2007-02-27

Date Night With Dad

Tuesdays have become my childrens' date night with me. We have been bowling the past few weeks, which I haven't done in a long while. Being a father isn't complex. From what I can tell all it takes is love. But it isn't easy because it takes a whole lot of it. It's easier to give excuses, and when you're a single parent you have a lot of them, man or woman.

Being there is what counts. They are my zen. Time to pick them up and make time stand still, creating moments that will last forever. I learned how to do this when my parents took in a foster kid I didn't want them to.

Another story for another time....but thanks Mom and Dad for showing me I was wrong then, so I can be right now for my children.

Real Teaching

Really teaching is really caring.


Caring enough to make them struggle.

Caring enough to make them succeed.

Caring enough by one student to take a picture of my really cool shirt given to me by a really cool friend.




Harry Connick Jr - WOW!

Last night I went to my first Harry Connick Jr concert at the Bob Carr.
He brought his New Orleans World Tour here to Orlando. All I have to say is WOW! It was a sold out, standing encore night that will affect the rest of my life.


I've seen many different artists, amazing singers like Andrea Boccelli,
Yanni,
Luis Miguel, and others who gave incredible performances here or in Miami that have left me inspired and affected. But this guy, this guy is so unique; so talented, so romantic, fun,
and playful. I'm actually upset with myself that I've lived 1/3 rd of my life without having seen him (I plan on living till I'm 120 - too much living to do :-)


I was planning on taking my 12 year old daughter, Cristina, until I realized it would keep her out too late during state-testing week. I told her we'd go see him when he was in Italy (a country she wants to see), and I can tell I will give her this experience. So my date and I had an incredible time tapping our fingers and moving our feet and laughing along with this Harry guy from New Orleans.

I was able to contact all the actors from Will & Grace and get them to send a signed picture to my students to inspire them to Dream Big. Harry Connick Jr. was on their show for awhile so I'm excited to get him to do the same, powerfully empowering my students and children in the possibilities of what they can become by surrounding them with people that have become their biggest selves..

More later.......

2007-02-26

One is All it Takes - Take Two

Due to the kind and insightful comment from a reader I have changed part of the original post. See the part highlighted in green below..

I only have one son, and this one son has turned out to be as wonderful as having ten. I can't explain it, and believe it or not, I can't put into words how much I knew I would love him as I watched him grow inside his mother's belly. It's as if we've been together many lifetimes before this one; the sense of peace and camaraderie is so soothing to my soul.

This morning while at his sister's cheer banquet we raced to see who could find the most words on the word search. One is all it takes to find happiness, find fun, find new memories to make, one moment at a time.

*Last night I took a break from writing my paper for grad school by laying down with him for a quick second. He was lying in my bed and wanted me to watch a movie with him. I asked him what I should do about the promise I made to my professor to have my already-late paper done the night before (baseball games Friday night and Saturday morning, who-knows-what that afternoon but we did it together).

He said "OK". I asked him if he knew he was more important to me than getting my masters (which is VERY important to me). He said he did know. I said "really? Do you really know that?" He took my face in his hands and said "Yes, Dad, I really know that." He wrapped his arms around my neck, told me he loved me, then said "Now get back to work" as he patted me on the back.

It took me until 3am to finish but at least I know my son knows how important he is to me, and is not spoiled by it or takes it for granted (which is what women seem to do. The more you cover them in love the more spoiled they become.....another story but an answer to why I'm still single). ***Thanks to the comment of a reader I have already changed this declaration to a much more positive and empowering: "which is what SOME women seem to do". Who knows? Perhaps this is what I needed to learn to trust again? (CLICK HERE to go to the original post and read the "comments" to see why I've changed my thinking on this).

"When we are young and covered in love, we completely believe we are gifts from above." - Me (from "The Artist in You". CLICK HERE to read it.

Understanding the Enemies


"Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding." -Gandhi
Click here to go to my students interpretations of what Black History Month means to them.

2007-02-25

Pictures Around (and Above) the Tree





The race to play




And guiding along the way











Writing the story down below....

...and
recording the kids' conversations as it goes













One is All it Takes

I only have one son, and this one son has turned out to be as wonderful as having ten. I can't explain it, and believe it or not, I can't put into words how much I knew I would love him as I watched him grow inside his mother's belly. It's as if we've been together many lifetimes before this one; the sense of peace and camaraderie is so soothing to my soul.


This morning while at his sister's cheer banquet we raced to see who could find the most words on the word search. One is all it takes to find happiness, find fun, find new memories to make, one moment at a time.

*Last night I took a break from writing my paper for grad school by laying down with him for a quick second. He was lying in my bed and wanted me to watch a movie with him. I asked him what I should do about the promise I made to my professor to have my already-late paper done the night before (baseball games Friday night and Saturday morning, who-knows-what that afternoon but we did it together).

