365 DAYS OF SIX


Welcome to a year-long venture documenting my experiences with my daughter as she makes her way through age six.  Each day contains a short entry about a particular moment, event or observation. I hope you enjoy what you read and get to know us better along the way.

Wednesday May 18, 2011

Cupcakes & Talking Peanuts

The main mission of the morning: delivering 18 decorated cupcakes to Aidan’s teacher for my girl’s birthday celebration in the classroom today. I felt a bit like a military leader developing a strategy to get these petite and vulnerable treats to their destination. I carefully placed the two plastic containers inside a cardboard box, and once we were at school, I walked the box into the school and handed it off to Aidan. I watched with some anxiety as she slowly made her way down the hall to her classroom. I held my breath, wondering if someone would bump into her. But she was fine, and the 18 little cupcakes made it safely to her classroom.

Her birthday dinner at Texas Roadhouse introduced us to talking peanuts. Okay, they didn’t really speak, but we made them talk. The restaurant provides little buckets of peanuts at every table, and I offered some to Aidan. She didn’t seem interested in them. She didn’t seem interested in much. By the time we made it to the restaurant, she had already fallen asleep and had to be woken up. So I employed the peanuts to help me entertain her. I peeled off a piece of the shell and made a peanut look like it had an open mouth and was shouting. Aidan asked me to make the next peanut look like a girl. Using crayons, I gave her long eyelashes and lipstick. The peanut couple seemed very happy. It’s in these times that I feel closest to my daughter as we create something special just for us to enjoy.

Thursday May 19, 2011

Fear & Perfect Pitch

I imagine Aidan is comfortable walking into the school cafeteria. After all, she goes there twice a day first at lunch time and then for an Extended School Day program. But watching her walk in with her classmates to perform during a well-attended PTA meeting seemed very different. She seemed nervous. She had a sad look on her face, and her mother and I could hear her tell another kid that she felt scared. I remember being that age and feeling overwhelmed by a large adult crowd. Once the performance started, she started to relax a bit. After a few songs, she was at ease and looked like she was enjoying herself.

She must be enjoying her year in music classes because it’s one of her strengths academically. I don’t recall liking music class as much when I was in elementary school. So I seized the opportunity to thank her teacher after the PTA performance. She responded with appreciation and explained that Aidan is among just a few students who can hear pitch perfectly. That’s something her mom has recognized for years. As for me, I’m not musically gifted or trained so the news from the music teacher came as especially pleasant to me. Aidan loves to sing and make music, and I’m sure her mother and I will find ways to create musical opportunities for her in the coming years. Learning to play the piano is at the top of the list right now.

Friday May 20, 2011

Focused & Flawless

Behavior marks have been a routine part of the school year, despite repeated attempts to get Aidan to focus and follow directions consistently. But something magical has happened in the last two weeks. No marks! Not a single mark in 10 consecutive school days! I know she’s been working hard at making the necessary changes, and I am so proud of her. It wasn’t that long ago when she came home with more than a dozen marks in one week. I suspect she will get another one before the end of the school year. Hey, I’m realistic. At the same time, I know she’s made significant progress throughout the school year, and we have much to celebrate academically when the year ends on June 9th.

Saturday May 21, 2011

Water & The Dessert

Plans change suddenly sometimes, and today it meant staying home instead of going to Dallas. But the new plan of swimming in the pool was well received by Aidan. She even got to wear a new bathing suit she just got today as a birthday gift from her Aunt Diana and Uncle Lou.  Unlike last year’s pool time, we didn’t bring a floatie. Instead, Aidan’s mom and I took turns teaching her some basic swimming skills. She loves the pool, and I’m confident she will be swimming on her own very soon.

After being immersed in water at the pool for almost two hours, we watched as a severe water shortage created panic in the residents of a town called Dirt in the animated film Rango. At times it felt like the concepts and dialogue were a bit mature for my daughter, but she seeemed to follow the action and enjoy the film as much as her mother and I did. As the closing credits rolled, Aidan seemed reluctant to dance in front of the screen, a routine she always enjoys. For a moment, I realized that her dancing ritual may be coming to an end soon. I know when that happens, I will miss it terribly.

Sunday May 22, 2011

God & Dinosaurs

At church today, the congregation celebrated the accomplishment of the graduating seniors as a major part of the service. Afterwards, over a plate of red velvet cake, Aidan and I chatted about God. She first asked about what God does. I explained how God created us, protect us, and helps us make good decisions in life. She seemed concerned that people don’t talk about God much. I explained that people truly talk about God enough, even when they believe in Him. She said, “I don’t talk about God much, but I believe in Him all the time.”  She continued by saying, “maybe if people talked about Him more often, God would know that people believe in Him.” I could feel my eyes tearing up in that moment.

It’s often hard to imagine her as 18, but the sudden flash forward happened today when her mom and I took her to the Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas. As she dug up and swept off dinosaur bones, and attentively watched a volunteer conduct several chemistry experiments, I imagined my little girl in college, exploring her interests and laying the groundwork for a successful career. But I realize that the real foundation for her future is being built right now.

Monday May 23, 2011

The Summer Shirt

I started the day with major momentum despite a lack of sufficient sleep. The morning ritual began as it always does, before my daughter is even awake. Thanks to new clothes for her birthday, I picked a cute shirt for her to wear today with jeans. It was such a novel shirt, she wasn’t sure how to put it on at first and I had to explain how the ring of fabric she saw goes around her neck. I’m sure this type of shirt has a particular name; I just don’t know it.

When she was ready to go, I snapped a pic of her to post on Facebook. I took a second pic outside with her wearing her new raincoat. With all the stormy weather we’re getting these days, the raincoat is a necessity. I had no idea that the cute shirt was not indispensable today.

I found out when I picked her up at ESD. I noticed she was wearing a High School Musical shirt. How strange, I thought. She explained to me that the cute top was a “SUMMER SHIRT” and not to be worn in school. I paused for a moment and remembered that the worst offense this shirt could’ve committed was daring to be sleeveless. There must be a school policy about sleeveless shirts.  I need to look it up.

If that’s the case, then the shirt to gave her to wear was also inappropriate. I don’t need the school “selling” a Disney franchise to my daughter by way of extra garments in the nurse’s office. Besides, if anyone had bothered to check her backpack, they would’ve realized that she had a change of clothes in there. It’s the same full set of clothing that she’s been taking to school for many weeks, just in case she needed them.

Tuesday May 24, 2011

On Sunday, while at KRLD radio with her mom, I took Aidan into a studio and asked her if she wanted to host a little show. Once the camera started recording her, she began discussing one of her favorite topics: weather. She explained the difference between a tornado watch and a warning. That day, our area was under a watch. Today, Aid experienced everything that comes with a tornado warning.

While she was at school (and her mom was at work), I handled the task of preparing the innermost room of her mom’s apartment for our potential evening stay. It took me an hour to clean out her walk-in closet but I made it as comfortable as possible, even bringing in coloring books for Aidan.

I picked her up from school before 5 pm, and we walked to the apartment she shares with her mom’s apartment. We felt strong breeezes sweep past us as teh sky grew a bit darker. Once her mom got home, I made fettucine for all of us, and we ate quickly as her mom and I kept an eye on the radar. The line of storms was approaching quickly. But I had time, it seemed, to drive to CVS and pick up some wine and ice cream. By the time I got back, I heard tornado sirens and I quickly went inside.

Aidan and her mom were already in the closet with the puppy, Catahoula. Did I mention the air conditioner wasn’t working? It was a hot and cramped experience, but Aid seemed to handle it well. She was a bit stressed at first but she settled in nicely.

Naturally she had a lot of questions during the evening, mostly about what we would do if the walls or ceiling collapsed on us. She needed reassurance that we had a plan, and her mom and I gave her as much as we could.

We listened to her mom’s radio station the whole time, eagerly listening for any news about developments that would affect us. At times we thought we could hear loud, banging sounds outside but mostly we heard nothing but the radio.

The intial warning was extended by another thirty minutes, and by the time it expired at 8:45 pm, we were al ready to get out of there and enjoy some ice cream.

This expired tornado warning brought to you by Dreyer’s Double Fudge Brownie.

Unfortunately, the rest of the night wasn’t as smooth as that ice cream. I drove to my place to pick up a few things and while I was gone, Aid was struggling to sleep. She was still feeling anxiety from the tornado warning, I’m sure, and she was overheating from a lack of AC. Her mom and I took action, opening a window and setting up a fan.

Even without an actual tornado touching down near us, it proved to be a disruptive weather event for us. But I’m proud of how well Aidan handled the experience. She will be even better prepared next time.

Wednesday May 25, 2011

The Case of the Missing Raincoat

Two days ago I sent Aidan to school in her new raincoat. It didn’t come home with her. I assumed she left it in her classroom, but she said she took it to ESD on Monday. So today, I decided to take action.

I walked her into school so I could go to the office to inquire about the missing coat. A woman in the office recommended checking the lost and found box in the cafeteria. It’s hard to imagine so many items were abandoned, but when I started to examine my own situation, it made perfect sense.

If I drop off Aidan at school and her mom picks her up, the risk of losing an item increases. When I drop her off and pick her up, I can instantly see if she has everything I sent with her to school. It’s not strictly a divorced parents issue. It happens in any situation where one parent handles the drop-off and the other parent handles the pick-up.

