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The Complete Life Of Hunter Rayne Uriarte

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What's the Frequency Kenneth?

One of the most amazing things about this past year for Hunter has been his development of friends. I don't mean the kind of friends a 3 year old has because his mommy tells him to, but real friends, that come over and play, like a 4 year old.

Hunter has really grown up this year. We are past all those gooey moments of baby's firsts and on to the phase where Hunter knows what he thinks is cool. He put on his Addidas with rocket boosters and went right past Mickey Mouse and immediately to Iron Man, Super Heroes, Indian Jones Wii games and all things Star Wars. Mind you, he has never scene any of these movies but he knows older boys like these things.

This made for an interesting Halloween when Hunter decided to be Optimus Prime but also wanted to be Iron Man, Thor and Luke Sky Walker. I thought at one point we were going to have to go to four parties so he could dress in each costume but eventually he settled on the one costume. Definitely the most exciting moments came when Hunter went over to his friend JoJo's house to trick or treat.

Last year's Halloween, festooned with a Giant's World Championship, was overshadowed by the orange glow of baseball and we only went out for a short period of time. I don't think Hunter really understood what it was all about anyway. But this year he clearly gets it (and the huge bag of candy) because he really wanted to be with his friends more than anything. Watching he and Jo along with some kids from school dart in and of houses and up and down the street they looked like a pit crew at the Indianapolis 500 that someone had dipped in sugar. But there was nothing saccharine about his smile. You could see how proud he was to have friends to yell trick or treat with and sing silly songs about Bat Man's underwear.

Really I think that joy of friendship started at his birthday where we had the official transition from inviting our friends over to our house for some beer and pizza to having Hunter invite his friends over so they could play at his house. We rented a Bouncy House style Water Slide and let me tell you I had a great time. But it was so cool watching Hunter and Jacob and Parker and Kenneth and all his real friends play. I remember so many of my birthdays when I was younger were centered around the 49ers because they were winning so many Super Bowls during my formative years and the best ones were when my friends came over and we played games. It is so much fun watching him play like that.

He has had friends his whole life, of course, but these are friends he has had the chance to pick.

One great example of the former we got to visit over the summer when we visited Maddie and Meat in Spokane where we celebrated Maddie's birthday and went to Priest Island. There we got to go camping, boating and get sandy. Earlier in the year we had visited St. Thomas with Heather's family and he got to swim in an infinity pool and play cards and games on a beautiful deck of an amazing house on top of hillside over looking the water.

We began the year with a great trip skiing with Hunter's good friend Kenneth. Hunter took to skiing like he does everything else, with such ease it is if he were born playing sports. Kenneth and Hunter are such good buds now we hear from Kenneth's parents about excited Kenneth is to see Hunter on days when they are not planning to see each other. And then when they are together they smoothly play with Cars cars or whatever toys they can find. It is fun to see them wrestling or laughing at Cars 2, or to hear Hunter yell: Awesome!

We also got visit Heather's family in Minnesota for an early Thanksgiving where we had a wonderful time which we will cherish forever. Hunter got to play with his grandparents' neighbor kids and he showed them how to play baseball and they played basketball and he showed he can anything the big kids can do. He got to be with his grandparents and see their family traditions.

We will cherish this trip forever because shortly after tragedy struck and we lost Heather's dad Ron forever. I will always be indebted for the kindness Ron showed me and my family. He also showed her an undivided devotion that established Heather's expectations of what it means to be loved. These expectations she (and I) are passing on to Hunter, so his legacy will be strong.

And as the year has passed Hunter has gone from being a shy toddler to a very confident little boy who asks if his friends can come over. He and JoJo are inseparable at school, even sometimes getting in "trouble" because they want to play together. He says who he is going to invite to his birthday and he wants a number of his friends from school to come over to his house. Every parent wants their kid to have friends and be liked so it is wonderful see him developing a voice.

Therefor it is so much fun to hear him tell me when he grows up he is going to do all the sports I do and coach at my same school. I am so glad he gets to see me coach and be part of a varsity sports program because I know he sees me working hard and I can see how he is taking all of this in. I know these memories and lessons will be with him forever so he can have his own friends and pass on the legacy he is learning from both sides of family to take the best of us and become an incredible success. It all starts by being able to say what he wants and who wants to be with. And I know he will make great choices, have real friends and continue to make us so proud.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Certain Gina Sais Quoi

I don't really know what is the right explanation but this blog really was born from a tradition of writing a Christmas story for my sister. I bought her a journal so she could write in it, including a story I wrote as inspiration for her own writing. Somehow, the next year the book showed up in my possession and I was meant to fill it again. So year after year I would stay up late on Christmas Eve and write her a story. There were 7 or 8 at least. All fantastic stories, of course, so I am sure they will be published posthumously and I will win a Pulitzer like John Kennedy Toole.

