Graduation Time

How many of my friends have kids graduating this week?

JKE elementary graduation ceremony 2019. dances, certificates, speeches and videos.
The tropical-theme graduation event at the elementary school.

Everyone knows kids grow up to fast, but there are events that hammer those moments home like a Monty Python fish-slap to the face.

Graduation from Elementary school is such an event. It was a big moment for The-Youngest, for sure, and the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I wouldn’t have missed The-Youngest’s graduation ceremony for all the chocolate in Switzerland. In a way, I think it was as much a moment for us as him.

It’s a massive transition from being a kid to becoming an adult.

You can see it in the way the girls dress, many having had their hair professionally done and nearly all wearing nice dresses and make-up (or as one of the boys remarked, they have powder all over their faces!)

The boys, however, mostly remained delightful goobers, more interested in running around, jumping on things and yelling at each other than wearing nice clothes. To be fair, most of their parents dressed them well, most even had their hair combed and a few, just a few, had shaved. This is all before girls become critical to their existence, before career choices must be made in high school and before all those hormones turn them into surly, distant aliens from planet Your-not-the-boss-of-me.

The event had a theme, of course. A tropical theme. There would be baby pictures (so The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World brought extra Kleenex), the teachers would give a few speeches, and at some point, their graduation certificates would be given out. Then there would be a dance. With at least one terrifying slow dance.

Being me, I filmed everything. Being me, I watched how the kids became more and more nervous or excited, unable to sit still or be quiet. Being me, I marveled at how smoothly the whole process went (and yes, they had practiced it before so it WOULD run smoothly).

I didn’t tear up when the baby pictures were shown, a contrast of what they’d looked like 12 years ago vs what they look like now. I didn’t tear up when they had a very cool presentation about camp. I didn’t even tear up when The-Youngest marched up on stage. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had, by now, gone through two Kleenex packages.

What got me, and got me hard, was when he came off the stage and I realized how much he’d grown. Not in height, though he was now racing to be as tall as his mom, but how he was growing into a great adult.

At adult parties, he now stuck out his hand and introduced himself. When confronted with a friend who’d been mean to him, he said, “We’ll make up so that last day can still be special.” He mows a neighbour’s lawn who cannot mow the lawn for herself. He makes sure he’s the best host when his friends come over. He knows when his mom needs a hug, or when she needs a good cuddling.

He’s becoming aware of the world around in him, of how he can impact his world for good or bad, and of what amazing opportunities await him.

That’s when I lost it, big fat, wet tears sliding down my cheeks.

Not sad tears.

They were tears of pride.

Remind me of that when I’m nagging him for 900 hours straight to get his homework done!

Thanks for reading the blog about graduation, and if you like what you read, please call someone, write a letter to a publisher telling them they need to buy my book, or simply follow me here, or on FB here or here.

His First Story

First tooth.
First tooth.

I’ve missed a lot of kid ‘firsts’.

First steps. First tooth. First use of the f-bomb.

But this one I’ve managed to see. Last week, The-Youngest wrote his first story.

He didn’t do it by choice, however. He didn’t sit down and think, my goodness, I need to write a story about an evil brother who constantly tries to scare the bejesus out of his gentle, younger brother. No. He was forced to do it by his arch enemy. The school system.

I remember writing my first story at 9, the same age as The-Youngest. It was called The Invasion of the Mole People –  Blue construction-paper cover, twenty handwritten pages (Jam smears on a few of them), eleven illustrations (all bad).

My parents loved it.  My teachers loved it.  My friends loved it.  I knew, then, that I wanted to be a writer.

Throughout my school years, I continued to write, and by the end of high school, I even attempted my first novel, Starborn, a story about a hunter of rogue androids who doesn’t realize he’s an android.

I received an A in English class and a stack of rejection letters.

Sadly, out of high school, I did not pursue a writing career in any shape or form.  Instead, I chose the very exciting field of accounting.  Oh, the glory, the challenges, the excitement!  But I still kept on writing.

So I was super excited to help The-Youngest out. I mean, damn, this is what I’m trying to do: Write.

Surely he would want my input or want to make use of my vast experience, right?


That moment before you write
That moment before you write

He’d worked himself into a quick tizzy about doing it, and only wanted The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world (AKA his mom) to help him out.

That was heartbreaking. I so wanted to help him out. But he wouldn’t have any of it.

Here’s how the conversation went…

“I can’t write a story.”

Prettiest-girl-in-the-world: “Sure you can, honey, you just have to sit down and start.”

“I can’t, I don’t know what I’m going to write. I’m not a writer.”

“Sure you are. You just have to start at the beginning. What story do you want to tell?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Ok, hold on. Wait. That was the conversation she has with me every time I start to write a story. But The-Youngest’s conversation went pretty much the same way.  Like any writer, he was terrified of that first page. Of no ideas coming forth. Of not being able to tell a story.

But unlike me when I wrote my first story, the schools have done an amazing job in teaching the kids HOW to actually write a story. And he had his mom.

