The Joy Of School

A depiction of the world's oldest continually ...

A depiction of the world’s oldest continually operating university, the University of Bologna, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was of school age, which is approximately 5 to 18 years in the US, I loved going to school.  Does that make me weird?  Well, for the typical child in the US, it does.  I remember being the only one who couldn’t wait to start school, who couldn’t wait for Monday, and couldn’t wait for the summer to end.  I enjoyed learning new things; indeed, I still do.  Also, and this is when I will sound arrogant, I enjoyed showing how smart I was.

Yes – I was your typical little nerd.  Some (myself included) would argue that I still am that little nerd, but that’s not the point of my post.

September meant that I could get back to what I enjoyed – learning, acquiring new knowledge, and learning to apply that knowledge.  Sometimes that application was only what I could answer on a test, at least in my (then) young lifetime, but that was fine by me.  I managed to get great marks in school.

I learned quickly that I was, shall we say, unique in that regard.  My classmates hated school, and made sure I knew that I was different than them.  But… that’s a story for another time.

Nonetheless, I loved school, loved learning, and still do.

How about you – did you love school, as I did?  Or were you more like my classmates?

 

Edit: I neglected to mention 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

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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.

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.

Catching Sparkles

Some time ago, maybe a year and a half, I was in the kitchen with my youngest daughter.  I believe she was about two years old at the time.  I was at the sink, and had just opened the blinds to let in some sunlight.

It was at this time that she saw some dust motes floating in the sunbeam.  Her eyes lit up, she smiled, and said excitedly, “Daddy! Sparkles!”  I smiled at her excitement and replied, “Yes, sparkles!”

“I catch,” she exclaimed, and proceeded to jump up and down in the sunbeam, trying to trap a “sparkle” in her hands.  She laughed as she did this, perfectly happy in her own little world.  I laughed with her, basking in the joy her pure innocence.  The memory of this moment warms this father’s heart every time.

May we all find some sparkles to catch every so often.