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Wednesday, October 26, 2011 1 comments

Raising 2 Kids, 1 Homeschooler & a Baby Blog (#2)

Welcome to #2 in my ongoing series: “Raising 2 Kids, 1 Homeschooler & a Baby Blog.”

(This post could also be: “Revenge of me Ma.” I’m the eldest of two boys who made their mum’s life miserable… sorry, Ma, but it’s not MY fault, it’s my brother, Carl, I swear he did it :)

Anyway, it was only after my eldest son, four-year-old Tobey, flew downhill on his tricycle, heading straight for a tree that I realized this home-rearing thing I’ve been doing ain’t about teaching and nurturing – it’s about survival.

My impromptu “field-trip” started calmly enough (don’t they always.) We are blessed to live on a Navy base housing community here in Honolulu, and close to us is a small playground/ basketball court. With my wife, Gen, still at work, it seemed like a fun idea to like, hang out with my boys, like. Oh yeah, I’m hip, like.

(I'm about as hip as a hip-replacement candidate.)

Heading to the basketball court, I noticed a big drop off at one end. That seemed weird, but what do I know? I’ve no clue on how to throw hoops. (Sure, I’m from Ireland, but surely it’s not that hard… it’s not, and stop calling me surely…. Ah, smile if you have fond memories of “Airplane.”)

Source: @Photobucket by tysonapo
I took a few different sized balls and grabbed Tobey’s trike just to be on the safe side … (If I can’t hoop with my boy, I can teach him how to ride.)

I knew Corey (nineteen months) would be happy (and safe) on the baby slides, so after the hoops experiment failed with a bounce here, and a dunk nowhere, I watched proudly as my son looked at his trike, and then at me.

Sweet! A great papa/son bonding moment in the making.

Source: @Photobucket by LivyR
Keeping an eye on Corey, (who doesn’t actually slide down the slides, but loves running from slide entrance to slide entrance… screeching “PAPA!”) I enjoyed helping Tobey master the handlebars and the pedals of his red trike.

A few minutes later, my chest puffed out as I watched both my two sons playing and enjoying themselves at either end of what was, hmm, well, now a rather large playground….  I shuffled my feet a little here and a little there...

OK... I got it; I can watch both boys and be prepared to JUMP! and save whomever needs saving.

Hah! I can homeschool.

Check “field trip” off today’s list. Who’s your Dadd-?

WOhaa…, hey Corey… whoa, dude… no, Corey, hang on, buddy, you can’t slide down the fast slide sideways … wait!!

Run, Mark… Run…..

After the little man was straightened out, I looked for Tobey, who with his back to me was (professionally, I must say) riding his trike toward the far goal, er, I mean hoop.

OK, no worries…

Memories of six minutes ago… I was wondering what was weird about that end of the court…

The Drop

Ohh… shoot. (see, I got the lingo down, like.)

“Tobey, stop.”

“TObeey... stop! Bud…”

…and finally…

“TOBEY!!! STOP!!!” (Sigh.)

As his head disappeared down the hill, I swear I heard a “wheeeee,” but I was so scared when I heard the trike hit the tree full on. All I know is that Tobey skimmed the trunk before he was thrown off to the right side.

When I say he skimmed the trunk, I'm not joking. Through the grace of God, the bike literally hit the tree, but the trajectory of the trike meant that Tobey flew toward the right hand side of the trunk. He suffered only a carpet burn-type of cut to his left forehead (while I... the on-scene caregiver... have had at least six months of life deducted for bad parenting skills.)

Gotta say though, both my boys are troopers… several minutes later as I lay on the grass with Corey pinching me, Tobey sat next to his palpitating papa and lit me up with one of his wicked smiles before telling me he wanted to go ride “the hill” again.

“Can I do it again, papa? And this time I’ll miss the tree with all of me…"

Good grief, Charlie Brown...

The point of the post (or the “POP moment” – as no one likes a smart “the”) is that homeschooling ain’t easy, y’all... but surely it is fun and interesting to say the least!!

