I've been tagged. In order to keep this going, and in the interests of promoting both navel-gazing and mutual understanding, I'm going to tag Zero, Brucker, and the entire CHRefugee forum. Please note that I'm tagging Brucker more from a desire to nettle him than from an expectation that he'll respond, although he has every other time I've tagged him.
1. What were you doing 10 years ago?
At this time in 2007, I was living in an efficiency apartment in Easton, Pa., and walking my black Lab three times a day around the city, sometimes for more than an hour at a time. I also was commuting to my job as a copy editor for a run-down chain of community weekly newspapers every weekday, and spending a fair amount of time visiting my then-fiancee, who had begun her first year of graduate school. I was doing anything I could to find a new job, looking for an apartment closer to work and to Natasha, and planning for our wedding in June.
2. What were you doing one year ago?
Pretty much the same thing as now. We were living here in Nova Bastille, and planning birthday parties for Rachel and Evangeline. Their birthdays are only a day apart, so we decided to have their birthdays on adjacent days the same weekend. This year we've decided to put the two of them together into consecutive parties, since they have several friends in common and have other friends whose siblings are friends with the other one.
3. What are five snacks you enjoy?
Cookies, naturally; along with Tostitos, especially though not always with queso; ice cream, in various flavors, but nothing too exotic or unusual. I love homemade pretzels, so when we've set aside the time to make them, I've been known to eat them. The girls and I also make Cheerio squares from time to time, a variation on Rice Krispie squares that uses Cheerios instead. I also like the occasional 3 Musketeers bar.
4. What are five songs you know the lyrics to?
Oh, good grief. You must be kidding. I have a knack for memorizing lyrics to songs I like, and I love music, so you might as well ask five albums or Broadway soundtracks that I know the lyrics to. Most recently you can hear me singing with the girls songs such as "Ode to a Hero," by Weird Al; the Hebrew portion of "When You Believe," from "The Prince of Egypt" soundtrack; "Turn, Turn, Turn," by Pete Seeger; the folk song "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder"; and "Hard to Get," by Rich Mullins.
5. Five Things You Would Do If You Were A Millionaire
1. Pay off our mortgage, Natasha's college loans, the car loan, and our home equity loan. Instead of paying off our mortgage, I also could see my way to buying a slightly bigger house in cash. Debt is bad, and we have way too much of it in the United States.
2. Set aside at least six months' liquid assets. Savings is good, and we have far too little of it in the United States.
3. Invest wisely for our eventual retirement. We've been doing that for a while, but more would help. It's not like we can count on Social Security to be there for us when we retire in another 30 years.
4. Figure out how I can use the money to make the world a better place, not by backing politicians or movements, but using my financial influence to support worthy causes and to set a good example.
5. Probably start a business, with some good (and ethical) advisers so I don't drive it under and end up dirt-poor within a year.
6. Five Things Your Kids Have Taught You
1. Art. Before she turned 2, I noticed that a progression in the way Evangeline scribbled with her crayons. I watched her progress from back-and-forth movements, to ups-and-downs, and so on, through what was plainly a natural evolution of her own artistic style. I started drawing with her, encouraging her to push her boundaries further.
As one might expect, this has had an effect on my artistic ability as well. When Evangeline reached the point that she was drawing people, I was doing little better than advanced stick figures; six years of steady artistic expression has got me to the point that I recently doodled freehand a picture of Lilo and Stitch chasing Cinderella down the stairs of the palace.
I’ve also come to appreciate other art more. I’ve gained an appreciation for the work of the masters particularly ― we have prints of the Mona Lisa, the Virgin on the Rocks and the Vitruvian Man all hanging up in the girls’ bedroom, for example ― but also for art in general. I find I’m actually capable of analyzing art similar to the way I analyze books or stories, if not to the same degree; and what’s more, I enjoy visting art galleries and museums more than I ever would have thought possible.
2. Laughter. Hang around children long enough, and you’re going to hear some outrageous stuff. Some times it’s unintentional, like when they misunderstand song lyrics in an utterly nonsensical way. But sometimes it’s deliberately witty, like the birthday poem Evangeline wrote me back in August: “Roses are red / Violets are blue. / My dad is crazy / Happy birthday to you.” I’ve never laughed as well or as hard as I have with my children.
