointment.

My Little Angel, Gabriella

Last Thursday was audition time.  My mother, God bless her for her help, went to the school that day to pick her up.  “It was pure chaos,” she told me.  “There had to have been a hundred children trying out for this play!”  “Wow,” I thought, “even if she’s exaggerating, there had to be dozens of kids there.”  My heart sank a little for my daughter.  Competition was fierce.

Days passed, and Gabriella kept saying, “I can’t believe I have to wait until Tuesday to hear if I got the part!  WHY ISN’T TUESDAY HERE YET?!?”  Handling anticipation with patience is not one of her strong points.  “Don’t worry, Shorty, it’ll be here before you know it.  OK,” I said to her.  Again… and again… and again…

So, yesterday, Tuesday rolls around.  Much to my surprise, no play news was forthcoming.  My wife had Gabriella and Nicoletta, my youngest daughter, when I picked up Alessandra from my parents’ house.  I got called into work before they came home, so even if she heard anything, I wasn’t there to receive the news.  My wife didn’t say anything when I came home again, so I shrugged it off and went to bed.

The next day after work, I was the first one to get home.  While I was outside with Cooper, our dog, my wife came home with the kids.  When he finished his business, I brought Cooper into the garage.  My wife met me there.  “Daddy,” she said, “Gabriella has something to tell you.”  (Yes, we’re one of those couples who call each other Daddy and Mommy when our kids are around.)  Gabriella came out, head drooping down.  “Um, Daddy,” she moped, “I heard about the play.”  “Oh, yeah?  What did you hear,” I asked.  Her pout turned into hiding smile, then a wide-mouthed, toothy grin, “I got – I made – I… I got the part!”  She just about burst with the joy.  “You got the part?  You got the part!  That’s great, Angel,” I blurted proudly.  “Well,” she said, “it’s not a solo.  It’s a trio, though.  There’s two of them, but I’m in one!”  “AWESOME,” I shouted as I picked her up in a big hug.  She laughed and squealed joyfully.

So, out of dozens of candidates, my Little Angel, Gabriella, was one of six selected for the part.

I am so, so, terribly proud of her.

Congratulations, Gabriella.

Parental Skills – Santa Claus & Thinking On Your Feet

Sometimes you set yourself up.  Sometimes, in the interest of expedience, you get that sudden moment of “Uh-oh!”

My father’s birthday is January 4th, a mere ten days after Christmas.  Now, the topic of having a birthday so close to Christmas is enough to fill five blog posts, I’m sure.  Fortunately, that’s only tangential to this one.

I was about to start wrapping my father’s birthday present.  It was a pretty large box, and I didn’t have enough wrapping paper.  So, I sent my nine-year-old daughter into the garage.  “Gabriella, get Daddy some wrapping paper.  It has to be a big roll with enough paper on it, and look good for a birthday, OK?”  “OK, Daddy,” she replied.

She came back in with a short roll of paper.  “Daddy, this is all we have.”  “That won’t do at all.  Look for something else,” I said as I sent her back.

She came back in with a large roll of Christmas paper.  She had a curious look on her face.  “Daddy, do you know what’s weird?  I noticed that we have the same wrapping paper as Santa Claus!  It’s all there: the paper he used for my gifts, Alessandra’s gifts and Nicoletta’s gifts!”

My mind raced.  She still believes, and I had to say something.  To myself I thought, “What do I say?  What do I say?  What do I say?  What do I say?”

“Oh, that’s because, um, Mommy and I were running low on paper for other people’s gifts.  Santa noticed, and, being the nice guy that he is, left that for us to use.  Wasn’t that cool of him?”  I waited for her response.  A second later, she said, “Oh.  He’s good at giving, isn’t he?”

“…He sure is.”

Phew!

From The Mouths Of Babes – Billie Jean Lyrics

Silly lyrics from my daughters… in this case, my then-six-year-old middle daughter.

We had listened to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean more than a few times, and she decided to sing it one day.  The song was not playing at the time – actually, no music was playing; she just decided to sing the song without any prompting:

Oh, Billie Jean’s got my glove.

She’s just a girl who

Claims that I am a bum.

But her chair’s not that fun!

Hoo-hoo-hoo.

Uh-hoo-hoo-hoo.

I laughed.  She asked, “Daddy, what’s so funny?”

“Oh, Angel, I, um, just thought of something that happened a long time ago,” I replied.

She’s the one who is sensitive, and I dare not hurt her feelings.  Still, it was funny, and I will remember it for a long time.

My children are an endless source of joy for me.

Math-Minded Dad: Ages

I’ve mentioned previously that I am a very logical-minded person, and that I am passionate about math.  I allow this to influence my parenting methods, especially as a former teacher.

In this light, please allow me to share a recent exchange between my 11-year-old daughter, Alessandra, and me.

It began in a typical father-daughter conversation, where she decided to ignore my advice about something or other.  Naturally, I was proven right a few minutes later.

I said to her, “Now you, see, Alessandra?  Didn’t I tell you that you shouldn’t have done it that way?”