One year I got a new software called Comic Book Life and I animated her a story on my computer. I don't think the book was filled, but writing on paper seemed so nineteen eighty two. And the next year, sadly, I did not have time to write because it was Hunter's first real Christmas, where he was mobile, and I made a movie of his life and screened it for the family and later appeared it as part of the first blog. Last year I made a book of the first blogs about Hunter, so the tradition has been passed.

Sadly, or rightly, that is what happens to tradition. As a child Shawn would wake us up at 5 on Christmas morning and though we were told to wait until the sun came up, he would wait long enough to recon all the presents and then convince my parents it was time to get up. And then when Gina was born we lived down the hill and she started having new traditions with my mom, girl traditions. But some things stay constant. Up until my first year of marriage I always spent the night on Christmas Eve with my parents, for example.

There were others, you know, from when we were littler like going with my dad to Gino and Carlo's and then "getting to go" look at the lights around San Francisco, or shopping at Union Square. Or little things really that stuck, like chocolate for my mom, Shawn and Damon making and then cleaning breakfast while Gina recounted her loot, or sat on her butt or got another blanket or whatever. Basically she sat like a princess expecting her minions to do her bidding. And we did. (Although now it is because I fear the wrath of Drunk Gina, but that is a story for Facebook.)

Hunter will have to work with his cousins to recount his traditions, at least from his very early life. He loves his cousins. One of the great traditions we have now is grandma Sharon Dinner on Christmas Eve for all of us, making me my own mushroom lasagna that my dad likes to eat half of, and the kids get matching pajamas to wear. These things seem small but they will know. Just like my mom gives us new ornaments for the tree every year and Shawn and I try to hide them around the house like Easter eggs. Hoping to find them again, on Easter.

My favorite tradition will always be the Epic Of The Lights. (I laughingly contrast it to the orderly, organized, almost miltary precision with which Heather and her family get their house decorated.) I have written about "The Epic" before but basically this is that rich time of year when my dad disentangles a braid of ropes, ne Christmas lights, so wrapped up that it looked like Rapunzel's hair gave birth to Jack's beanstalk. What ensued was the most colorful, wonderful time of year when my dad would invent new swear words and insults. Gleefully I would listen and make a list to check twice before I used them at school. I marked new ways to curse Christianity, my mother, his mother, the dude who invented the lights, the house the lights were being attached to, our neighbors, my grandmother's fruit cake and whatever else was in his way as he began "The Epic". And that was just getting them untangled.

Then they would have to be strewn across the floor, end to end to make sure they were working. I always wished for the strand that did not work because then the fun really began as he tried to find the one fizzled out light causing all the others to malfunction. He would be on his knees, cursing the floor so loud no jingle bell or holly jolly elf could drown him out, fiddling gingerly with each light until eventually so many were broken he would have to run out and buy more because the whole thing had become a string of shards and splintered glass.

And then he would have to get them on the roof. I have never seen a ladder more unstable, than on those glorious nights. It would sway and contort and my dad's humor would rise. Remember this is a man who once spent an afternoon stuck on the roof of the house becuase the ladder had fallen he could not figure a way down off the fifteen foot roof to the ground. It begs the question as to why he was up there to begin, but never mind.

But my sister is the caretaker of these traditions as she remembers them and every family needs one, the same way they need a cat lady who later in life becomes mom's caretaker. She holds us to those roles and regulations. But seriously, she has been the great moderator of Christmas lore and I love her for it. That and the perfectly cooked oatmeal cookies, which for some reason only she can bake.

I feel bad that the stories have passed and she has to share the tradition with my son now. But then, that is a cool bond they will share. Hunter already has a place at our dinner table he calls "auntie Gina's seat" so he is getting there. As a child it seemed she abhorred sports often uttering my mom's favorite refrain of disdain: Is there a game on? And then she went off to college and it seems somehow she was raised right, because now we both suffer the curse that used be the damn Giants, until they became the World Champion San Francisco Giants.

She bleeds orange almost as much as I do and gets equally angry at the bandwagon fans, and for that she should be commended. Besides our annual pilgrimage to Fan Fest, this year we went to a couple play-off games together, where she even sprang her own money (did not even call mom for a reimbursement) paying top dollar for the right to sit behind the man now known as Dirty.

We were enjoying the LCS, Matt Cain was throwing his usual gem and about the time Bochy came to take him out, a man with a Sanchez jersey came and sat in front of us. I had an eerie feeling about the game, even telling my sister it felt eerily like the game Bonds hit his record breaking homers seventy and seventy one against the Dodgers where the crowd was in such a frenzy and such a tizzy by the third inning that they felt the game was over, and like that day when Shawn Estes gave up a seven run lead to lose the game, the Giants would give this game away too.