Oh, and PS… our third son will be born in January. Will you pray for me? J
Thursday, October 20, 2011 15 comments

Happy Hour by Mark Koopmans

Rachel Harrie has arranged a Third Campaigner Challenge. For this one, writers must submit a post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:
·         that it’s morning,
·         that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
·         that the MC (main character) is bored
·         that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
·         that something surprising happens.
Just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: "synbatec," "wastopaneer," and "tacise." (NB. these words are completely made up and are not intended to have any meaning other than the one you give them).
My entry (below) is #80 on the list, and you can vote here
                                                            Happy Hour
“Ah, for Jaysus sake, Jimmy, there’s only one free spot left. There in the corner, next to the path. Hurry up, will ye?”
Staring at my lumbering bride of eighteen years, I shut my mouth, tasting again the bitterness of unspoken words.
9 a.m., and she’s starting already? Great. Bang goes my day. Again.
The damp sand calmed me a little as I dragged along the cooler, stripy beach towels and twin umbrellas that looked cute – sixteen years ago.
<><><><><><> <><><><><><> <><><><><><>
Source: By zombie303 @ Photobucket.com
The screeching began less than two minutes after we settled into our plot of sand. Some dude pushing an old, industrial sized garbage bin. WASTOPANEER DISPOSAL stenciled on the side.
The imported stench behind us explained the empty spot on the busy beach.
“Gloria – before you begin,” I said, knowing she’d shoot down the poor hotel worker.
“Oh, don’t start with that synbatec crap again,” she said. “This is ridiculous. I didn’t pay Tacise Travels $4,700 to sit next to a damn dumpster.”
“It’s symbiotic, dear, and I wa-”
“I don’t care. I want you to fix this!”
So I did. I didn’t want to, earlier. Now? Yes, now I did.
With a little help from my friends…
Using the hotel manager as an excuse, I guided her to the blind side of the dumpster. Waiting were the three brothers I’d met at the bar – was it already a week? Masked by the commotion at the water’s edge, (I paid for that, too,) her feet, clanging and scrambling against the empty dumpster went unnoticed.
The hollow thump of a large body landing in an empty dumpster brought on a smile. The stripy towels and umbrellas followed soon after.
The cooler I kept.
It was 9:59 a.m. in Rio. Moseying into a bar, I celebrated my first Happy Hour of the day.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 0 comments

RC Cars and a Sidewalk


The other night, I was struggling to find a better word for something (not literally the word “something,” but something else) when I caught a little perspiration from my little inspiration.

Tobey is our four-year-old, and he was hanging out with Mama while I was busy writing at my “office desk,” which doubles as our kitchen table (see prior post for that story.) I happened to be looking at Tobey when he came right at me.

Then, he stopped, with a screech – reversed – stopped – reversed and drove himself into an old cloth couch of ours, his glee muted only by the oversized cushions.

(Life Mystery #2: Why are side cushions on most couches always oversized?)

Seconds later, out he pops, along with his giggles and two large pieces of Lego.

“Mama, what am I? What am I, Mama?” he said.

“I don’t know? A car about to crash?”

“No! Mama, look, I’m the remote 'control-ded' car.”

Source: phippy_01 @ Photobucket.com
After his demonstration concluded, he decided to pitch another move. He moved from one side of our living room to the other – feet close together, sliding left to right, arms stretched out, the biggest smile on his face, before asking the same question of my wife.

 “I don’t know, Tobey Tobes, what are you?”

“I’m a sidewalk, Mama, look, a sidewalk.”

Source: danyo112 @ Photobucket.com
Once I finished laughing, I sat back for a few minutes to digest his literal take on the words of our world.

How many times have I said or wrote “sidewalk” and never considered its meaning (although that is a bad example! I’m from Ireland, so a sidewalk is a “path” and when you’re four, there’s nothing cool about path…it rhymes with bath.)

But, like I said, it got me thinking. Ever since then, (last week) whenever I’m finished my output for the day, I like going over it with the eyes of child.

·         Is there a better way to describe the car journey my character went on?
·         What about the food at the restaurant during a first date?
·         Did your law enforcement character ask enough “why” questions?
·         Will Angry Birds take over the world?

Obviously, it all depends on your own story and style. However, as a stay-at-home Dad of 2.61 boys (the third is scheduled for release January 7,) who loves and appreciates tips from other homeschool parents, I thought this was an interesting angle, and wanted to pass it forward.
(Oh, and the other word I was struggling for... I changed "walk..." to "journeyed his way...")
Mahalo and regards,

Thursday, October 13, 2011 0 comments

70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

   Married to a U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr., I’ve always had a soft spot for military veterans (of any age,) but with the 70th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor only weeks away, I was thinking about the diminishing opportunities we have, as writers, to talk one-on-one with members of the Greatest Generation.
Source: PH survivor Vincent "Jim" Vlach.