I’ll detail the amazing cool (and super simple ideas the school had for creating a good story) in the next blog, but for now, here’s why the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world is such a great mom.

Her: So what if we tell a minecraft story? About two boys named jinga-jinag and goobermunday.

Mom! What? You can’t have names like that.

Her: No? What should their names be?

*Thinks* Floyd and Florence.

Her: Good names. And what’s happened to them?

I dunno.

Her: What would be the WORST thing to happen to them in minecraft?

The worst?

Her: Yup

Someone stole all their stuff.

Her: Oh, like what?

Diamonds and stuff.

Nothing like a good minecraft story
Nothing like a good minecraft story

Her: Why would someone do that?

They’re bad guys. They like destroying things.

Her: That’s pretty terrible. What are Floyd and Florence going to do?

Then the ideas came fast and furious. They came so fast he couldn’t write them down so she did, scribbling while his mind went this way then that way, then flipped around and raced in a totally new direction. Not once did she say an idea was wrong or silly. She just kept him talking.

Then, like magic, they had a ton of writing on sticky notes and a good story.

The-Youngest got out his laptop and began to type. He typed until he finished the story. In one burst. Like he eats a bag of chips.

Then he proudly printed it out.

I was so excited to read it. It had been so cool to watch the creative story-birthing process, and listen to how the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world help brainstorm the best story possible.

He was proud of himself, too. You could tell.

He’d done what all writer’s do in the end.

He wrote.

All he needed was a muse and despite the fact I hate it couldn’t have been me, The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world did incredibly well.

Next up, a quick peak into how the schools are teaching kids to write.

Spelling Test

Spelling maters
Spelling maters

Oh, the joy of spelling. To be honest, I’m not the best speller in the world. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. It’s why I think that the greatest invention in the world was the spell-checker.

But The-Youngest doesn’t have the luxury of using it, yet. He has to learn to spell the old-fashioned way.

No, ‘not sound it out’ – whoever gave that advice has not read or listened to the English language… spell knight. Sound it out. Nite. No one would ever guess it has a silent k and let’s not even get started on the whole ‘gh’ complexities. Instead, he has to memorize. The REAL old-fashioned way.

But, after getting a 13/18, I decided it was time for me to help out. Kind of like how Hitler helped out Poland, but whatever, I was fully engaged in helping him learn to spell.

Here are the words we had. Amazingly enough, he didn’t actually have to know what they mean. At least he said he didn’t (but then he said the teacher allowed them to eat all the candy they wanted.) So I also decided to use them in a sentence, to, you know, help him understand the words better.

Also. You also have to know how to spell lots of words after also. A-l-s-o.

Him: “I don’t like where this is going.”

Bought. I bought a new game and no one can play it but me. B-o-u-g-h-t.

Him“What? What game? That’s not fair!”

Cough. You have a bad cough, but that doesn’t mean you get to stay home and play video games all day long. C-o-u-g-h.

Him: “I have a cough now, can I miss the spelling test?

Me: “No.”

Almost. You almost had me fooled when you said you ate all your lunch, but you left the apple behind as evidence that you did not. A-l-m-o-s-t.

Him: “Doh.”

False – True or false, you like girls now? F-a-l-s-e.

Him: “False, Joe, False!!!!”

Officer – Officer, I wasn’t speeding, I was checking to see if my speedometer worked past 140kph. O-f-f-i-c-e-r.

Him: “What’s a speedometer?”

I can't drive 65!
I can’t drive 65!

Speedometer. Used to measure speed, but it’s not on the spelling test.

Soft – You hate your eggs when they are soft and runny. S-o-f-t.

Him: “True.”

Stalk – You once ate a stalk of broccoli and threw up on the dog. S-t-a-l-k.

Him: “No I didn’t! It was squash!”

Halt – Before you walk into traffic, halt and have a look around or your mom will never, ever let you walk to school by yourself. H-a-l-t.

Him:“ Joe!!!”

Faucet – Joe, turn off the faucet for the love of God, we don’t want to waste water. F-a-u-c-e-t.

Him: “I hear that a lot, Joe.”

Me: “I know.”

I want to believe
I want to believe

Saucer – Look up in the sky, Mulder, it’s a flying saucer. S-a-u-c-e-r.

Him: “Who’s Mulder?”

Me: OMG!

Caution – You better use caution when you think it may be a good idea to eat your weight in candy. C-a-u-t-i-o-n.

Him: “Hmmm. Joe, could I actually eat my weight in candy?” 

Lawyer – Remember to always ask for a lawyer when you’re arrested. L-a-w-y-e-r.

Him: “Will I ever need a lawyer?”

Me: “You’ll have one on speed dial.”

Him: “Joe!!!!!”

Awesome – It’ll be awesome when you get 18/18 on the spelling test. A-w-e-s-o-m-e.

Him: Joe, did you know I AM pretty awesome most of the time?”

Me: “Yes. Yes, I did.”

Stall – When you park in a handicap stall without a handicap sticker, you’re a douche-bag. S-t-a-l-l.

Him: “Joe, did you just use a bad word?”