But the entertainment from the man in the Sanchez jersey was almost worth it. Because this is a family blog I cannot recount the incident, but it will sit here for she and I to remember, for all time, as one lasting memory.

She took Heather to a play-off game as well. I told you she was a good fan. It is a little bandwagonish to be a young-er female and eschew the Lincecum jersey for the Posey jersey but the rookie of the year is such a darn good player, she can be forgiven. Too bad Posey's wife is a piece of work. And though they did not get to see Steve Perry sing "Don't Stop Believing" like I did, anyone who was there sharing in that feeling does not want it to stop, I can promise you. Electric.

And it was Gina who scoped out a great spot along the railing to watch the victory parade for the World Champion San Francisco Giants. She took a day off of work to get up earlier than a work day to get that great vantage spot. A perfect snapshot in time. A sea of orange has never been a more awesome sight.

So I lend a tribute to my fellow comrade in orange and give a nod to her because someday when he is older her nephew will be reading this and see that even though having traditions and sticking to too them are very important, they are nothing without a family bond. Developing new traditions inherently assumes they are passed down and shared, and that is what makes them so special. Hopefully Hunter will not be writing about how his dad had invented some swear words but a new baseball season is starting soon, so I can't promise anything.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sporting Life

I think this is what Tiger Woods' dad felt like.

If I bet you which of Hunter's parents said this while watching him hit a baseball at two years old, which of us would you guess? I would be as rich as Tiger Woods if I actually took that bet, because it wasn't me. That's right. His mother said it. The one who is so concerned her sports crazed/obsessed/coach husband was going to push their son too hard, took one look at him when I showed her he could hit fastballs all the way across the street, and she looks at me and dropped the quote. Can you believe that?

As a high school coach, I see many crazy parents who are confused about their son's baseball talents. They were an 8 year old all star, so they should start on JV. How they have to commit to a sport by sixth grade and on a travel and select team, or else. My brother of all people, who could not care less about sports, said he knew things were crazy when he was listening to parents talk about their kids on the select "B" team. Let's let that marinate for a minute. A SELECT B team. Really.?! What part of select is confusing to you, or rather, what part of "B" is confusing?

When I was a kid, you played whatever sport was in season. If you sucked, you kept playing or not because of your passion for the game. And when you lost, you lost. Your dad did not make a new team for you or your mom did not go talk to the coach for you. No huge 7th place trophies. No participant plaques. No playing time rules. What lesson does that teach? Where is that in life?

I loved playing sports but I come from a limited gene pool and so I have always been insecure about how not good I am at these sports. Because I wanted to be the best, I worked hard. I never made it but I never stopped trying. So I played three sports in high school and coach in high school because I am a fierce competitor. I run and cycle to challenge myself and am pretty good at those sports too. Pretty good. Not great. I have a few medals etc but that is not what drives me, those just happen.

Anyway, when I was a kid I played baseball in the summer, soccer in fall and basketball in the winter. I even played football in the park sometimes. (I valued my life too much to play football at Tam, we sucked and I did not want to lose the chance to play other sports by dying, so I played soccer.)

Now kids play Wii and XBox and Farmville and Second Life and disgusting. Yick. And when they do play, there is this weird pressure from parents to pick a sport by sixth grade. Yick, Yick. There is no way to kill a kid's love faster. And all of the great athletes I know, and most I know of, played more than one sport for a while. You gotta diversify. Heck, get in a boat, water ski, whatever. I mean, I get where the idea comes from, why a parent would want their kid to focus, so they can get the best attention, coaching etc. But there are a lot schiesters out there, who take your money and then offer you an "honest" evaluation of your child's skill. Skill he has been paid to hone. I see it, the want to pick one, but there is something to be said for cross-training and broadening horizons.

I have been hearing a lot of discussion about a book called Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell. I know it has been out a couple years now, but as an English teacher I have not had time to read everything I want to. His ideas, I think are being misinterpreted by the misguided. He writes his book as a cautionary tale of sorts, not a how to guide. I have only read a few chapters so far but I can see that. He starts his book by surmising what it takes to be great, meaning he analyzes what are the factors of truly great and successful people. Not their traits so much a their factors. He also has a 10,000 hours rule that proposes for true greatness you need a minimum of 10,000 hours practice at one specific thing. He cites Bill Gates and Oppenheimer as examples. And here is where the caution comes in. Bill Gates was smart, and driven and chose to put in the hours on his own. His momy did not put him on a Science Camp B team.