In Rhode Island, it was hard for me – no impossible – to understand what the men of Easy Company (“Band of Brothers” fame) went through during the Battle of the Bulge (and the coldest Belgian winter in fifty years.)

A hushed silence - you can feel the awe - covers the theatre as Ed “Babe” Heffron and two other Easy Company vets slowly make their way on stage and take their seats during a tour to raise money for a Normandy - based memorial.
Heffron is quite the character. He sits forward in an old, high-backed lounge chair, right index finger held up and gets ready to answer a question about the infamous winter battle. Babe silences the audience by saying "It wasn’t easy, and it was cold, it was so cold, but we had a job to do."

In San Diego, I spoke with Erik Bork, a screenwriter on Band of Brothers, and asked him how was it? His grin was instantaneous, followed by a more serious tone as he said the WWII vets he met were, to a man, unforgettable.

In Melbourne, Fla., I interviewed Shlomo Fleischmann, an eighty-eight-year old Jewish Holocaust Survivor. I asked how he forgave those who killed more than eighty members of his immediate family. He walked over to a closed cabinet door, one I haven’t noticed, and opens it wide.

“This is the only way I can explain.”

On either side of the large cabinet, family pictures cover most every square inch of two large picture frames. The pictures on the left are black and white. Families standing in formation, hats on, ties straight. Faces that show only somber looks and tight sobriety.

The ones on the right are in color. You can almost hear the giggles of children and the crying of seagulls as grandparents hug their little ones while sons and daughters prepare (or enjoy) a grilled meal at the beach.

“These, these are the ones I lost,” Fleischmann said, his fingers splayed over the black and whites, as if trying to touch each person.

He turns, and his face transforms like the clouds do when the sun finds a way though.

“These are the ones who survived. They are the ones raising the future generations.”

I ask a follow up question.

“Yes, it was hard to move on, but you must. I don’t hate today's young Germans – some of my friends are Germans and it is not their fault. They did nothing wrong – but I cannot forget or forgive those who did what they did.”

In my former life as a journalist, I once sat down with a “real” Private Ryan, aka U.S. Army CSM William “Bill” Ryan (Ret.) who landed on the beaches of Normandy and was later assigned to the 508th Airborne Infantry Regiment.

Ryan later combat-jumped into Nijmegen, Holland, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge (I wonder now... did he ever lay shivering next to Babe?) before liberating the last concentration camp in Czechoslovakia toward the end of the war.

Here in Honolulu, there’s Harry.

Harry Kitterman joined the U.S. Navy when he was seventeen. Though numerous tattoos on the upper arms of this eighty-six year old are losing the battle of the ages, the mischievous twinkle in the eyes of the former submariner remains bright and alert.

I met Harry only a few weeks ago at the Navy Exchange, and it only happened because he sat next to my wife and kids. Irked a little, I wondered why this old man was so rude. Why did he want to sit so close. (There were plenty of open tables in the large food court.)

Harry later told me I was in the seat once occupied by a fellow sailor. There are twelve seats in total. Harry’s is the third from the left as you look away from the main food area and he's nodding at my seat.)

“Every one of these seats was filled not too long ago,” said Harry. “But he’s gone, as is he, and this guy, too.”

Source: http://lapbooklessons.ning.com/profile/NadeneEsterhuizen
How much history can one plastic food court bench seat hold? When it’s Pearl Harbor – who knows?

My point is: In my humble opinion, whenever you see one of our veterans, give them a handshake and a warm round of thanks. However, should you meet a WWII vet, give them a bloody good hug, buy them a steak and ply them with a few good beverages of choice.

PS.: Harry’s said he’s going to walk me around the USS Bowfin… Christmas is coming early to Aloha Nation!

Mahalo and thanks for reading,
"We're gifted a life of freedom - thanks to the sacrifices of those who freely gave of themselves."
Saturday, October 8, 2011 1 comments

Scared to Write; too Afraid to Quit

I started my blog many moon ago (last month) and a good blog buddy (bluddy?) said I should share personal experiences. ‘cos like in that baseball movie, maybe if I blog it, they will comment.