I didn’t check her bag on Monday to see if the raincoat was in there and she told me on Tuesday that it wasn’t in her classroom. So Wednesday began with a mystery to solve. An important clue came from her teacher: Aidan had the raincoat with her when she arrived at ESD on Monday.

I left a note for ESD in the school office and the mystery was quickly solved later in the day when I arrived at school to pick her up. The coat had been left at ESD and they stored it in a locked closet. No need to pour over numerous details or speculate about potential situations. The coat was back, and we could move on. But I know we’ll have many more mysteries to solve in the future so I’ll keep my pipe and magnifying glass close by.

Thursday May 26, 2011

Sick Day

The infamous tummy ache has stricken Aidan today. It didn’t occur mysteriously. She was complaining about it last evening, and the pains continued throughout the night. Her mom tried to find a remedy, and gave her a relaxing bath as part of her continuous efforts. Nothing seemed to work and the lack of sleep overnight was another good reason to keep her home today.

She slept quite a bit this morning, but as we rolled into the afternoon, Sick Day began to transition into Home School. She’s got math problems to finish and a book to read. She did a few math problems and asked for a break. Since she’s not feeling 100% right now, she’s welcome to as many breaks as she needs, especially since her breaks involve watching the educational programs of PBS Kids. But the homework will get done by 5 pm. I guarantee it.

Friday May 27, 2011

Moments & Memories

When I picked up Aidan at school today, an ESD instructor asked if Aidan would be returning next year. If so, she had a packet for me to take home. But I told her we would be moving to a different school district this summer. It felt bittersweet to say it. Aidan has grown attached to her school, knows so many people and had created such wonderful memories there.

Those memories became a topic of conversation as she and I walked to the apartment complex pool. I mentioned how few days of school she has left and she responded by commenting about how sad she will be to leave her school. I talked about how she would always have the memories of the Kindergarten year. Then, my six year old said:

“I hope I remember my memories when I’m a grown-up.”

Two of her favorite experiences of the school year include a class trip to the nearby park she loves so much and a trip to the Fort Worth Zoo that I chaperoned. Two of my favorite memories are taking her to school on the first day and every single day I carried her home on my shoulders.

If her memories don’t remain vivid as she grows older, her parents will be quick to tell the stories. It reminds me of one of the challenges of being a dad of a little girl right now. I try to be in the moment when I’m with her while holding onto that moment tightly enough to remember it for years to come. Not easy to do!

I’m not the only one looking far ahead. While swimming this evening, Aidan referred to the time when she would have children. I smiled and realized that all these little moments don’t have to be held onto so tightly. They’re already working together to create the future.

Saturday May 28, 2011

Dino Dig Day

Six is sensational! Before the birthday bash in the afternoon, Aidan sang an impromptu song about how she felt.

“I’m better than okay; I’m great.”

She had a great reason to feel that way. Her mom found a terrific company to host the party: Giggly Kids. They filled the game room at the apartment complex office with decorations and games, and gave Aidan and her 7 friends an action-packed 90 minute adventure.

The party started with kids coloring a t-shirt for Aidan, then transitioned to an introductions as each child said his or her name and shared the name of a favorite dinosaur. The teenage hosts from Giggly Kids were terrific young men. They were very engaging and fun, and offered the kids a well-paced flow of games and activities.

The culmination of the party was digging through boxes of sand to find toy dinosaurs.  All the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves, and the parents got to sit back, relax and enjoy watching the kids. All the parents, except me. I was busy taking pics the whole time and capturing as many moments as possible.

The party brought together friends from school with and friends she’s made through her mom’s friends. Some of them she sees every weekday, and some she’s only met a few times. But they all seemed to get along very well. I did find it funny when one of the boys from school asked Aidan if she likes him more than the other boy at the party. Very competitive little fellow! He asked twice, trying to get a clear answer, but Aidan only said, “I don’t care.” That’s my girl.

Aidan’s mom did a spectacular job handling virtually all of the details for this event. She put together the party favor bags, selected terrific decorations, bought the cake, and created a memorable occasion for everyone who attended. But I smiled when she said, “next year’s party will be a sleep-over.”

I’ll try not to look ahead to May 2012. I want to let the memories of this occasion linger a bit longer.

Sunday May 29, 2011

Outer Space and the Weirdo

Aidan and Iwere watching an episode of The Office tonight, and as soon as Dwight came on screen, she said, “he’s a weirdo.” She may have been able to tell just by seeing him or maybe she’s watched the show before. Either way, she was right on the money.

But later, I got tagged with the weirdo name when I was switching the names of Beauty & The Beast. I explained that “beauty” has a beautiul long nose and a lovely furry face while  the face of “beast” is rather plain with a small nose and no fur.

I enjoy creating fictional stories for her on occasion and passing them off as truth, mostly because she is so keen at discerning the difference between what’s real and what’s not. Tonight’s story was about how I met her mother. I explained how we met in space and I saved her life when my family tried to devour her after she landed on my planet. Even though she didn’t believe a word of it, I could tell she was still amused by the story. But she was quick to establish that it was entirely made up; it’s not possible for her mom and dad to have met in space.

That’s not to say her sense of imagination isn’t developing rapidly. She’s also developing an interest in magic, although for now she merely has me look away while she’s doing a trick. I’m sure that’s how all the legendary magicians got started.

Monday May 30, 2011

Fallen Soliders & The Holocaust

With a holiday upon us, and a day off from school, Aidan and I walked from the apartment she shares with her mom to the house I rent a room in to spend most of the day. We brought Catahoula with us so he wouldn’t be alone. Along the way, we stopped to see Aidan’s friend Parker and her mom, Melynda. The visit was well-timed as we were beginning to bake in the heat outside. But the rest of the walk went quickly and we were at my place by midday.

It felt important to explain to Aidan the reason we celebrate Memorial Day. It’s about remembering those who died for our freedom as Americans. Of course, she said she doesn’t remember them. I explained that it’s not about remembering every person’s name. It’s really about remembering and honoring the sacrifices they made. I know she has a better sense of it, even if she doesn’t completely understand the concept yet.

It seems our little conversation about fallen soldiers wouldn’t be our last chat about death today. This evening as I turned on TV, it had been left on PBS during the recording of one of the kids shows. Unfortunately, the program on this evening was about the Holocaust and the first images seen by Aidan and I showed the victims of that atrocity. Rather than quickly change the channel and pretend we didn’t see it, I chose to explain to her that the people she saw died at the hands of evil people during World War II. I went on to tell her that some people are capable of very evil deeds, just as many people choose to perform good deeds and help people. I think that satisfied her curiosity for the moment, but I am sure she will ask again in the days ahead about what she saw.

Tuesday May 31, 2011

Goodbye, May

The final day of Aidan’s birthday month featured several notable moments, including a perfect behavior day at school, an evening swim in the pool, and compliments during my morning chat with Matt & Ang on Mix 96.1 in the midst of their show’s one year anniversary. As Facebook friends, they get to see a lot of pics and videos I post.  I think Ang called Aidan the most adorable child she’s ever seen. I may have to refrain from telling Aid that anytime soon.

It’s fun to share her adventures with people all over the country, but especially with people from back home. Matt asked if we had any plans to come home, and  I mentioned a potential trip in July. He invited me to join them in the studio at that time, and I’m sure it would be terrific to be back in a radio studio on air again. But I think I bringing Aidan with me would be especially memorable for both of us. She’s already so at ease behind the mic.

Wednesday June 1, 2011

The beginning of Hurricane Season coincides with the start of a new schedule for Aidan’s mom. As she begins working later, I will be picking up Aidan every day after school (which lasts just another week) and doing the same once she’s in a summer daycare program. Today’s pick-up involved going to my house and watching Nick Jr. for awhile.

One of her favorite shows on that channel is The Backyardigans. They’re such a musicial little group. I enjoy watching the show with her, especially when I consider how her own musical talents are developing. She often makes up her own songs and music in TV shows and films always catches her attention.

Later in the evening I sang an altered version of the Bonanza theme song:

Bum butter bum butter bum butter bum bum bum bum

Bum butter bum butter bum butter bum bum butter bum bum bum

Silly, yes. But she got the tune. When I played the actual theme song on YouTube, she recognized it right away. Then she asked me to play it several times so she could learn it. We did the same thing with the Indiana Jones theme song. Several weeks ago, I introduced that theme song to her without telling her. So hearing the real theme song seemed like a treat to her, and she asked me to play it a second time.

This summer, we could spend a week focused on the best theme songs from TV shows and films. I know she would love it, and thanks to YouTube it would be easy to do.  Then we can turn our attention to creating a theme song for her.

Thursday June 2, 2011

Baking & Cooling

No, we weren’t making a cake. We were the ones baking as I walked Aidan home from school. As temperatures lingered in the 90s after 5 pm, she got on my shouders for the walk. Thank heaven for 7-11! We stopped there for she could get a strawberry smoothie. By the time we got to the apartment she shares with her mom, we were both overheated and ready for the pool.

I figured we would swim for a little while then she could finish her math homework that’s due on Friday. The short swim turned into a long swim as she made a new little friend (who speaks only Spanish), and later swam with her friend Lane. I played the part of teh shark, swimming underwater to catch the kids. Thank goodness I can hold my breath a long time. They wanted me to be the shark over and over. By the time we left the pool, it was after 8 pm.