And, for relevance to Hunter, Gladwell analyzes Canadian Hockey players. Not that Hunter wants to play hockey, but he certainly might. (And he probably has 100 hours of baseball practice already, if not more, for whatever that is worth. Getting there with cycling.) But that is not the interesting thing to me. One overwhelmingly common factor for these great hockey players was being born early in the year. More succinctly, they were old for their class. One of the big decisions we have to make for Hunter is when to start him in school. Since he is born at the end of September, he just misses the cut-off, so he will either have to be very young or very old for his grade. Outliers, says go old. The benefits far outweigh the negatives to be older. There you have it. Hunter is born at the right time and is putting the right practice to be great. And I have begun planning my retirement.

So I cannot blame Heather for uttering what I may have been thinking. He may have some of the factors of greatness. Watching him learn something new is awe inspiring. With physical or athletic things there is not much practice. He watches, tries and does. When he learned to ride his bike, there was little transition. 30 seconds one day, 30 more seconds of trying the next day and the third day, 2 pedals and he was off. Riding a scooter, hitting a baseball, pitching a baseball, hitting a golf ball, dribbling a basketball, kicking a soccer ball, it has all come naturally. It is all very exciting.

And then I fear that he may not be Tiger Woods. Or worse that he may be, and we will be hearing about him being attacked by his wife on national TV, interrupting our Thanksgiving dinners. How do we take time to tell ourselves that it is OK if he is not the next Buster Posey (of the World Champion San Francisco Giants). He can be whatever he wants to be and to strive for kindness as greatness. To dream.

And then when he comes into the room wearing funny glasses or sticks his head in a wind chime, makes a joke or draws a picture or plays with his Lightning McQueen and Chick Hicks cars, or yells Hey you dang wood-chucks, quit chucking my wood, I know he is going to be great. He already is.

I am sure that is how Tiger Woods dad felt.

I Lefse My Heart in San Francisco

Hunter's very first Christmas, I was that guy and we dragged him to the mall so he could sit with Santa and have a picture taken. Now parents don't do this for the kids. Sometimes it is to build a tradition or get a little product placement and brand recognition face to face with the big red guy. Well for tradition anyway.

But mostly, it is because we were torchered so we want to pass on the special feeling. Hunter was, predictably, that screaming kid who wanted nothing to do with that picture. Or that big red guy.

As the holidays are approaching I always stop to ponder the new traditions and Hunter will include going to his grandparents in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. These trips are wonderful and as Hunter gets older, these traditions will sit with him, as will learning to talk about the weather.

This year it was so cold in Minnesota that a couple weeks after left, there was such a spectacular storm that the baggies which hold up the Metrodome roof imploded, tearing and causing tons of snow to come billowing inside the dome. Watching the video, it looked like one of those Billy Blanks late night infomercials advertising some new "unbreakable" garbage bag- You can see here as I try and punch my fist through and stretch and pull, the bag stretches with my arm, it bulges, but it never breaks. (Which if these bags existed, let's honest, they would be one of the greatest inventions/presents you could give my dad. This is, after all, the man for whom we have to set out Hefty bags on Christmas morning along with all the other presents.) Anyway it made for spectacular TV as I was watching football, but the real point is that the weather is besides the point.

Hunter gets to hang with his grandparents and his uncles, whom he rarely gets to see. This past summer we went to visit them and rented a Pontoon boat for fishing and Hunter caught two fish before I caught one. Of course, if I fell out of a boat into the cold winter water I could not catch a cold, but that is a different story.

These are the types of memories he will always carry with him. He just threw his line over the side, and watched like he supposed to, and then as his line bobbed, he pulled, and reeled in his very own fish. I was too busy eating goldfish and checking out where we were on my iPhone GPS to notice. (By the way, those things are cool, an actual map of the lake appeared and it knew exactly where we were, real 007 stuff.)

So I want him to know what the traditions are, as best we can. So he knows when we go to grandma and grandpa Pattersons house, we go shopping on Black Friday, we help them put the lights and Christmas decorations up and we have good time.

I remember Thanksgiving as a loud blur of Spanglish and Amero-Salvdoran fusion food (I totally made that up) but it always included waiting for the turkey no matter who was cooking and lots of good company. Because there so much at these parties it could always be counted on that there would be people I did not know/remember and loud conversation. The loudness could be counted on like clockwork, or having Lucky Charms at Carmelita's house. But he is building new traditions. Like signing the Christmas cards or playing cards and board games a night.

(Check out the picture if you want a glimpse of what the family looked like to me at Hunter's age, espcially my grandfather ;) >

Speaking of culture, this year we went to the Mall of America so Hunter could ride on some of the amusement park rides. He loved the log ride, but the giant Pall Bunyan and Ox, scared him more than large drop off at the end, where he was scared but when we were done he said- No I wasn't. So I know he was.

And we went to a Warriors' game. Yep, playing the Timberwolves in Minneapolis. For a mere ten bucks, we were able to walk right in and sit directly behind the bench. That was cool. But we did not make lefse. This is a Patterson tradition, but apparently it does not happen every Holiday. I can see why. It tastes wonderful but it is certainly a production to produce. When I first met heather, lefsa and her father's stuffing were the the two things I knew first about her family traditions.