He said "OK". I asked him if he knew he was more important to me than getting my masters (which is VERY important to me). He said he did know. I said "really? Do you really know that?" He took my face in his hands and said "Yes, Dad, I really know that." He wrapped his arms around my neck, told me he loved me, then said "Now get back to work" as he patted me on the back.

It took me until 3am to finish but at least I know my son knows how important he is to me, and is not spoiled by it or takes it for granted (which is what women seem to do. The more you cover them in love the more spoiled they become.....another story but an answer to why I'm still single).

"When we are young and covered in love, we completely believe we are gifts from above." - Me (from "The Artist in You". Click here to read it.

Thank You Buscha and Grandpa!

Sofia receiving her birthday card from the mailbox. She's still at the age where she treasures the act of giving most of all. Thank you Mom and Dad for making her feel special. (btw Buscha is our Polish word for "grandma")

Mom, "BTW" = "By The Way". My mother is Polish so I have to explain things to her, sometimes very slowly. Actually she's brilliant which is where my creativity must come from. From my father I get my rugged good looks :-)

Anyway, how's the weather up North? Nice and cold? Snowy? Freezing? Awhhhhhh. The kids and I feel so bad..... Move down here. You like me the best anyway out of my brother and sisters. (Oh, shhhh...not suppossed to tell. Right ;-)

I guess Sofia took this shot. I liked it so much I wanted to share (share this clear blue sky, sunny, so pretty, so very, very pretty......"Move to Florida.....Move to Florida...."

2007-02-24

Once Upon a Tree

This is a draft of the first chapters of a book series I'm working on called "Once Upon a Tree". The very cool thing about this is that I get my ideas from watching the characters, my own children, play on a real tree, which is where we're headed now. I live near the historic district in Downtown Orlando, and this tree is in a park within walking distance from my home. (Sofia picked a flower for me but wouldn't let me smell it)

From my days in business I remember someone telling me to find someone who has what you want, do what they did, and you'll get what they got. C.S. Lewis, the author of the "Chronicles of Narnia" books, is one of these people for me.

Doing research, I found out that "During the Second World War, when children from London were being evacuated to the country, four youngsters were billeted at Jack's home, the Kilns. Surprised to find how few imaginative stories his young guests seemed to know, he decided to write one for them and scribbled down the opening sentences of a story about four children -- then named Ann, Martin, Rose and Peter -- who were sent away from London because of the air raids, and went to stay with a very old professor who lived by himself in the country.

That's all he wrote at the time (he was 41 years old), but, several years later (at age 51), he returned to the story. The children (now named Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy) found their way into another world -- a land he would eventually call Narnia
."

I got the idea for my own series based on teaching inner-city children who were two and three grades below grade level, hoping to bridge the learning gap for them. But the chances of anyone writing something so great for its readers that it becomes as world-famous as The Chronicles aren't great. The C.S. Lewis' and J.K. Rowlings' (Harry Potter), Shakespeare's, Twain's and Poe's come once in a lifetime.

But so what if the chances aren't great. All we need is one. And that one chance for me comes every time I open my eyes in the morning and realize I've been given one more day to live.

They were/are everyday people just like you and me, only with non-everyday dreams. If they could do it, so can I. Whatever you do, do it big; loving, dreaming, playing, learning, and writing. It was in teaching these inner city children that my "Dream Big, Do Big, Be Big" class motto came to me four years ago.

The most important thing is that together my children and I are creating something that will last forever in our lives, and it is being created out of my children's personalities and their father's imagination. Enjoy reading the story they've given me so far, while we go play and write some more. (I think I had to give her a kiss before she let me smell the flower)

Bella just sent Sofia up to tell me we had to go to the tree. After reading what I wrote for the first time, Bella told me in no uncertain terms that she isn't bossy; so now she's ordered Sofia to come and get me. Here she's practicing martial arts with her older sister's jujitsu belt. I think my own daughter is sending a warning to be careful what I write in the future about her.


Chapter One

“Where’s Drozden?”

“Bella, where’s Drozden?” Sofia asked. Her older sister smiled. She didn’t expect her four-year-old little sister to call her by her full name, which was Iszabella-Esperanza. In fact, nobody did. Everyone just called her Bella. Sofia couldn’t even say her brother’s name yet, which was “Brosden”, with a “b”. How in the world could she be expected to pronounce “Iszabella-Esperanza”?

“He’s up in the tree, Sofia” Bella said impatiently to her younger sister.

“No he’s naught”, Sofia responded, drawing out the vowel in the last word, which Bella, age eight, found annoying.

Sofia, he’s right there!” pointing at the branches above their heads without looking. Her little sister annoyed Bella a lot and this was beginning to be one of those times.