Homework would have to wait until the morning. Once we got back, and Bonnie was home, it was dinner time and then Aid opened birthday presents from her Aunt Rhonda and Uncle Eric. Among the gifts were wonderful bracelets and terrific outfits. Her aunts always dress her so nicely.

Friday June 3, 2011

Field Day

The morning demanded a team effort. I got Aidan out of bed at 6:45 am,  plopped her on the couch, and immediately handed her the math homework due today. Thanks to her mom’s guidance, she finished the subtraction problems while I got her clothes ready and packed her bag. If I was her, I would aim to finish homework before it’s due so I’m not confronted by math first thing in the morning.

Since it’s field day, and she is supposed to wear blue, I had her put on a blue demin skirt and her blue Justin Bieber t-shirt. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the teacher had in mind when she chose colors for each set of students, but I figured it was reasonable given her lack of solid blue shirts. Plus, she was absolutely glowing when she talked about how Brandon gave her the shirt for her birthday. Then she mentioned, while I was washing her hair, that Brandon wanted to take her on a date. Wow! That’s not what a dad wants to hear out of his six year-old daughter’s mouth before school, or any time for that matter. But I just smiled and let her have her moment.

Saturday June 4, 2011

On location

I’m spending the weekend away from my girl yet she’s very much on my mind. The film I’m making in Houston for the 48 Hour Film Project features several kids in key roles, and I’m reminded of Aidan’s involvement in a horror film competition in 2007 when she was only 2 years old. In this weekend’s film, one of our kids, Hope Denton, played an apprentice director and gave a wonderfully nuanced performance as a 48 Hour Film Project director who struggles to get her film made within the time limits, while dealing with an incompetent cast and crew.

Hope and her friends are 12, and it’s not hard to imagine what Aidan may be like by the time she reaches that age. She’s already demonstrating a variety of gifts as a storyteller, presenter and singer. I’m looking forward to spending time this summer helping her explore ways to take her talents to new places, whether it’s recording a song, writing a storybook or making her own little film.

Sunday June 5, 2011

A House of God

After a late night of shooting, the project went into full post-production. By late afternoon, the short film would be finished and receive a title: Creating A Monster. But the morning started with a flurry of activity all around me as I slept on the couch in the room where editing too place. When that sleep was over, I thought about how it was the second morning in a row that I woke in a church building.

Our director’s office is in that building, and the setting provided us with numerous locations for the shoot. But on this particular morning, I was thinking about how far away Aidan was and wishing she was here to share this film experience. Sunday mornings have become special since I started going to church with her and my ex-wife. Missing that experience today makes me more eager to go next Sunday. It’s a ritual that I only started thinking seriously about again as Easter approached and now it feels like a can’t-miss part of every week.

As of tomorrow I will be back home and picking her up from school, and I’m excited about showing her the finished film from this weekend. I’m sure she will have lots of questions about it, including the music choices. Plus, I know she will love the title.

Monday June 6, 2011

Reunited

It’s hard to be away from my girl for 3 days so I felt especially good picking her up at school today. I did encounter a wee bit of a surprise when one of her ESD teachers said Aidan cut her hair last week. The teacher sent the hair home with me in a sandwich bag. Luckily she only cut off a little bit so it’s hardly noticeable.

Later in the evening I let Aidan watch the short film I made in Houston over the weekend for the 48 Hour Film Project. Since it was done in a mockumentary style, she thought the interviews and “behind the scenes” footage was merely leading up to the film. She said, “when does the movie start?” I explained that the movie had started. Once she understood what was going on, she wanted to see it a second time.

I watched her watching the movie to see her reactions. She liked a line spoken by the 12 year old girl playing the film’s director: “It’s supposed to be Yippee Ki Yay, Monkey Father.” Aid started saying, “Yippee Ki Yay Monkey Man” which is a line from the movie Rio. Pedro, voiced by Will I Am, says the line, which I forgot when we were shooting our movie.

Later in the film, the young director has a meltdown and the film cuts to me saying, “I haven’t seen that many tears since my divorce, and I mean me.” The reference to my real-life divorce caught Aidan’s attention immediately. She said, “you divorced my mama.” She’s aware of the fact that we were married for years then divorced. I have a sense that it’s something she continues to try to handle on a daily basis.

The 7-minute film is a novel concept for Aidan who is used to watching longer films, although she does watch plenty of TV programs with short episodes. I’d like to help her work on a film script someday and then have it produced. I don’t think she’s ready for it this summer, but her reading and writing skills are growing stronger and it might be the kind of Father-Daughter project we can do next year.

Tuesday June 7, 2011

The Early Bird

When the school year started last August, I assumed by the end of the year Aidan would be handling most of the morning ritual on her own. I figured she would be eager to pick out her own clothes and help pack her lunch. The truth is, her mom and I have done most of the work all year while Aid tends to need us to get her out of bed. That’s why this morning’s experience was appreciated so much.

She woke up at 6 am on her own and strolled out to the living room. She went to see her mom and then they came out to the living room together. I was surprised to see them, and hadn’t even started the coffee yet. Bonnie turned on TV to PBS Kids and the morning went smoothly as Aid seemed so perky and eager to get to school.

I dropped her off by 7:20 am. In fact, we were so early the school wasn’t even open to students yet. A group of them gathered outside the door. I was tempted to keep her in the car the extra ten minutes but she seemed so enthusiastic to join the group that I let her out of the car.  I recalled my own experiences as a young student when the schoolday rituals were set aside on occasion, like the time my brother and I rode our bikes to school instead of taking the bus. A change of pace is welcome, especially at the end of a long school year.

Wednesday June 8, 2011

Playdate Means Pizza

For the second evening in a row, Aidan enjoyed a playdate with pizza. Last night she went home with her good friend Parker and this evening we spent several hours at the home of her dear friend Brandon. What was supposed to be a short visit turned into a 3-hour stay as Brandon’s mom and I chatted while watching the Yankees-Red Sox game on ESPN. The kids are so sweet to each other. Last week Aidan told me Brandon wants to take her on a date. Yeah, I was quite surprised by that, too.

The two of them get along so well, although I can tell they both like to be in charge whenever possible. They spent some time on his scooter in the backyard, and when they were inside they were playing some kind of counting game where you’re supposed to count to 100 together but not say any 5s.  It amuses me to see Aid learning so much at school through playtime and bringing those little lessons home. While I tend to focus on what she’s formally learning, she’s also growing through experiences with other kids who she spends time with in her ESD program.

Brandon is one of those kids and so is Parker. Brandon was also at the Parker’s last night while his mom was out car shopping. When Aidan’s mom and I got there, Aidan was eating pizza and said, “I’m drinking beer” as she took a swig of her root beer. The kids ran around, playing and dancing in Parker’s mom’s room. While I was happy to see my baby enjoying time with her friends, I also paused for a moment to think about the changes coming this summer when we move. I know being in a new town and away from her friends will be a difficult transition. But we can always stay in touch and set up play dates on the weekends.

Thursday June 9, 2011

School’s Out For Summer

It’s over!

Aidan’s first year of school has come to a close, and we made our walk back to her mom’s apartment. I was tired when I picked her up at school but felt energized by the realization that the walk home with her on my shoulders would never be repeated in this town.  We took our usual shortcut over a fence behind the apartment complex and escaped from the heat after a short 12-minute walk.

The pool seemed like the perfect spot for us to be on a hot June evening. I expected we would swim for a couple hours then leave, but the evening turned out very different. We encountered a birthday party for a 4 year old girl. Bright pink decorations everywhere! Soon Aidan was invited over to the party and the mother of the birthday girl invited me over as well.

The most fascinating aspect of the party was the fact that nearly everyone spoke Portuguese. I later figured out that many of the family members came from Brazil. One of them assumed I spoke Portuguese since I was in the midst of conversations and songs in that language.

Aidan swam with an older sister of the birthday girl and another girl she met in the apartment complex recently. The three girls swam for hours and were reluctant to leave the pool after 10 pm. But the night was far from over for Aidan. The little trio had a sleepover set up, and once Aidan knew she was definitely part of it, she told the others, “it’s going to be Girls Night Out.”

Contrary to popular belief, I am no longer much of a “joiner.” I tend to keep my distance from people and try not to get involved. But having a social butterfly for a daughter often forces me into situations like the one tonight. And I am grateful for it. Aid had a memorable time, made a new friend, and got a party favor bag and a pink flamingo toy. I got to enjoy Portuguese songs and a group of very gracious and friendly people.

In the wake of life’s obstacles (e.g., job loss, divorce, financial crisis, etc.) it seems easy to detach myself from the rest of the world.  Yet I suspect my daughter will unknowingly keep me social in the coming years, even as I try to keep myself separate. That’s part of her charm. She won’t let be alone.

Friday June 10, 2011

Second Family

On the first day of summer vacation, Aidan came home from her sleepover in a great mood. She would spend  a few midday hours with me at the apartment complex office and pool. I coated her in sunscreen on this hot and sunny day and applied it several times to myself and still managed to get a sunburn.  Luckily, Aidan just turned golden brown.

At 2 pm, we went back to her new friend’s apartment to retrieve her beloved blanket , “Baby”.  I intended to stay briefly but Aidan’s friend wanted her to stay and her mom said it was okay. So I went to Bonnie’s apartment and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning. It’s been great to watch Aidan make another friend so quickly. It’s like she’s found a second family these last 2 days.