Also, it did snow. Did I mention it was cold? Hunter was able to go out and build a mini-snowman and we were able to some serious sledding. It was the third time down when Hunter trying to snow-board on the sled that I knew he was ready to learn to ski. We also enjoyed time enjoying a bonfire with Heather's brothers although I am not a good lumberjack. Despite the weather I was able to enjoy a couple of runs in the snow. Jogging outside is fun there as long as you can keep your cheeks from freezing. All in all we were grateful and thankful to build such a foundation for our family, I know my son will never be out in the cold about his own family values.

As a new Christmas approaches, I am helping him build his new traditions at home as well. I remember my Papa building toy trains for under their Christmas tree. I mean literally building them, he was like an inventor and would make all sorts of things. My brother can do that too. Me, I put the wood tracks around the tree and turn on the battery operated Thomas train. But it was decorated in Christmas colors and we used cotton to make a winter scene, so it has to count for making something.

This year we have also been to two different lighted boat parades on local canals. The first one was great, we went to a buddies house where there were 3 or 4 kids Hunter's age to play with and one big guy, maybe ten. Hunter played football with him all night. He missed most of the boats, lit up with brilliant colors and reindeer and sleighs and whatnot, but, no he played football with the big kid. I mean he saw some of it, he was excited when we first got there and made it about ten minutes. Then he saw this kid playing football and he was done. They were tackling and running and playing catch. It was awesome.

Then a week later we went to a different house, on a different canal and Hunter met Santa. Santa sailed up on a boat and delivered a present to him and his friend Jack. Very cool. He cried as got on the boat with Santa but he did reach up and grab the the present so that is progress. At an earlier visit to the mall I could not get him to go into the place and stand near Santa. So we stood outside an looked in at the big red guy.

Soon we will go to Grandma Sharon's for some lasagna and beef wellington and sit around, enjoy each other and wait for the big red guy to come to our house and eat cookies and milk. My favorite new tradition. I hear he likes Heather's oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Madi About You

Most people have Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or Halloween Goblins. You know, mythical creatures who briefly enter your life tantalizing with sweets and then leave before you were really sure they were ever there except for the wrappers on the ground. Well Hunter has them AND uncle Dan.

I will never forget when Heather came home from a mass play date for Hunter so excited about the friend SHE had made: Yeah it was a great hike, and Hunter met this little girl who was stomping in the puddles with him, yada yada whatever, and I think they were holding hands, but who cares, I met this woman named Ashley. (Here, re-read the sentence and imagine Heather's bright smile and that little sound-effect you use when things glow.) And it just happened that Ashley came equipped with her children Madi and Mitchell (Meat) and her husband Dan. (Here, re-read the sentence and imagine Heather's bright smile and that little sound-effect you use when things glow.)

And it was lucky for all of us they went hiking that day. Ashley and Heather hit it off so well, it was if they had always been friends. Their chemistry makes sense, they had dud husbands who worked too long and liked sports too much and children who liked to play together. Well until Madi would hug Hunter too long, or Hun'na would take one of her crayons.

I remember the birthday parties the most, but the first time I met Madi at Christmas time where she and Hunter did Winter Wonderland at the newly reopened Northgate Mall was awesome, and the Tahoe trip was great and all the various dinners and beach trips were fun too. Heather really should write this post to do them justice because the other thing I remember most was watching the clinching game of the World Series with Dan (and any excuse to write World Champion San Francisco Giants is appropriate) and the great time we had while he was sharing our house. The opposite feeling was when they delivered the news that they were going to have to move to Spokane.

At Meat's Birthday party just before they left town (in covered wagons in the middle of the night, or so it seemed) there was a pinata. I love pinatas with two and three year-olds. And Dan, who is a trades man set up the most elaborate system of pulleys and levers and ropes for the pinata to swing from that it looked like the Cirque du Soleil was coming to town. I half expected Jack Sparrow to swoop down or something, I mean how about mixing in a tree and some rope?

Anyway, there they were, lined up like little garden gnomes, about seven kids, all ready to have their crack at the floating, stuffed box o goodies. All dressed in their summer outfits, perfectly patient little angels, waiting their turn. Each parent prouder than the other for the perfection of manners each ensuing kid displayed, proving they above all were the best parent. Smiling little, dainty little, perfect little angels, all, ready to whack the head off this thing.

Madi went first, and she took the stick and poked and prodded and jabbed for a bit and all the kids followed in turn, taking gentle polite swings. Hunter was at the back of the line, getting more and more anxious as each kid flailed. And Dan, ever the maestro, was egging the kids on saying, things like, wow no one can do it, it's too hard. Hunter from the back, I can do it. When it was finally his his turn, gently, up he stepped with great reverence and respect for the moment as he slowly approached the big white box dancing in front him. So peaceful, an angel itself as it glided gracefully through the air with dove-like peace. It seemed to even pause for a moment as if being worshiped from the heavens.