Me: “Handicap is not a bad word.”

Him: “That’s not the one I’m talking about.”

Crawl – When you’re too drunk to walk, you can always crawl upstairs to bed. C-r-a-w-l.

Him: “Joe, is this something you’ve done?”

Me: “Uhm, err, no.”

Awful – That dirt you ate because someone dared you to tasted awful, didn’t it? A-w-f-u-l.

Him: “Dirt does taste awful.”

Is stinky bad?
Is stinky bad?

Me: “Thus speaketh the voice of experience.”

Because – Take a shower just because you’re stinky. B-e-c-a-u-s-e.

Him: “Hey!!!”

After we reviewed the words, it was time to practice for realzies. We took out a bag of M&Ms. We emptied them on the table. For every one he got right, he got one. For every one he got wrong, I got one.

After the first run through, I had eaten 8.


This could be the best game ever!

After the 2nd try, I had 4. For me, this was not going in a good direction, but at least he was beginning to nail the word ‘caution’.

The hardest word turned out to be faucet. I mean, look at cough. Why not spell it ghousit? I got to eat about 10 more candies before he finally got that last one consistently right .

But he was ready for the test.

And, on Friday, he got 18/18.

Awesome. A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Awesome.

He got to eat a whole bag of M&Ms by himself.





And the Band Played Ball of Confusion

And the Band Played Ball of Confusion

Ok, so just because school is out doesn’t mean that there aren’t stories still to be told. This one was from early June. 

bunniesGoing to a school band concert is like drowning in bunnies or being beaten with butterfly wings. It’s super cute and super painful.

At least at the grade 6/7 level.

However, I think there is a correlation between the competence and cuteness factors. The cuter it is, like say watching kindergarten kids perform a play dressed up as trees, faeries and dancing moons, the more likely it is to be a mess.

Maybe that’s part of what makes it so cute. It’s why we go.

I mean who goes to see the Vancouver philharmonic or Guns and Roses because they’re cute?  (though I did see Paul Simon and he was kinda cute.) No, we go cuz they’re professionals and are extremely competent.

Not so much for a school band concert. A French horn could randomly pipe in with no warning. Someone could drop the cymbals, (someone always seems to drop the cymbals).  A violinist could sneeze. A flutist could be staring up at the ceiling, thinking deep thoughts about what they’re going to have for supper and completely forget to play for a whole song.

Yup, I’ve seen all those things.

Oh sure, some of the kids even know when they’ve buggered up something. They roll their eyes at themselves as they squeak out a banshee-like sound on their cello. They look horrified when they blow the wrong note out of their trumpet. Their earnest, little faces strain as they try to follow the conductor while the tuba guy beside them booms out his tune.

But it’s all very cute.

So let me tell you about the last concert of the year.

It all starts at the start, which is, perhaps, where most things start. They shuffle in pretty much all looking like they’d rather be taking a math quiz. The parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts, friends and fellow classmates are all seated, quietly waiting for the concert to begin – ok, sometimes not so quietly, (and I’m not talking about the kindergarten kids making fart noises.)

IMG_4439Then the conductor, the teacher, comes to stand in front of them. A hundred iphones and video recorders are turned on and pointed in his direction. He explains what they’re about to play which is awesome because once they start, it can sometimes be hard to tell.

The kids behind him shift nervously in their seats. Only one kid looks confident and I’m pretty sure he’s got gas or something. I’m there to cheer on the oldest boy in my new family who’s playing a trumpet in the back row, sitting beside a girl who, I’m pretty sure, has a crush on him. He has the thousand yard stare of a war-scarred vet about to go into one last battle. Then he sees me and waves.

I wave my iphone back at him.

Then the conductor raises his baton and they begin.

I brace myself for a horrific cacophony of sound. When I went to my first concert at the beginning of the year, it was so painful as to actually be painful. But hey, the kids were just starting out – many trying their instruments for the first time – so painful was kind of expected.

But much to my surprise, this time they mostly hit their notes, and their timing is more or less spot on.

I’m not a music guy so I have no idea how hard this really is, but having heard the first attempts earlier in the year, it’s gotta be dead hard.

IMG_0020 (9)I mean, hey, I sat a few feet from him while he practiced and practiced and practiced.  After a while, I have to confess, I kind of mostly drowned it out. For my sanity. But when I did listen, I could tell he was getting better. Bit by bit.

However, sitting in the gym at the last concert, I am stunned at how far everyone has come in under a year. Really stunned.

They’re not bad at all.

And you can see their confidence build as they progress into the concert. No one has poked anyone in the eye with a violin bow. No one has decided it was more important to tie a shoe than play a note. No one looks on the verge of tears.

They play their hearts out. It’s not perfect. But it’s a perfect balance between cute and competence. At the end, you could see on their faces how proud they were at what they’d done.

applaudsThe audience applauds thunderously. Mozart rolls over in his grave. I give the oldest the thumbs up.

It is the perfect balance of cute and competent.

And a perfect reward to a year of listening to the oldest practice his trumpet three feet from my ears.