I met Aid and the whole clan at the pool around 6:30 pm. The water felt terrific in this oppressive heat, and Aidan was having a blast swimming with her friend when I arrived. Like last night, the swim lasted several hours, and it gave me a chance to get better acquainted with Aidan’s second family.

Of course, Aidan asked if she could sleep at her friend’s place again and I was quick to say she couldn’t. She insisted, and I said we could ask her mother (thinking her mom would also say No). She did say No but Aidan was persistent. When Aidan’s mom realized that the friend’s place would again be a full house with lots of other kids, and her friend’s mom was okay with the idea, permission was granted.

The friend’s parents, Marcelo and Patricia, have been so gracious since we met them on Thursday evening. They even suggested we set up a playdate in the coming week. I think the girls will be seeing a lot of each other in the next couple of months.  I also look forward to chatting more with Marcelo. Tonight he mentioned his father (or grandfather) was a prolific writer who wrote 30 books. One of them is the story of a man who is frozen for 100 years and has to adjust to life in a world he doesn’t recognize or understand. The books are written in Portuguese and Marcelo is interested in having them translated. I suggested the possibility that one or more of the books may make a great basis for a screenplay, and that seemed to fascinate him.

I also got a chance to chat with one of the moms I met at last night’s party. She is remarried and has two sons with long hair (who Aidan assumed were girls) and three daughters. She home schools the kids, a decision she made based on the weaknesses of the public schools where they live in Fort Worth.  I mentioned having a little home schooling experience with Aidan during the snow days earlier this year. I can imagine doing it full-time with proper lesson plans. I found helping her with homework to be enjoyable usually, although she did resist reading books for me at times earlier in the school year. Later we reached a point where her book reading homework was handled more efficiently and she was often quicker to do her math homework.

Bonnie, who came over to see Aidan and swim a bit, joined our conversation about parenting and the three of us had a great discussion.  This mom is studying psychology and Bonnie is getting her Masters in Family Studies so the chat was inspired by a mix of academic research and real-life experiences. On the heels of starting to watch the DVDs from the TCU Institute of Child Development today, I had a lot of positive points to contribute.

Perhaps the strongest one was the need for parents to understand their own emotional history when responding to issues involving our children. It’s important not to let my emotional response overrule my sensibility when I react to situations and communicate with her.  I know I’ve made that mistake on occasion. For example, I tend to see the world from a point of detachment as an emotional response to past hurts, but I want her to have an open mind and open heart. I need to manage my own emotions and come to terms with the pain of past relationships if I am going to effectively parent her.

Saturday June 11, 2011

Double Knot Earns A Twist

We’ve reached a new milestone. This afternoon Aidan learned to tie her shoes. While a Suze Orman program ran on the local PBS station (KERA), Aid brought a pair of sneakers to the couch and said she wanted to learn the tie the laces.

The lesson began with a step-by-step approach. Aid was able to handle the first step comfortably but struggled a bit with the next steps. Of course, that’s perfectly natural. But my child doesn’t like to be less than perfect and she tends to get frustrated when things don’t come easily to her.  I explained to her that learning something new involves doing it incorrectly and even when we know how to do something we can still make mistakes at times. I don’t think she really cared about how Thomas Edison viewed failures but I thought it was worth mentioning.

The biggest challenge came when she wanted to double knot the shoes. It’s a complex procedure for someone just learning to tie shoes and it caused her some grief today. But I liked to hear the tone of her voice get lighter when she said she finally understood what she needed to do.

It may have helped that I promised her a trip to Braum’s if she learned to tie her shoes today. Earlier we stopped at Walmart and I was tempted to let her get an ice cream cone there. But I paused and told her she could have an ice cream cone there OR go to Braum’s later. So the trip to Braum’s was already in play before she decided she wanted to learn to tie her shoes. That made it easy to attach it to the tying lesson.

After a second sleepover in a row she was very tired today and fell asleep after she successfully tied the shoes. When she woke up from her nap, she knew she would have to show her new skills to her mom before the trip to Braum’s could happen. She walked into her mom’s bedroom with the shoes and sat down on the bed. Bonnie immediately figured out what was about to take place. Aid proceeded to carefully show her what she’d learned this afternoon. It was a beautiful moment.

Aid and I went to Braum’s so she could get her frozen yogurt as a twist in a waffle cone. I ordered a large cone for her and a small cone for me. She was so proud of her accomplishment, and enjoyed the cone size reversal from the normal order.

Daddy-Daughter time continued in the evening with a swim in the pool and movie time. We watched Despicable Me and danced during the closing credits. One of the songs in the credits seemed appropriate for this weekend as the lyrics mention “no more teachers and principals.” The start to summer vacation has been sensational so far.

Sunday June 12, 2011

The Spirit of Sunday

For the last 9 months, Sunday has meant a new school week is about to begin. Today was different. Now that summer vacation has arrived for Aidan, Sunday meant extra helpings of relaxation with no concerns about Monday.

Aidan, her mom and I started the day with a wonderful church service, emotionally charged and rewarding. Afterwards, Aid got to see the set-up begin for Vacation Bible School which begins tomorrow. We’ve been going to the same church for weeks, and Aidan is getting more and more comfortable there. I’m also eager to go every week that I’m in town. Last weekend I was in Houston to make a short film so I was especially interested in getting to church today.

As someone who grew up in one church, the experiences and relationships were always a key part of my young life. It was a safe place with lots of nurturing, yet by adulthood I felt the church no longer had much to offer me. Clearly I feel different now, and I’m enjoying the new ritual of going to a terrific service (nearly) every Sunday.

Aidan is obviously enjoying it as well. As part of the service, she joins the other kids in another room for “children’s church.” Today she colored a fish on a string and was so proud to show us her work. The activities that the kids get to do create a fun and engaging way to interact with each other and learn about aspects of worshipping God.

This return to organized religion feels right to me right now. I tried to go back to church at different times in my adult life, usually with Bonnie. We found a church in Houston that we liked and went there a few times but it never became a routine. For the first time in nearly 20 years I am making it a routine, and it feel s good. It’s not an obligation. It’s an experience I get to share with my daughter and her mother.  It becomes a key part of the quality family time that the three of us spend together, and I know it means a lot to Aidan to have that time with her parents.

Later in the day Aid and I returned to the swimming pool, our 4th day in a row to spend time there. She wore her floatie swimsuit both days this weekend so she could swim on her own. She’s getting very good, and I expect her to be able to swim without any floatation devices within a few weeks.

Monday June 13, 2011

VBS

The week began with Day #1 of Vacation Bible School at our church. Bonnie and I brought Aidan, and I stayed to volunteer. The associate pastor who is supervising the volunteers sent me to work with pre-schoolers. I have to say, it was a bit challenging at first, especially when I realized how fast I normally speak. I slowed down my rate of speaking drastically within a couple minutes while staying on my toes, prepared for anything, the rest of the time. The three hours went quickly and the kids got to hear stories from “Mary”, buy bracelets in the wool shop, stamp images on a VBS t-shirt, learn a new song with movement, visit the bead bazaar to make a bead bracelet and play outside.

Aidan was with the first grade group, and she said one of her favorite parts was learning about Mary. The woman playing Mary did a fantastic job telling stories in character, although I was amused by the tattoo on one of her toes. It looked like a four-leaf clover. Aid noticed it, too. I asked her if she thought the real Mary had a tattoo, and she said, “no, no.” She believes tattoos didn’t exist back then.

We also talked about what she learned during VBS today. The best lesson perhaps was, “nothing is impossible with God.” That was part of the lesson in the room with snacks and music. As each group of kids munched on cheese, Ritz crackers and Goldfish rip-offs named “Whales”, they watched a woman show the beginning of the process of cheesemaking. The close of that particular lesson was the line that Aidan repeated tonight.

Tuesday June 14, 2011

Might As Well Jump

In August 2003, I was in Fort Erie, Ontario with relatives in the days leading up to my cousin Candy’s wedding. My cousin who almost shares my name, Mark Isaacs, took me to a train bridge nearby so we could jump off it into the fast-moving river below. He’s an adventurous kind of guy and I was quick to follow suit. I must’ve jumped off the bridge at least 10 times and each time I sank to a depth of what felt like 20 feet before coming back to the surface.

Now as a dad, I don’t jump off bridges but I retain a sense of fearlessness most of the time. So when I take Aidan to the pool, I hope to see a little of that fearlessness in her. It hadn’t happened when we arrived at the pool today so I made it a priority.

I told her she needed to jump in as the only way into the pool. Se was wearing a floatie suit so I knew she was 100% safe. She seemed reluctant so I picked her up and tossed her in. She didn’t scream or cry. She simply paddled her way over to the side.  I expected her to be ready to jump on her own at that point. I was wrong.

She ended up having a battle of wills. At first, she kept changing the location of the jump. Then, she admitted she was scared and didn’t want to jump. On another day I might have let her off the hook, but today I wanted her to face her fears. I repeatedly explained that standing on the side of the pool and feeling scared was no way to overcome the fear. I encouraged her to face her fear and just jump in. She refused over and over.

I’m sure I insisted far too long. She’s still feeling unsure of herself in the pool. But we did make some progress this evening. She has been hesitant to put her head under water, although she will put her face in the water. So this evening I gently flipped her backwards so her head would be momentarily submerged. We did that 3 times and she asked me to stop. But I felt like she made some progress in the pool.