The sound of his swing was so ferocious and it rang like the thunder of Thor as each hit tore more paper apart. I could not stop from laughing. WHACK!WHACK! I am probably exaggerating when I say I imagined the scene from The Natural where Roy Hobbes breaks the scoreboard and the shattered lights rained down because I did not really have to imagine it. In my head that is what I was seeing.

And for Hunter's birthday a few months later, when, sadly, Madi and Ashley and Meat had moved away but Dan was still in town, we had a repeat performance. Although this time Heather had emptied Costco, Target and The Party Store of all of their candy and little toys and swollen this pinata so full we needed a dolly to lift it.

Let me tell you though, Dan was so happy to have to hang this thing, he took to it like it was his Moby Dick, and that was probably because it was heavier than Moby Dick. You never know how much candy twelve kids are going to want, so you may as well have little extra... anyway you woulda thought Dan was rigging the Globe Theater for all the rope and wires and twine and pulleys, it was like the Ringling Brothers had exploded on our front yard.

Anyway, it was fun. The only thing I remember more vividly was a dinner were having at our house before they moved. Things were crazy, and loud as they will be in a small house with three little kids and a dog running around. We were sitting down for dinner and Hunter was not yet three, but he knew how to play a crowd. The din and constant hecticness were normal but noticeable. He rushed through his dinner so he could have a dessert, classic move, and sat quietly content for a moment or two. Then in one of those normal lulls at a dinner table like this where everyone pauses to chew at the same moment, he raised his pudding pop and said- man I am eating the crap out of this. Of course we all laughed, so it is no wonder where his manners come from.

Sadly though they did have to move on, but Dan stayed with us long enough to witness the crowning of the World Champion San Francisco Giants (told you) and he was the perfect house guest, aside from some crude fantasy football moves. And Hunter really enjoyed having him over. They would play football together and Dan would ride bikes with him, help Heather around the house and generally treat Hunter like his own son and for that we will always be grateful. He cooked lemon chicken, fixed a bunch of broken stuff and then, poof. Gone.

We will miss the Crowleys but their mark has been indelibly left on our family. From his odd microwave recipes for the Trader Joe's mango desserts, Madi's playing with Hun'nah to Ashley's take some of the pressure off by helping Heather, to generally providing a warm and welcoming kindness to our family, they will be missed. If they were really ever here, that is.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Giants Win the Penant (...)!

It only seems like the wait between posts has lasted longer than the Giant's World Series drought, and, incredibly, both streaks are over!

There is so much to say since the last post, Hunter started school, left school, found another school, some minors were trapped and freed and the Giants won the World Series. Did I say that yet?

We all know how big a Giant's fan I am, I even got so caught up in the frenzy of all the band-wagoners that I felt a little cramped in the train, people asking me how long I had been a Giants fan, or how many games had I been to? I began to get mad. That is like asking how long I have had black hair (of course, my students will say not for much longer, but that is a different story) and I was often annoyed at people for joining the fad, as if they could just slip on a black and orange hat and wear it like a yellow bracelet and live strong with 35 million others. So when I think back to last month, I remember my favorite moment very clearly. I was proud and I wanted to claim some sort of credit, or at least wear a badge showing how long I had suffered.

My entire lifetime the Giants went without winning, and blindly I followed because I was raised to care that way. My poor dad was such a suffering fan, that he had proudly come to live by the motto which states "all I ask is for meaningful games in September." In other words they have been so bad he only hope for mediocrity. So it was with great pride of knowing a familial wish had been fulfilled, as one of my dad's greatest dreams had been accomplished, so too were mine. And it was this pride that I too had a moment of fatherly pride fulfilled.

It was the moment Hunter learned to ride a two-wheeler. Now, I know you may think this has very little to do with the Giants, hang with me. Remember I was consumed, I mean this was the culmination of a life's passion. I was lucky enough to go to four of the games, imploring Heather that this is a once in a lifetime event. One of the games I went to was game 2 of the World Series, (the YouTube link has too much swearing so imagine this in Jack Nicholson's voice for all you movie buffs) -- we're talking about the World Series-- and the celebration the ensued lasted for hours in the streets as it could only in San Francisco. People were lingering around the park breaking into random group hugs, or quietly joyously crying together. It was intense, moments I will always cherish. And it was punctuated by Hunter.

Or should I say I was so emboldened by the Giants accomplishing the impossible, I hubristically pushed Hunter beyond the bounds of his family name.