Looking up and slowly turning her head in all directions, Sofia finally looked back at her sister and said, “No he’s naughtttttttt”.

Bella looked up, expecting to see her brother hanging upside down from a branch, covering his mouth to control his laughter. Her brother, age ten, lived to play and laugh, and was always up to something. But this time he wasn’t there…..


Chapter Two

“Just a Big Old Tree”

Now the tree the girls were talking about wasn’t any ordinary tree. True, it was an old and big tree in a park just down the street from their father’s house. But it was more than “just a big old tree Dad wants to show us”, as Brosden said to Sofia, helping put on her shoes to see the tree for the first time. Little did they know the surprise they were in for, as this turned out to be a really, Really, REALLY OLD and BIG tree....with a magical and mysterious secret.

It was so old and big that Sofia said it looked like it grew all the way to the sky. Brosden ran from where the branches spread out on one end all the way to where they stopped on the other end, gasping for breath. And Bella sat back in amazement as the tree’s branches looked like giant fingers reaching all the way back to the ground.

“Dad, are we allowed to climb on this tree?” Bella asked.

“What else is a tree for?” her father said smiling as he watched his three children race from where they were and begin scrambling up the welcoming fingers of the branches. This is a sight he would often see as he would sit underneath the tree working on his stories while his children played above his head.


Chapter Three

“The First Scroll”

“Brosden! Where are you?” Bella called out, shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun as she scanned the branches for signs of her brother.

“Drozden, wear are yooh?” Sofia repeated, and covering her eyes completely while starting to count, thinking they were playing hide-and-seek.

“It’s Brosden, 'bah..bah'...Brosden, Sofia, with a 'B', not a 'D', and stop counting. Brosden, come out right now!” Although younger than her brother, Bella tended to be a little bossy.

“Drozden, wear are yooh??? Come out white now!” Sofia said imitating her sister.

Sofia it’s….oh forget it.” Bella said exasperated. “Come on, let’s go find him. Give me your hand.”

As Bella carefully walked her little sister up one of the huge branches, they could see the dirty tennis shoe of their older brother. “Brosden, why didn’t you answer us?”, Bella demanded. Her brother didn’t answer, but just sat there reading an ancient looking piece of paper. This alarmed Bella more than thinking her brother might have fallen out of the tree, because her brother never read unless Dad made him.

“Brosden, what are you reading?”

“I’m not sure” her brother replied. “I was hiding from you guys when I reached in this hole I’ve never seen before. I felt this rolled up inside.”

“Let me see!” Bella said as she snatched the piece of paper from her brother’s hands. “It’s a scroll!” she declared excitedly.

“A what?” asked Brosden.

“It’s a droll Drozden” Sofia tried to explain to her brother. “Bella, what’s a droll?”

“A scroll Sofia, ‘sc’..roll. It's a very old piece of writing.”

“What does it say?” asked Sofia innocently.


Chapter 4

"The Riddle of Curses and Traps"

Even though his sister had the piece of paper, Brosden answered Sofia’s question by repeating the writing on the scroll word-for-word. He was very bright when he focused and applied himself. What he read had made him totally focused:

This tomb is protected
With curses and traps

Geometric
figures
Are your only map

Step with care
If you dare

Of
similar shapes
Be very aware

The floor will hold
Only those
smart and bold

Avoid congruent shapes
And your path will be gold

“What does that mean?” Bella thought out loud.

“What’s a domb?” Sofia asked.

“Tomb, tah..tah..tomb Sofia” both Brosden and Bella responded in unison.

“It’s a …..” but before Bella could finish, the mysterious hole in the tree above her brother’s head was widening, getting larger and larger. Before the three children could move, the branch they were on lifted them up and slid them into the hole……

"America" Begins Again

There are so many different things that make America what it is. Baseball is one of them. Last night it started again for the Stuart family. Opening Ceremonies were held, with Brosden leading off the relay race around the bases for his team. "Wild Thing", his team nickname, is a speedster.

It was great seeing the excitement on the faces of the kids, who were happy just to be there and enthused with the idea that "this season is the one their team wins it all". The next few months are filled with opportunity for coaches, teammates and parents to instill positive and very powerful beliefs in their heads. Beliefs that will help them live confidently, successfully and happily as adults.

It was also great catching up with other parents, watching younger siblings run around us, and realizing we're standing smack dab in the middle of an important part of American culture. "America" was happening, right now, as was America's future.

Right now, in my own little America, an animated discussion is happening downstairs. Brosden and Bella are telling Sofia that she can't take all the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms. Sofia is telling them that she can.......

....I just came back. Sofia proved to be right, because she's done it, taking them all out and eating them up.

She and Bella have also changed their brother's team from the Orioles to the Oreos, "because Oreos are so delicious".