We ended our pool visit by snacking on some animal crackers and Graham crackers (she calls them “Grahams”) before leaving. I apologized to her for being so rigid about the need to jump in the pool earlier and that seemed to satisfy her. But I also made the point this evening that our ultimate goal is to have her learn the responsibilities that accompany the fun of swimming. I read too many stories about drownings. I don’t want her to think it’s just about having fun.

Maybe I need to reflect on my bridge jumping experience again before our next swim. That was hardly the safest water activity, especially when I consider the possibility that I could have gotten swept down the river and eventually to Niagara Falls.

Wednesday June 15, 2011

Clean It Up

After Vacation Bible School the afternoon was devoted to cleaning the apartment Aidan shares with her mom. I took on the kitchen and pantry and Aidan handled her bedroom. While cleaning can feel boring at times, I felt motivated to see progress here and I was hoping Aidan would feel the same way. She didn’t disappoint me.

What helped her tackle the disastrous mess in her room was focusing on the reward to come. I told her that she could have a sleepover here once her room was clean. The task no longer became about merely cleaning. Her focus was on making the room ready for a guest.

I guess I needed to be more explicit when I mentioned a sleepover. Aidan assumed I meant it would happen tonight. I meant it would happen very soon. The miscommunication obviously irritated her. Later, her mother explained that sleepovers need to be planned in advance.

She made considerable progress in a room that looks like a bomb exploded twice in it. Much of the carpet is now visible again! There is still much to be done, and she cannot do it alone. She can put books away and put certain toys in their respective containers. But she needs lots of help to get that room into good working condition. Organizing that ridiculous amount of toys, dolls, and odds and ends could take days.

I feel like I could devote an entire weekend to it and not be done. At the same time, spending Father’s Day weekend cleaning and organizing her room could be a terrific Father’s Day gift for me. Obviously I would enlist her and her mom to help. I can already envision an immaculate room with everything in its proper place. That seems much better than getting a tie or being taken out for lunch.

Thursday June 16, 2011

A/C Is A-OK

Day #4 of Vacation Bible School was followed by an afternoon of games on the laptop. Aidan hasn’t been online much in the last few months and welcomed the opportunity to visit Nick Jr. Earlier in the week she played games on that site in the apartment’s complex’s Business Center where she printed several items to save or color. But today she used the laptop which is not connected to a printer. It didn’t phase her a bit. She spent much of the afternoon playing games.

I liked the break from TV watching that the laptop provided. Going outside hasn’t been an option in the afternoons this week as temperatures have climbed to or above 100 degrees every day. After a mild May in North Texas, we’re really baking in June.

The VBS program has given us a terrific way to spend mornings during the first week of summer vacation. I am so glad we made it happen. I expected to participate for a day or 2 but I quickly committed to all 5 days, in part because I have nothing else booked this week and no paid writing projects currently due.

The highlight of VBS today was a petting zoo set up in front of the church. What an assortment of animals! I took pics of the kids interacting with a llama, a duck, pigs, guinea pigs, chickens, and rabbits. Aidan loved the experience, and most of the kids felt the same way. Only a couple kids during the day looked a bit scared and asked to come out of the enclosure.

Aidan and I learned something interesting about llamas. They don’t spit at humans; they only spit at other llamas. I’m sure that nugget of knowledge will serve a purpose soon.

Friday June 17, 2011

VBS: Final Day

The fifth and final day of Vacation Bible School provided some memorable moments outside at a water slide. The kids loved sliding and splashing in the water, and it was a great way to deal with the heat here. Once again I took pics using cameras provided by the church secretary, and I must’ve taken at least 200 pics again today. I estimate that I took about 800 at least during the 4 days I was photographing the programs. The plan is to use the photos during Sunday’s offertory and also before each service.

The other outdoor highlight occurred on a hill behind the church. Each “tribe” visited a garden area and planted flowers. It was wonderful to see the kids carefully planting the flowers, feeling a sense of pride about the accomplishment.

I felt like I accomplished a lot this week, too. I got to see Aidan involved in her activities and making new friends. I got to take pics of her splashing and learning and sharing. We shared some valuable common ground at the church this week that I know will carry us forward in the coming months.

I also enjoyed getting to know so many people this week. As a photographer, I floated from spot to spot, always in motion, sometimes pausing to take a few pics in one location before moving on to the next. I rarely stayed in one spot for more than 10 minutes. That meant getting acquainted with the kids, the tribe leaders and the crew leaders. I learned a lot of names and had great little chats with so many people.

As a role model for Aidan, I liked being a valuable member of the VBS week. I could hear the pride in her voice when she told a friend, “my dad is working here.” It was something real to her. And documenting so many special moments has been a real rewarding experience for me. It’s been a refreshing change from spending much of my week alone. I’ll need to find more ways to get involved this summer. I know that will keep Aidan happy, too.

Saturday June 18, 2011

Crisis at Cracker Barrel

With the arrival of a Father’s Day card from my parents, our dinner plans were sealed. The enclosed Cracker Barrel gift card meant we would go back to one of our favorite places. Aidan loves playing checkers there. It seemed like an easy plan, but things didn’t go as well as I hoped.

Our meals were good, and Aid got to play checkers. But an argument between her mother and I got triggered. It started quietly but ended with a scene. It was terribly uncomfortable and I wish Aidan had been there to see it.

While her mother waited in the car, Aidan and I finished the checkers game. I felt my blood boiling when we returned to the checkers table but I wanted to salvage some part of this evening. Aidan is still learning the game and enjoying the progress she’s making. It’s fun to watch her think about where to move a piece and I typically show her what will happen with each potential move. I want her to think ahead about consequences.

She won the game and we both felt a moment of happiness and peace. Then we went to the car and drove away. They took me home and I was a mess. I was already struggling with the fact that I will be away for a few days, including Father’s Day. The added tension hurt tremendously. I hugged and kissed Aidan in the car, then went inside and broke down.

But the heavinesss of the evening turned lighter and I discussed the whole situation with my housemate. I heard a fresh perspective on my situation as a divorced dad. I heard it from someone who likes me and has compassion for me. One of the key things she told me was about the need to maintain more space between myself and my ex-wife. I tend to be involved in her life far too often on a day-to-day basis. That close proximity tends to lead to eruptions on occasion but more often just fuels ongoing, underlying tension.

One response (in the past) tends to be to isolate myself for a day or two. Then I return to being involved on a more day-to-day basis. It’s not healthy for me. I end up spending far too much time around someone who really doesn’t like me or respect me and I know it affects our daughter directly and indirectly.

The challenge of staying away feels like a tremendous burden as well. My daughter benefits from having me in her life as much as I am but the lack of a boundary with her mother is what leads to problems. Her new work schedule of 11-7 means Aidan needs someone other than her mother to pick her up at the end of a school day. This summer she is going to a daycare school so again she will need to be picked up. Luckily she has a friend going to the same school and that girls mom can pick up both of them.

That may provide a healthier plan to avoid the ongoing issues between her mother and I. It is not a solution; it simply keeps us from interacting which has a tendency to lead to harsh words or general tension. At some point, when we both are better equipped for dealing with these volatile moments, we can return to spending more “family time” with Aidan.

Sunday June 19, 2011

Away On Father’s Day

I had a print shoot for T-Mobile this morning, and it was poolside in Dallas. I kept thinking about how, under different circumstances, I would be going to church this morning with Aidan and her mom and enjoying a relaxing Father’s Day. But this day had a very different agenda.

The shoot went well, and I simply had to relax and mingle. The kids I mingled with were a lot of fun, and one of them reminded me of a young Dakota Fanning. She and I teased each other quite a bit, and I could see her playing my daughter in a film or commercial sometime.

My own daughter would be missing me today, and I wanted her to know I am thinking about her all the time. So after the shoot in Dallas, I stopped by her apartment and left a note for her on her pillow. She and her mom were at church so it was the ideal time to be there briefly.

As I was back in the car (borrowed from my helpful housemate), I saw my ex-wife’s vehicle pulling into the apartment complex and I was pulling out. I could’ve stayed a bit longer and seen Aidan, but I felt like the potential for fighting with her mother was too great so I drove away.

The drive would be long, exhausting and terribly hot due to keeping the A/C off most of the trip. The compressor is about to die, I was told, so I conserved it by not turning on the A/C. I stopped every hour to let the car cool down and I made it to Lone Wolf, Oklahoma by 5 pm. The scenery is mesmerizing. It’s one of those places I get to go to but wish I had Aidan with me.

When she and I are together again, I’ll tell her about the trip and show her pics. It’s fun to share these experiences with her through stories and photos. But I want more opportunities to be together when I’m traveling so she and I create memories for a lifetime rather than stories that last a few minutes.

Monday June 20, 2011

My New Family

I’m in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma to act in a student-directed film. I’m playing a husband and father to two teenage sons. One of the boys, Jason, is a basketball star. The other boy, Hunter, is an artist. It’s always a flash-forward experience for me to work with teenagers. These two young men are terrific, and both are new to film acting. So I got to play dad and mentor as I shared many acting experiences of mine.

My own daughter may not become an actor. Her mother is opposed to the idea, and even gets tense when I tell her I’ve submitted myself and Aidan for a project. I’m not planning to raise a child actor but I do like to introduce her to acting experiences since it’s a vital part of my life and I know that Aid loves to perform. That doesn’t mean she needs to be a professional performer so signing her up for classes or getting an agent isn’t a default setting for me.