In case you have not heard, Hunter likes to play outside. And so I play outside. And I noticed when he would ride his bike down our little street on his little Thomas the Train bike (I know it makes no sense, a ride-able train perhaps, but a bike just seems like shameless advertisement). So, anyway, down the street he go like the Little Engine That Could- or, listing to the side like a boat fighting the wind more accurately- and he would go maybe twenty thirty yards without his training wheels hitting the ground.

We have another bike with no training wheels so I convinced him to try that for like ten feet and he got off for the day. The next day, the same thing with his mom. The third day, was the day I came I home from the Giant's parade. Still euphoric from the historic event, I decided to take the training wheels off the Thomas bike. He is just barely three so it was a bit risky and I then I had a couple of flashbacks.

I remember when I learned how to ride my bike I was like 8 or 19 or something and I went with my dad and a buddy and his dad to my high school. We learned to ride together but it took lots of lumps and I was way too old to not know how to ride a bike. The fact that we lived on a steep hill was no excuse.

Of course, that is nothing like the time when I was like 6 and I tried to "learn" how to ride a skateboard by myself so I sneaked my brothers. It was about about 4 inches wide with a slippery, wobbly metal deck but I mounted it and considered bombing that same steep hill anyway. I sat cautiously at the top of hill girding myself, eventually paying no heed to the speed bumps or how far they might launch me. I stared down the hill, choosing my route carefully. The old mountain road was barely wide for a car and had a severe cliff on the right hand side. With a deep breathe of defiance I pushed off. Immediately I was flying like Superman! Flying down the hill, that is, until I bounced into a ditch. The board had almost immediately flown out from under me and went careening completely off the cliff, sending me yard sailing across the road and into that ditch which was covered with poison oak but not until I bounded like a super ball three or four times. That was me, and this is my son, so I had these thoughts while I was holding onto his shirt as he pedaled so ferociously I had to run behind him.

It took him about fifteen feet before I let go and he took off. And there is no looking back. I wish he would look back more because as he speeds by yelling I'm Faster Than You I wonder if he can see into my memories and know that he really is faster than me.

I should not be surprised because one day he saw one of those Razor scooters and tried to ride it and did not seem to like it. It was a Thursday. On Friday he went with my parents to Tahoe and found his cousin's old Razor. When I talked to him that day he had been out riding the scooter all day and could do moves. Need I remind you of my first day on a skateboard?

He was doing wheelies on the first day, and the joy on his face was matched only by his dad's face, on well... pretty much that whole week. That has to be one of the greatest weeks of my life.

Actually, one of the great parts about living where we live is that there is a bunch of kids on our little street. Hunter loves playing with neighbor Jacob and there is another litttle boy up the street and they ride around at night in their own little biker gang, the Blinking Light Boys as they are sometimes called. Because they started riding as a group just in the last month or so, it is dark when they ride, so I hooked them all up with little blinking bike lights so the cars could see them. Pretty cute.

There seems to be no stopping him physically. I hope to teach him to ski starting this week. Every time I ask him if he wants to learn how ski, he snarls at me and says "I already know how, dad." So my job should be pretty easy.

Certainly it will happen before the Giants win another World Series. That can't be a once in a lifetime event, can it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Like the flakes before a snow storm, winter is gently settling in. It is during this time, with holidays approaching, when I tend to romanticize winter, and glorify it the way we all do. Like Bob Cratchit did. Before things went Scroogie. You know, a stocking covered hearth, basking in the warm glow of a fire, frosted windows, family cheer humming in the background ... (Ok fine it is San Francisco and October is the nicest month of the year here.) But I can still dream of my own idyllic, Dickensian style winter, it is my Blog after all.

So here I am on a chilly November night, cooking up a holiday turkey of my own... And so...With a warm cup of cocoa I sit --under my own warm pad of a hot laptop basking in the glow of the dimly lit computer screen (like so many burnt embers) alighted only by its blue-whitish hue, fogging the windows, with just the faintest hint of a humming hard-drive spinning in the back ground-- looking forward to another Christmas, which if Halloween is any indication, will be the first Christmas Hunter truly understands and enjoys.

As he gets older, it is imperative we set in the family values and traditions. Like so many families we are spread out and have to create new traditions where others used to prevail. We are lucky, despite the distance, this will be Hunter's second Thanksgiving with Rayne Droplet's family, for which we are grateful.

In fact, we are looking forward to another upcoming trip where Hunter can re-experience some great traditions at the Pattersons. Wonderful holiday traditions, these, and of course the food is fantastic where Rayne Droplet's favorite stuffing is a family jewel and there is no substitute for enjoying the warmth and comfort of home. There are other more subtle traditions, from the lighting of Christmas bushes, to putting up house lights, grace before dinner; really there are too many traditions to number, like so many wreaths passed down an attic latter. Last year he pushed boxes around the garage but this year I think he will remember his trip and burn an indelible image. Thus, I am also looking forward to Christmas this year for the same reasons really, or perhaps, I think, because he will have his cousins to share the day and learn traditions from. Christmas as a kid should be enjoyed with kids. This is how I did it and so it feels right to continue the tradition.