But… I told my bluddy friend… I’m just a stay-at-home dad of 2.5 boys (the newest boy launch is scheduled for early January 2012), so what do I know about the price of bread?

“Brah, it’s not how you know; it’s how you know-how.”

With that confusing piece of clarity cleared up (???) … I now (know?) dedicate this post to any and all “underground writers” who stumble on this blog.

I call you “underground writers” not because you’re off the beaten track (and if you are, good for you) but because writing is your passion and you’re too scared to write.

Been there, done that, brah.

Reading the above paragraphs, all I sense from myself is someone who enjoys writing (I’m not stroking my ego… I didn’t say it was "good" writing!)

What I mean is I had a giggle and a laugh creating the imaginary conversation between my blog brah (brother.)

These days, it’s easy for me to enjoy my writing (still doesn’t mean it’s bluddy good, or anything) but, oh how I wish my head was screwed on like Tahereh Mafi who's only twenty-three and about to publish her first book - among other awesome things.

WOW!  To be in my early twenties and know I wanted to be a writer… how awesome would that be, brah?


I did know I wanted to be a writer… in my teens….? But, if so, why didn’t I do anything about it? Simple answer:  I was too damn scared.

(CliffNotes version of my yearly academic test scores: A+ in creating a posse and F in creating prose.)

Nowadays, I look back – and oh, how I love hindsight! If only someone (R.I.P. Steve Jobs) could invent a remote control to pause, fast-forward or rewind our teenage years, I’d be the happiest camper. There would be no need to assuage my formerly fifteen-year-old self:

“Look, dumbass, you can’t knock on the door, run away and leave a note saying there’s a bomb underneath the homeless man’s herringbone jacket and expect no recriminations …” (true story…)

Ok, I've always had a creative streak, but I didn’t know what to do with it until I hit my thirties. While some might say that sucks, you know what, brah. I prefer “s’all good. At least I’m now writing.”

Now I’m afraid to stop writing, which is so damn exciting!  I love me my blog. It’s not that my musing will ever generate enough interest from those not directly related to me (I know all three of you) but it’s the fun in trying to figure out a.) what could be a good topic and b.) how do I write “it?”

I’m delighted for Tahereh, and I wish her only the best success – if you haven’t checked out her blog, it’s awesome. Me, I’m happy knowing my boys will never need to lean over the semi-private hospital bed and ask their old man if he has any lasting regrets before he kicks the big bucket in the sky.

“No regrets, lads,” I will say, before kissing each of my future strapping lads on the mouth. “No regrets, I did it the write way.”

My point is: If you’re a writer, the gift will bubble up like a warm spring no matter what you do. I pray that the warm caress of your talent will wash over you – sooner than later.

God speed! Now, shoo, go write the world.


I value your time and appreciate the few minutes we spend together. Mahalo and regards,


“Aloha to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”
Queen Lili‘uokalani, (1838–1917), the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 0 comments

Wing and a Prayer (Part 2.0)

When we last left our intrepid traveler, it was 7 a.m. He's at Enterprise Rent-a-Car after an overnight flight from Honolulu to LAX…. (See “Wing and a Prayer, Part 1.”)

The associate smiled, waiting for my credit card and driver’s license. I smiled back, thinking I'd be in the hotel by 8 a.m., catch a nap, and be so bright and shiny for the noon opening of the writer’s conference.

Source: melissasmrz1 @Photobucket
It was a good day, by gawd! I even looked forward to driving on SoCal’s open freeways.
I was sleep deprived; forgetting how jam-packed Interstate 405 gets on any given moment.

I pulled my credit card, and handed it over. Now where’s my bloody driver’s license? It should be next to the credit cards… I already had a sinking feeling.
I flashbacked to going through security – boarding card and driver’s license in hand, and a little voice saying “Put the ID in your wallet.” Uh oh... I knew I hadn’t listened.

I stepped out of line to find what I already knew was missing. After a half-hearted search
Why would I hide my license in the midst of my Speedos or socks?
I groaned my way to the counter.

“Can I still get my reservation if I don’t have my license?" I whined in an exceptionally high voice.

The rental agent looked at a colleague who’d stopped to help, a mental text message passing between the two.

Ten minutes later, I was on the bus, heading back to LAX.

Source: Photobucket.com @ kpowens
With the help of a company representative I found sitting on a metal chair next to baggage claim, I hired a shuttle bus service. Waving a van to the curb, the rep. warned there’d be multiple stops depending on the number of passengers.