I do know a lot of parents who manage their kids, including a mom friend whose son has been in several national TV series and commercials. I see the challenges they face and sacrifices they make, and I respect them for their devotion. It’s a highly competitive business and the need to stay a step ahead of the pack never fades away. Yet a parent of a child actor is still a parent first and must make decision based on what’s best for the child. I think that’s why I am not interested in pursuing an acting career for Aidan. As the child of divorce, and one who’s life seems to be constantly changing, she may find the uncertainty of acting more detrimental than rewarding.

She will get plenty of performance time at home, like any kid. I will do my best to keep the camera handy and keep the batteries fresh so I can capture those special moments. Then we’ll have videos to watch again and again so we can relive those moments. It’s thoughts like these ones that make me even more eager to introduce her to new experiences like the ones I am having in Oklahoma.

I am surrounded by high school students who are developing new skills and exploring where to take their talents. This is what I want for Aidan. I want her to be able to attend a camp like this one someday and meet like-minded kids who do more than dream about the future. These kids are taking the steps to becoming the adults they will be very soon, and it’s fascinating to watch them in motion, even if they’re moving slowly as they get started.

Tuesday June 21, 2011

The Long Drive Home

My stay at Quartz Mountain Resort came to a close this evening as I checked out and got on the road around 8:30 pm. At the beginning of my drive, I figured I would be home by 1 am. After a full night of sleep I would be able to see Aidan and share some stories about this trip.

Exhaustion would make the drive take much longer. Instead of a 1 am arrival, it took twice as long to get back. I made frequent stops and even napped in two places. 5 am (Wednesday) had arrived by the time I reach my place.

It’s interesting to be on the road while no one knows where I am. During one stop (at Sonic), I reflected on this fact. As I watched the vehicles go by on the highway, I realized that knowing where our loved ones are provides security and comfort; not knowing where they are can lead to panic and distress.

I didn’t communicate with Aidan’s mother about my trip back home, except to say I would be leaving tonight. I’m sure that wasn’t a safe choice given my overnight drive took me through some remote areas. In this age of check-ins on Facebook, letting people know you’re at Starbucks (or anywhere else) seems common. But there was freedom in being alone in the universe while feeling assured that my daughter was safe at her home and waiting for my return so she could see me again.

Wednesday June 22, 2011

Field Surfing

Aidan is in a “Summer’s Cool” program at a nearby elementary school and today is her third day there. The program offers daily activities, snacks, lunches and field trips. At the end of the day, she has been going to Vacation Bible School with her friend Parker. It’s a week of big changes for her.

I wouldn’t see her at all during my first day back home. By the time she was back home from VBS, it was after 9 pm and I didn’t want Bonnie to bring her over so late. Not only would Aid we tired that late in the day, I also am trying to maintain better boundaries with my ex-wife. I spent far too much unstructured and open-ended time over at her place in the last several months. So I can trying a different approach.

Earlier in the evening I went out for a long walk to see how long it would take to get to the school that hosts Aidan’s summer program. Engulfed in heat and baking in bright sunshine, I walked there in about 45 minutes. I assumed I would reach my destination and turn around, but I discovered a field behind the school. Several large round hay bales in that field grabbed my attention.

When I was a teen, I handed thousands of hay bales during summers on my grandfather’s farm and while helping a few uncles as well. Those were the small rectangular bales. The ones I encountered today would dwarf them.

I felt the urge to be on top of one of those large round bales so I jumped on one and pulled myself up. I suspect having a young child inspires me to see the world in a child-like way, and Aidan would want to be on the bale. Once on top, I stood triumphantly and then began to rock it back and forth. It felt like surfing. Field surfing!

For the people playing, walking or riding their bikes nearby, this figure of a man on top of a hay bale must have looked amusing, I did a yoga pose, lied down with my head pointing to the ground, and field surfed until I had sufficiently entertained myself.

I only moved the bale a few inches in either direction. I imagine somewhere there is a hay bale surfing competition with great prizes, like t-shirts or gift cards to local diners. I could start one here in Lewisville. After all, we our the home of the Fighting Farmers.

Once I was done there, I walked home feeling stress-free and productive. I looked forward to sharing my surfing story with Aidan when we are together again.

Thursday June 23, 2011

Not Going Bonkers

After 9 am Bonnie dropped off Aidan at my place. Aid and I had been apart since Saturday night so it was a thoroughly enjoyable morning of cuddling and catching up while Nick Jr. shows played on TV. With access to my housemate’s car, I planned to take Aid to her summer program within a couple hours.

Day #4 of her summer program would include a field trip to Going Bonkers for a few action-packed hours of fun activities. Bonnie showed me the paperwork with the program schedule that showed the students would depart at 1 pm so I took Aid over by noon. No one was at the school when we arrived but they returned shortly thereafter. I discovered they were coming back from the morning field trip and would soon find out that there would be no afternoon field trip.

Epic fail!

Aidan burst into tears and was inconsolable. The schedule in the paperwork was confusing and suggested 2 field trips. But one of the instructors showed me a page I didn’t have: a green page with all the activities of the first week listed. Bonnie didn’t have that information either, I would find out later in the day.

One of the challenges we have as divorced parents is making sure we cover all bases and communicate effectively while living in different households. Things get missed on occasion, but having my daughter miss a field trip is unacceptable. Watching her experience that kind of heartbreak that was unnecessary is something I don’t want to repeat.

Bonnie suggested we get together in the evening and catch up. We took Catahoula to the dog park and had a productive conversation about how to better communicate with each other. “Overcommunicate” became our keyword.

It’s a new strategy to employ so we can attempt to keep life moving as smoothly as possible. Since a breakdown in communication tends to happen frequently around here, I’m delighted to know Aidan’s mom and I will make a concerted effort to consistently and continuously communicate about all matters and subjects directly and indirectly affecting her. Summer seems like an ideal time to take this initiative. By the time the new school year arrives, we will have hopefully developed ways to create a timely and effective dialogue, even during stretches of time we have little or no face-to-face contact.

Friday June 25, 2011
Playing Catch-Up
Being on the same page sometimes requires being in the same place at the same time. That’s why Bonnie and I took Aidan to her summer program this morning. Aidan was shy yesterday morning when I took her and Bonnie says the shyness started earlier. So anything we can do to ease those shy feelings is helpful.

Today it was sending her in the suggested outfit for field day; camouflage or brown. She wore a camo skirt with a new brown t-shirt we picked up at Walmart. We hoped that would make Aidan feel good as the day started.

She was still a bit shy but she turned her attention to the face painting going on. She obviously wanted to have it done, too, and one of her instructors (‘Coach’) took her over to the area where it was being done. That allowed us to leave, knowing she would be fine.
The more relaxed and productive interaction that Bonnie and I have had in the last day has allowed me to move from a strictly defensive mode to a more open place. That’s a significant move. There is much to be managed in the next 2 months and having an open line of communication will be the single greatest asset.
After the morning drop-off, I wouldn’t see my baby the rest of the day. She would again go from her summer program to Vacation Bible School with her friend Parker. Another giant 12 hour day for my six year old! I’m sure she will be getting lots of rest this weekend.
We’ll have time to reconnect as well. I know we both need it after seeing so little of each other since last Saturday night. But I know she’s been enjoying her days tremendously, and loving the second experience of Vacation Bible School. It looks like we’ll both have a bunch of stories to share this weekend about our adventures of the past week. Maybe we’ll chat while munching on one of her favorite snacks, Grahams.

Saturday June 25, 2011

A Change of Address?

For several months the “plan” has been to move to Richardson. It’s a shorter drive to work for Bonnie and the school district is stellar. She’s been looking for a place to rent there, but hasn’t found anything yet. I haven’t made it a priority yet since I figured I would look at a more narrow area once she’s found a place. I would like to find a similar situation to the one I’m in now: rent a room with everything included in one price. But the move out of Lewisville now seems unlikely.

Two houses for lease are available on my street, and I got information on both of them. One is lower in price than the other and still provides everything Bonnie and Aidan would need. It’s available at the end of July. The other home features three bedrooms, an arrangement that would only be suitable (and affordable) if I agreed to move in. It’s safe to say that, despite the ongoing financial strain of my life, living with my ex-wife doesn’t seem like a reasonable solution. But it seems to be a common occurrence for other families.

So there is an uncertainty about where the three of us will be in August. Aidan has bid adieu to her elementary school, but there is a chance she will return to it. The reality is that we have created a support system in Lewisville that wouldn’t readily exist in Richardson. I would prefer to live closer to Dallas, but having Aidan in the Dallas ISD school district doesn’t seem like a strong move when LISD and RISD are much better, according to many people.

After discussing the potential home and school situation, we shifted our focus to going to the mall. The three of us needed haircuts and Bonnie planned to take Aidan to see a movie, too. Aidan was reluctant to watch Kung Fu Panda 2 and she was in luck because it wasn’t playing again yet when we went to the theatre so we were left with Cars 2 as our only viable option. She seemed to enjoy it, although it felt a bit complex and grown-up to her mother and me. References to big oil companies and a whole plot about secret agents didn’t seem in line with the cute, simple stories we enjoyed in the first Cars movie.