“Yes, Daddy,” she said, her eyes rolling audibly.

“Don’t you know how much longer I’ve been living than you?”  My question made her squint.

“What do you mean?”

“You had a milestone birthday last year,” I said, “right?”

“Yeah,” she said curiously.  “I turned ten.”

“Right,” I replied.  “And what milestone did I reach last year?”

“Forty,” she answered.

“So, I was how many times older than you?”

She thought for less than a second, then smiled as she answered, “Four… you were four times older than me.”

“Right,” I said.  “So, given that I am four times your age… you are how old now?  And how old does that make me?”

She thought for a second longer.  “Well, I’m 11 years old, so that makes you 44.”

“Exactly!  Good job!  And next year, when you’re 12, how old will I be?”

Quickly she spit out, “48!”

“Great work, Princess!  I’m proud of your math skills!”

Her eyebrows knitted together as she thought for a second.  “Daddy,” she said, her tone the same as when she explains something to her three-year-old sister, “that’s not how it works!”  She planted her hands on her hips and tapped her foot to make her point.

Innocently, I replied, “Really?  Are you sure about that?”

“Yes!”  We couldn’t hold back any longer, as we laughed at the silliness of it all.

I love my girls.  I love it even more that they are smart enough to see through, and appreciate, my goofy tricks.

In Memoriam – Memom Perotti

My family is very close.  I guess it’s a product of our Italian heritage, but I know that’s not the sole reason.  There are so many things I love about my family.  But Christmas is very bittersweet for me.

You see, two years ago today, I got a call from my father, “Mark, I have *cough* terrible news.”  He didn’t have to continue, because I could hear it in his voice, and I knew.  “Grandmom’s passed away.”

I was decorating the tree with my daughters, but I had moved to the office to take the call.  As I listened to my father talk, and hearing the cracks in this usually-so-strong man’s voice, I felt my heart break.  The call ended, and I went out to the living room.  I told my girls what their Poppy had just told me, and I broke down.  The sweet, sweet treasures that they are, my daughters hurried to me and hugged me as I cried and cried.

My wife was at work at that time, so I called her cell and gave her the news.  She came home a little later.  I didn’t have the desire to finish the tree.  I went to my uncle’s house that night, like we do every year, and cried and talked and reminisced with my father, uncle and grandfather.

The next few days were a bleary blur as we celebrated Christmas and prepared for the funeral.  I was asked to deliver a eulogy for Memom.  Somehow, I did.

For you, Memom.  I know you’re in heaven, in a wonderful place, praying for us, but I still miss you every day.

Food is love.

I heard those words on a TV show about two or three weeks ago. When the host said it, I immediately was struck with not only its profoundness, but also its profound truthfulness. Providing food means to provide life; providing the best food means providing a joyful life; what better way to express your love to someone. It wasn’t until Christmas Eve when I realized that, although she never said those words, it was Memom Perotti who had taught me that.

From my earliest childhood, the connection between Memom and food was inseparable. Every day, she would cook or bake. Her unending supply of food symbolizes the abundant love in her heart. “You’re too skinny – here, eat this,” meant that you looked unloved, and that was her way of hugging you. “I made some cookies – here, take a plate with you,” was her way of reminding you later on that she loves you.

Every Friday evening, her call went out to all her family and friends, “Pizza’s almost ready, come over and eat.” She wanted her family and friends to be there, so she could share with them the love in her heart. And how could we possibly forget her Christmas Eve dinners, when she worked for days to make so much food that we could barely walk out the door. The joy that I saw in her eyes and her smile as the family ate was obvious; she loved watching her family enjoy her meal, because she put her love into every morsel.

I have seen her sons learn from her, and carry on that passion for cooking. And from them, I believe, each of us, her grandchildren, do the same in our own way. Memom will never, ever be gone from our lives. Yes, we have our memories, and what wonderful memories they are. But, for as long as we put our best into making our food, Memom’s love will live within our hearts.

I love you, Memom, and will miss you always, and I’ll do my best to make sure my family is well-fed.

——

I’d like to read a poem that I found recently. It is called Christmas In Heaven, by Wanda Bencke

I see the countless CHRISTMAS TREES around the world below
with tiny lights like HEAVEN’S STARS reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so SPECTACULAR please wipe away that tear
for I am spending CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS CHRIST this year.
I hear the many CHRISTMAS SONGS that people hold so dear
but the SOUND OF MUSIC can’t compare with the CHRISTMAS CHOIR up here.
I have no words to tell you of the JOY their voices bring
for it is beyond description to HEAR THE ANGELS SING.
I know HOW MUCH YOU MISS ME, I see the pain inside your heart
for I am spending CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS CHRIST this year.
I can’t tell you of the SPLENDOR or the PEACE here in this place
Can you just imagine CHRISTMAS WITH OUR SAVIOR face to face
I’ll ask him to LIFT YOUR SPIRIT as I tell him of your love
so then PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER as you lift your eyes above.
Please let your HEARTS BE JOYFUL and let your SPIRIT SING
for I am spending CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN and I’m walking WITH THE KING.

 Merry Christmas.