All it takes is one second to see Hunter with his cousins and it is clear how much they adore each other and how important it is for him to have that connection. Even though they are older than he is, they seem to genuinely enjoy his being around. And now that he is getting older he can really play with them.

Over the summer we had a great time in Tahoe with Hunter and Maggie. She was great. Maybe because she could boss him around and he would listen, or maybe because they can play with sort of the same toys but she was a rock-star. They played golf together, walked the dogs, went to the beach, played Legos, all these great, simple things that make a child's life so enjoyable.

And as for Big Cousin Blake, well that is a different kind of relationship. Wonderful. But different. I remember one time we made our way over to the Profile Chamber in Lake Tahoe. It's one of Blake's favorite places where you can look at fish and wild life in a wonderful little preserve. Hunter loves looking at animals, as his Gramma Cindy will tell you, evidenced by their weekly pet store excursions, just to look. Anyway, once we got to the profile chamber it was a blur. A crazed whirl-wind really, as the cousins were sprinting to show Hunter all of the fun elements of the Chamber. Look Hunter a bat! Or, Over here, check out this bear! And even, Don't worry those teeth wont hurt you, just climb right inside that mouth...

Poor Hunter, who was barely a year and half old, was trying to keep up, and not be scared, but he really was overwhelmed. Something about the fish calmed him as he genuinely seems to like fish. At some point, his cousins became distracted and wandered away, leaving Hunter by the window on a feux cliff pondering the creek and its fish. Other kids had now ventured in, adding to the distraction and hysteria.

Hunter could not keep up or get his cousins' attention. So he stood there for a second, coiled up his little face and yelled over the top, BLAKE! LOOK! BIG FISH! The whole place paused, hesitantly inhaling long enough to turn see Hunter pointing at these tiny fish swimming by before moving on...

He has done so much growing since that time. At that point he was painfully shy. He would barely even look at people and even then it was just to check if they were his momma or not. Mall Santa made him cry, for goodness sakes. Now I think of him at this just past Halloween, just two weeks ago. We went to a pumpkin patch and he wanted to go down the huge slide all by himself. Up and down he went.

His mom prepped him for the day's activities and we went to his cousin's house for the annual pumpkin carving
extravangza/excusetohaveabeerintheearlyafternoon before the evening's main event at his friend's house.

When it came time to trick or treat, I did not know what to expect. He had been practicing saying "trick or treat" for a couple weeks, but who knows how it will actually transpire? Lately he has developed an extreme sensitivity to odd noises, "scary things" (I had to turn off the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin episode when Patty dressed up in her in witch's costume) and general darkness. It is only Halloween after all, obviously none of the these things will be an issue on this hallowed night...

And yet there he was. When he heard it was time to go he rounded up all the toddlers and their parents and almost pushed everyone out the door. The evening night was awash of strollers, plastic Elmo candy holders and toddlers. Of course we forgot our stroller, so Hunter had to walk. Well, I should not say walk so much as ebulliently, bounding and bouncing down the street, looking as if he forgot he was dressed as a Giraffe, he hopped on down the road like a Kangaroo.

The first house he saw, he literally sprinted across the street. We were supposed to walking a bit down the road, bring a traveling band of Princesses and Pirates with us, but he could not wait. Up he walked, right to the front door, pushed the button and opened his little bag. When the person smilingly answered, he said trick or treat! and got his candy and moved on. Just like he had done it a thousand times before. Mom and dad were proud.

My favorite moment was we when went to this particularly busy street where many of the houses go Grisswald with the decorations and this one house had a talking mummy right by the door that was scaring even adults. When Hunter saw it I had to pick him up as he was genuinely scared, and was loudly fussing to leave for fear. At that same moment it was time for him to get his candy, as I picked him up to leave I turned slightly so my left hand- holding a red plastic cup for, um, water- was facing her. Ignoring the crying baby, she proceeded to plop the candy in my half-full cup and obliviously began chucking candy at toddlers who were all freaked out by her mummy.

Classic. I mean, everyone knows what goes in those red plastic cups...

So with Christmas fast approaching and fall upon us, I do get a little whimsical and sappy about family traditions. I remember the loud bilingual gatherings of my youth, my grandma and her sisters fighting, Carmelita's impossible to replicate empanadas, cousins I did not really know and those I loved. Now, I have a reputation to uphold about being salty on all occasions, but large family gatherings are a part of the fabric of my rearing and I hope to instill in Hunter his own little modern Dickens story, completed by the warm glow of a blue hued computer screen.

And a smile.