As the closing credits rolled, we made our customary move down front so Aidan could dance to the music. She waited for the people standing around to move along, a little sign of shyness, before she began dancing. Of course, she wanted me to dance with her. So I did! There is something fun and freeing about dancing in front of a movie theatre screen, even if most of the audience has left and the rest are not really paying attention. I’m sure I need to seize these dancing moments before they disappear.

Sunday June 26, 2011

A Day of Rest & Revitalization

At the tail end of a busy week, the rewards of Sunday will tremendous. I spent the night at Bonnie’s, although sleeping on the couch is not a luxurious experience. The day would improve rapidly as we attended church at Vista Ridge United Methodist Church, a ritual we began in April.

With the pastors out of town, a layperson provided the key message of the service. Maggie Krause shared stories of learning to be her “authentic self” while living life as a “work in progress.” It was inspiring. It reminded me of the years I have spent trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be instead of embracing the person I am. It’s that sense of an “authentic self” that I want to help Aidan understand how to live every day.

The rest of the afternoon involved relaxing at Bonnie’s apartment, and watching the movie Madeline which I borrowed from the Lewisville Public Library. We also called my mom to tell her about the details of the trip Bonnie and Aidan will be making to New York next weekend. Aid will get to spend a few days with her loving grandmother, and I know having time to plan for the stay will be helpful to my mom.

In the evening, Bonnie brought Aidan and me to my place. Bonnie is anchoring AM drive all week at KRLD so Aidan is staying with me. We watched some TV and she started reading one of the library books I got for her. I felt compelled to get us outside around 7:30 so we walked over to the park and played for just under an hour. I was smart enough to bring a dollar in change, and when the ice cream man walked through the park with his cart, we were ready for him.

It’s wonderful having access to a terrific park, and so many families visit it regularly. Aidan saw a little boy from her kindergarten class there. After he and his family walked by us, she quietly told me that he is weird. I said, “that’s not a nice thing to say.” She quickly replied, “no, he’s weird in a good way.”

Once we returned home, we ate hot dogs and she watched Nick Jr., a simple way to pass the time. She asked about seeing her friend who lives down the street. I suggested that we see her friend tomorrow evening. My daughter loves her playdates. I’ll have to make sure I pick her up early enough at her summer program so she can see her friend on Monday.

Monday June 27, 2011

A Kind of Magic

When I picked up Aidan at her summer program, she had something special to show me. Mad Science had entertained the kids this afternoon and each one of them got a little box called the Curious Cube. The Curious Cube is a magic box, allowing a young magician to place an object in the top, say the magic words, and open the front of the box to reveal the object has “disappeared.”

After a busy evening of dinner, playtime with a neighbor friend and watching Nick Jr., Aidan delayed her bedtime by starting to show me her magic trick with the Curious Cube. I took a pic and planned to post it immediately on Facebook, then put her to bed. But she requested video, too. So I recorded her performing the trick 3 times in a 4-minute video. Bedtime still did not come. I needed to upload the video to YouTube and the immense file size meant uploading would take no less than 20 minutes.

Once the video was ready to watch online, I shared it on Facebook. Even at 11 pm, fans of Aidan Kate The Great are eager to see her. I did notice that not everyone liked the video. On YouTube there was one “dislike.” At first it irritated me. Then, I took a different approach to it. I imagined someone was browsing the site, desperately seeking the perfect magic trick to catapult him or her to worldwide fame. They discover a six year old girl performing a trick and they sense it could be the great one they seek. But she shows how the trick works on camera and they suddenly realize their dreams of fame and fortune have disappeared faster than the highlighter, pen and TV remote that Aidan used in her act.

The little gift from Mad Science is quite appropriate for a girl who has loved magic for a long time. Up until now, her act consisted of asking me or her mother to close our eyes so the trick could be successfully performed. Hey, it works. If the audience is willing to help make the magic seem real, why not ask them?

Now everytime I want Aidan to eat her vegetables, I may remind her of the Curious Cube. “Aidan, make those brussels sprouts disappear. Or the ice cream in the freezer will disappear before we get a chance to eat it.”

Tuesday June 28, 2011

Staying Put

The ongoing conversation about moving from Lewisville to Richardson seems to have come to an abrupt end today. A lot of factors are heavily influencing Aidan’s mom to stay put here. An established support system may be the biggest factor.

Bonnie picked up Aidan at school and brought her to my place so a pancake dinner. Pancakes seem like an ideal treat when a family discussion about a serious topic will be introduced. The “staying put” wasn’t the serious topic. Remaining here in Lewisville means Aidan can attend the same school and the same ESD program after school. It means she can continue developing long-term friendships with the same kids. It means she can enjoy trips to the same park and the same ice cream place she enjoys so much. But not everything remains the same.

By staying in her apartment, my ex-wife has decided the puppy adopted in April is the one casualty. The truth is, the growing puppy is too large for that apartment. It’s manageable when people are around. It’s manageable when he gets walked regularly. But he is still too much dog for a 2-bedroom apartment where he is limited to the living room and kitchen when people are home, and just the kitchen when people are away.

So over a plate of pancakes, Aidan heard that giving the dog back was the only real option right now, given present resources. Moving into a bigger apartment is outside of financial means. Renting a small house with a back yard would be ideal but it’s also not affordable right now. So it doesn’t leave a dog owner with much left.

Aidan was obviously upset by the news that her beloved Catahoula wouldn’t be in her life much longer. She’s attached to him, although he’s always been too big for her to really play with easily. When she comes to my place, she immediately makes time to play with my landlord’s Boston Terrier. A dog that size would be perfect for her, even if she changes his name on occasion. Boston has been called “Uncle Wilkinson” and “Bosco” and doesn’t seem to mind either one.

So the pancake dinner ended with the news that a new dog would be a part of Aidan’s life soon. Her mom boiled it down to keeping the dog and losing her current school or keeping the school and trading the dog. After the initial tears, she seemed to be okay and understood the issues.

It’s going to be a game-changing summer, to say the least.

Wednesday June 29, 2011

Scavenger Hunt

The park next door is a wonderful place; it’s so wonderful that we visited it twice today. In the morning, a 20 minute visit preceded a stop at Bonnie’s to walk Catahoula. The peace of the park would not last long as we discovered the amazing mess caused by the dog. It was such a large path of destruction, I plopped down on the couch and said to Aidan, “I don’t even know where to begin.”

On the ride to her summer program, Aidan shared her widsom. “When you have something hard to do, you need to talk to God about it.” She already knew her puppy wouldn’t be here much longer. That conversation came last evening. So we both were doing a lot of talking to God today, I’m sure.

We would return to the park in the evening, perhaps to find the lost peace of the morning. But in fact, it was she and I who were found. A short time into our visit, we noticed a group of people in the midst of a scavenger hunt. We heard one gentleman announce the teams had 5 minutes, and Aidan said she wanted to play. I said we could set up a game next time we came to the park. I wasn’t expecting we would become part of this game.

A woman and a young girl about Aidan’s age approached us and explained that one of the scavenger hunt items was “a new friend.” They asked if we would be willing to participate. Of course! So they brought us over to the group and introduced us. Apparently we were the big score of the night.

We remained with the group, which was from a local Baptist church, for the next 30 minutes as the evening grew dark. I chatted with several people about my move to the Dallas area and my background as a writer and teacher. It turns out, they all knew about an opening for an English teacher nearby. I think the position is at a school or facility that’s affiliated to their church in some way.

It reminds me of the advice I’ve heard frequently: ask the universe for what you need. I need a steady income to take care of my daughter and myself, and I need the work site to be someplace close to home. This teaching gig sounds like a potentially good fit for the former and the latter. It may offer some flexibility, too.

I can thank Aidan first. Her interest in going to the park led to that introduction. She doesn’t know it yet, but she  just earned the privilege of getting ice cream every time we go back to the park this summer. Let’s just hope I have the necessary $1 in my pocket each time the ice cream man is passing by.

Thursday June 30, 2011

Welcome Home, Emma

Routine doesn’t seem to be a household word in my life, and my daughter seems to have a similar experience in her young life. Uncertainty can be stressful at times, while keeping life from being mundane otherwise. Even though I don’t meticulously map out my day, I tend to feel there is a general direction it’s taking. That’s what makes the unexpected turns so sharp.

Fortunately, today’s sharp turn, although life altering, was not life threatening. My ex-wife emailed me to say she was checking out a puppy for potential adoption as a replacement for Catahoula. I assumed she would see the puppy and share details later. So I was stunned when she said she had to adopt the “Chorkie” (half Chihuahua, half Yorkie) today. She wanted to wait until she and Aidan returned from their week in NY, but the puppy would likely not be available by then. So she emailed me to ask if I would be willing to watch this puppy during the next week. I thought I would be free and clear of pet responsibility next week. But I realized that Aidan would be thrilled to have “the right dog” as her birthday gift so I agreed to accept the puppy care duties.

Bonnie and I drove together to get Aidan at her summer program. I didn’t tell her that her mom had a surprise in the car. I signed her out, and we walked out together. She may have wondered why I was videotaping her as she walked, but she probably just assumed it was just her camera-happy dad making another video. About 30 feet from the car, she saw her mom get out of the vehicle and she noticed the puppy in her mom’s arms. She quickly walked over to see the puppy, and seemed to instantly know it was hers. Bonnie asked if she still wanted to call the puppy “Emma” and she confirmed her decision.