As if he’d worked on The Price is Right, the driver stepped around to open the middle doors of the van where six young Japanese women were chatting about something exciting.

Seeing me, two of the ladies moved to the first of three rows, leaving the middle row empty. OK, I'll have some peace and quiet, get a bit of work done, use my time wisely, turn a negative into a positive.
By the time we traversed the seven LAX terminals – the second time – I said sayonara to getting anything done.

The three ladies behind me kept a steady and happy conversation with the three up front, and I soon figured out why: We were all going to Disneyland!
Or at least a parking lot off Katella Avenue.

Two-and-a-half hours post my estimated time of arrival, I reached my quaint (cheap) hotel. I lay on the bed for several minutes dreaming about the long nap that never was.

Then I booked a cab for the ten minute drive to the conference hotel, ($30) which led to a near heart attack, and an instant end to all non-essential trips (including lunch and dinner at In-and-Out.)

Later, I would fly home using my military ID, so no stress there (except I checked my wallet a dozen times to make sure my ID hadn't jumped out.)

Here’s the point: My wife was very worried about me driving that weekend and had prayed long and hard for my safe return. She'd been so concerned that we'd made drastic changes to my scheduled itinerary and incurred additional costs to keep me closer to the conference.

So, did I lose my license because I'm a klutz – I've never lost a driver’s license before?

Or was this a little bit of divine intervention?

Who knows, but I’m glad I made it safely home to my wife and kids.
   As always, I value your time and appreciate the few minutes we spend together. Mahalo and regards,

“Aloha to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”
– Queen Lili‘uokalani, (1838–1917), the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.
Saturday, October 1, 2011 1 comments

A Wing and a Prayer (Part 1)

Here’s a true story on how I lost my license and gained a little faith.
In late September, I attended the Southern California Writer's Conference but to get there, I had to git from here, (here being Honolulu, HI.)
Source: Photobucket by Qoard

My wife, Gen, and I talked about the expense of travelling to Newport Beach and everything related to it, but as an aspiring author, I knew the long term benefits would outweigh the short term need to pinch many pennies.

Working out several options, we decided I’d stay with family in San Diego (thus saving nearly $400 in hotel costs.) A daily three-hour, 170 mile round trip was the trade off, but I wanted to do anything to keep costs down.

A few nights before I left, Gen said she had major concerns about me driving so much and was praying for my safe travels (I would also be driving up to Anaheim Sunday, then down to San Diego after the Angels
gave up four runs in the ninth and
lost their chances of making the playoffs.

My plan was to end the weekend by driving from San Diego to Los Angeles International early Monday afternoon. My wife reiterated the same concerns for several more nights until I agreed with her suggestion to skip San Diego and find a cheap hotel close to Newport Beach.

A good idea became a great idea - in principle - when friends offered me their couch Sunday night. (Ok, my original $400 savings took a $120 hit for the dodgy hotel in Costa Mesa, but I was still "up" $280 and only ten miles from the Newport Beach Hyatt-Regency.

Leaving two boys under five alone with a pregnant spouse was not an option, so my wife asked her parents if they could fly out (from San Antonio, Texas.)

"No problem." was the answer - it always is. (I am blessed with wonderful in-laws.)

There was an hour overlap between my departure and Mom and Dad's arrival and I thought I’d have time to at least say hi. Seeing them arrive at the baggage claim, a flurry of kisses and hugs turned slightly weird (for anyone listening) when another round of kisses and hugs was set in motion as I had to make like a tree and leave to catch my flight.

Passing through security with no issues, I shoved my boarding pass and Florida driver's license in my jeans and booked it over to the gate, where my boarding zone was called within five minutes.
Q. How does a former Irishman, (now naturalized U.S. citizen) who lives in Hawaii via Rhode Island end up with a Florida DL?
A. Easy - marry a beautiful naval officer.

Settling in for the five-hour flight, things were under control, and I looked forward to a long, but productive weekend of writing and waffling.

I landed at 6:23 and by 7 a.m., was standing in front of a smiling Enterprise Rent-A-Car associate.

"Good morning, sir, do you have a reservation," she chirped.

 I know "she said" is industry standard, but I'm six-foot-two, and with only two scattered hours of sleep in an enclosed space known as "economy plus," she really did chirp.
To be continued…
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