3. Shared joy through shared experience. When I was a child, I used to love Saturday mornings, because the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh would run Bugs Bunny cartoons for about two hours. And not the cheesy ones Warner Brothers has been trying to foist upon unsuspecting children on the Cartoon Network lately, either. No, these were the classic Chuck Jones/Friz Freleng cartoons where Bugs would outsmart Yosemite Sam, or trick Elmer Fudd into shooting Daffy in the face. Now that I’m a father, one thing I’m proud to have done is to share those classic cartoons with my girls. It was one of the best moments of the Christmas we got them, when the four of us sat down with my mother, and three generations of us watched and laughed to classic Looney Tunes together.
It’s been like that with many things. The older they get, the more things there are I want to share with them. The girls already have learned some select Monty Python sketches, including “Dead Parrot” and “Buying a Mattress”; and I’ve loved reading “Idylls of the King” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” with Evangeline.
It’s a tremendous gift to share with our children the things that we also have loved.
4. Faith. A couple years ago, I wrote an essay about what a marvel it was to witness Rachel’s daily interaction with God through the medium of an unassuming toy she liked to take with her everywhere. Children have such a wonderful faith in God, uncomplicated by fretting over doctrine and theology, and it segues so naturally into action. Once Evangeline understood that Jesus wants her to love people who don’t love her back, she very unsensibly made an effort to do just that. I still stand in awe of a 7-year-old who tries to stop her best friend from needling one of the class bullies, because she knows it’s the right thing to do, and I pray that I may one day have faith like hers.
5. Full-bodied enjoyment of music. When most adults sing, it’s a rote activity. If you listened to us singing “Amazing Grace,” you would think our mothers had died; if you listen to us singing “Happy Birthday,” you would think we were sick with the stomach flu.
Kids are different. When Evangeline and Rachel sing, the whole world knows. Evangeline dances in church during the worship service, and when we sing during family devotions after dinner, they both belt out “Awesome God” like they mean it, flopping around the room like fish who have just jumped back into the water. Even a tender song like “Tell Me Why” is deeply heartfelt.
If I can sing just half as enthusiastically as they do, I’ll be doing pretty well.
7. Five Things You Like To Do
1. Reading. My mom used to tell everyone that I would read the comics section before I used the pages to line the guinea pigs’ tray. It’s true. I don’t read the great works as often as I used to ― these days it seems like it’s graphic novels more often than it’s Germanic revenge epics ― but reading remains one of my favorite activities. I love when I get to do it with my children.
2. Baking. I find tremendous satisfaction not just in making the meals myself, but in doing it from scratch as much as possible. Thus it is that I make our own pizza, dough included; as well as bread, bagels, pancakes, cookies, pretzels, hamburgers, buns, and plenty else, all from scratch.
3. Doodling. My older daughter especially has taught me about art, whether directly or in-,but I love taking the opportunity after reading a Brothers Grinn fairy tale with Rachel for us to draw a picture of it together. Evangeline tells me regularly that I’m doing it wrong ― no use of basic shapes, for instance ― but I have a good time anyway. I think I’m even getting decent at it, too.
4. Discovery. Bah. I may be 37, but it’s still fun to learn new things.
5. Music. The self-appointed Guardians of Pettiness think it somehow within their rights to disparage me for singing, learning to play piano, or otherwise indulging my musical interests, but I say, tough Turtlewax. I score quite high for rhythm and music as one of my learning styles, I’ve always enjoyed it, and to hell with people who think it’s polite to tell me I have no business doing so.
8. Five Things You Would Never Wear
Plain white button-down dress shirts
A military uniform
9. Five Favorite Toys
Count von Count Beanie Baby
Cookie Monster Beanie Baby
Storm Happy Meal action figure
10. Five Things You Hate To Do
Bury myself up to the neck in sand and then smear honey all over my face
Roll around naked on a bunch of tacks, then rub myself down with alcohol
Clean my ear with a meat thermometer, then pound it all the way through to the other ear
Throw multimegaton warheads over the fence because my neighbors won’t turn down the stereo
Shove miniature replicas of the Statue of Liberty up my nose, so that the base gets jammed in my