The evening consisted of playing with the puppy, taking her outside to do her business, a long nap, then a late night of more playing with the puppy and my housemate’s Chihuahua, Tinker. As the clock approached midnight, Aidan relaxed on the bed, watching the movie Madeline, while Emma and Tinker curled up nearby. Now this is the puppy experience that Aidan richly deserves.

Friday July 1, 2011

Crazy Hair Day

Last week’s Field Day theme at Aidan’s summer program was camouflage. But today’s was far more interesting: crazy hair. After a short night of sleep, I could’ve just taken her to the school with bed head. But I had something more compelling in mind.

I started with brushing her hair from the ends up to give it a full and frizzy look. Using hair clips and pins, I set parts of her hair in different directions. I gave her one ponytail on the top of her head, and placed 2 glow in the dark bracelets nearby. Once her hair looked sufficiently crazy, I coated it with hairspray. The final look was ragged on the right side and swept up on the left side. Absolutely mesmerizing!

In a blue skirt and the tie-dyed shirt she made at VBS, she got in the car for the ride over to her summer program at a nearby elementary school. When she got out of the car, she noticed two boys who didn’t have crazy hair. She felt a bit self-conscious and asked me if it was really Crazy Hair Day. I assured her it was Crazy Hair Day and those boys must not have prepared anything at home for it.

Once we walked into the school, we immediately spotted other kids with wild hair, including some kids whose locks had been colored green. Aidan quickly settled in, and I left knowing she would have a fun Field Day. She’s been a bit shy at the start of most days, and I’m sure her exhaustion from staying up late with her new puppy didn’t help matters.

When I picked her up at 4:30 pm, she was sound asleep under some blankets on the stage. I was glad to see she was able to take a nap. I’m sure she was running low on energy all day. Yet she delivered good news we could enjoy together as she told me she had won First Place in the Crazy Hair competition. Impressive!

I let her celebrate with a visit to a friend’s house down the street. Later Aid helped me give her puppy a bath before she took a shower and said sayonara to the crazy hair. I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities to create wild looks with her locks again this summer.

Saturday July 2, 2011

Long Distance Girl

The last time I spent a week without Aidan involved getting ready to move my belongings—and my brother’s—out of 2528 Brinkman Street in Houston. But this time I’m staying in Lewisville while she and her mom fly to Buffalo to spend a week away with family up there, including my parents. Since trips like this one don’t happen often, I am thrilled to know my baby will get to see many relatives this week, many for the first time.

It promises to be a memorable week for Aid: a Petrie family reunion, camping with cousins, spending time at Grandpa Petrie’s river (St. Lawrence River), sleeping at my parents’ home, a playdate perhaps with her friend Kathryn. I know the early portion of the trip made a lasting impression. She loves to fly and they took a United flight to Chicago where they enjoyed deep-dish pizza before flying to Buffalo.

At last check, they were going to take a Greyhound bus from Buffalo to Syracuse on Sunday so that would be another terrific experience for Aidan. I’ve taken the bus many times in the last several months, and I’m always pleased to get where I want to be. But Aidan has a special fascination with buses and even asked if she could ride the bus to school. Imagine how happy she was anytime her class took a field trip. She’s also been on the bus again at her summer program to go on field trips to the pool and other places.

While Aid and her mom are away, I will be taking care of little Emma. We spent several hours at Bonnie’s apartment today, cleaning to get the place ready for Emma to be there full-time. I plan to keep her at my place for the week, train her and get her plenty of play time and exercise, and keep myself occupied at the same time. Call me “Grandpa” if you like. It seems perfectly suitable now.

Sunday July 3, 2011

Grandpa’s River

I heard from Bonnie around 2:30 pm (Central Time) that she and Aid had arrived in Alexandria Bay. She said they were dressed for the park. I didn’t get any other details so I assume they rode the bus from Buffalo to Syracuse and got a ride from someone (her brother perhaps) from Syracuse to Alexandria Bay.

In the past, the three of us have flown to New York and shuttled between seeing Bonnie’s dad and my parents, and it usually felt like we weren’t spending enough time in either place. This time, she had made her own plans and it seems like she’s covered her bases well without changing locations every other day. But there’s only so much you can pack into a week.

I’m noticing the same thing here. I started the week with great expectations. I want to clean and organize Aidan’s room before she returns. I didn’t even touch it today. Instead, little Emma and I walked over to Bonnie’s apartment late in the afternoon and spent a few hours. Perhaps the most significant thing I accomplished was tending to the Morning Glory plant that is struggling to survive.

I paused for a moment to remember watching fireworks in Lewisville last year with Aidan and a friend of mine. I assumed she would be watching fireworks in Alexandria Bay tonight, but I don’t have any information about it. As a loving parent, I want to know that she’s having a good time on vacation. But as a divorced parent, I want to respect boundaries and not make her mom feel like I am interrupting their time away.

So I am being cautious about how often I contact her and what I contact her about. Since yesterday and today were travel days, I was more concerned about their progress. Now that I know where they are, I will likely be in touch a lot less so they can focus on the people around them.

One of those people is Aidan’s grandfather. He’s been in touch with her by phone frequently since he last saw her in February 2010.  He often mentions his river, the St. Lawrence River. So one of the highlights of this trip will no doubt be seeing Grandpa’s River. Since Bonnie mentioned they were dressed for the park, I can only assume that Aidan would get some time to swim as well. If not today, I’m sure she will get to swim tomorrow or Tuesday.

And what a difference to swim in a mighty river! This girl who is accustomed to pools in North Texas will once again experience the river that was a key part of her mother’s and her father’s childhood. The last time she was at that park (and river) was July 2008. She was only three years old then, and I’m sure she barely remembered it. Now she will have a new story to tell about Grandpa’s River.

Monday July 4, 2011

A Day at the Beach/A Night in the Apartment

Judging by the photo emailed to me, Aidan had a spectactular holiday at the beach in Alexandria Bay, New York. Across the river from Boldt Castle, she built a little one of her own. I’m sure she got a feel for the cool river water at some point, too.

Her puppy Emma needed some cool water in the afternoon after we walked from my place to Bonnie’s apartment. The temperature lingered around 100 degrees. I didn’t mind the heat or the bright sunshine. The walk actually felt good, although Emma seemed to prefer being carried after awhile.

Holidays like this one are often a time to reflect on holidays past, but I didn’t do that today. I felt content knowing Aidan is having a wonderful visit as I focused on life here in Lewisville. There’s a lot to do to get Aidan’s room puppy-ready. But I didn’t accomplish anything today. Instead, I just rested and watched movies.

I’ve got 5 more days to make progress in Bonnie’s apartment before she and Aidan return on Sunday. My main goal is to organize Aidan’s room. It’s a task I would prefer to do when she’s here, but it seems insurmountable at times so I’m giving myself a chance to create some momentum over the course of a few days.

Meantime, Emma is getting comfortable in the apartment. I wanted to avoid keeping her at my place exclusively this entire week when she will be living in the apartment as of next Monday. As I am getting some areas cleaned here, she’s roaming around and getting acquainted with the surroundings. When I am at the computer, she tends to sit at my feet and sleep.

With the brutal summer heat in place, Emma and I stayed inside most of the time. Our walks outside were short, and the A/C provided the necessary comfort during the late afternoon and evenings hours.  Very few sounds could be heard as most people seem to be somewhere else today, except for the folks grilling nearby whose food sent savory smells fifty feet or more, just far enough to catch my attention.

But it feels far too quiet here in this apartment with Aidan away for the week. Perhaps part of the silence is due to the TV being off most of the time. I actually get a break from watching kids’ shows. Since she spent last week at my place consumed by Nick Jr., I’d call this a welcome break.

Tuesday July 5, 2011

The Verdict

The biggest story of the day was the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. The jury found her not guilty of murder in the death of her daughter Caylee. I almost missed the live announcement but noticed a Facebook friend’s post about it. I quickly turned on HLN to watch the broadcast. It was certainly a compelling moment as the jury’s decision was announced.

I created this page to provide daily updates and thoughts  about my own daughter, but it seems appropriate today to share my thoughts about Caylee Anthony who would’ve turned six next month. I didn’t follow the trial or the news coverage carefully. When I did watch, I was especially moved by the video clips of Caylee playing and walking as it reminded me of my own daughter at that age. In fact, as I write this I realize for the first time that they were the same age. Caylee was born less than 3 months after Aidan.

I find it challenging to share what I’m actually thinking because it’s really a whirlwind of thoughts. Losing a child must be the most agonizing experience a parent can endure. In this case, evidence suggests that Casey Anthony didn’t initially react like many parents would, getting a tattoo after Caylee ‘s disappearance and before her remains were found. It seems hard to fathom.

When Aidan got out of the house twice at two years of age, I began to have painful thoughts of what life without her would be like. Fortunately she didn’t get far on both occasions, and we installed another lock on the front door. If circumstances had been different, who knows what might have happened. If she had went missing, I can’t imagine not being consumed with finding her.

While justice for Caylee has not yet been declared, her memory lives on through the people that knew her when she was alive and the people who have come to know her through the course of the trial. We may think of Caylee from time to time and hug our own daughters (and sons) a little tighter. We may also be more aware of potentially abusive situations around us, ones affecting the friends and classmates of our own children. We may try to pay more attention. We may say more prayers. We may donate to good causes. In the end, we can only hope that if an intervention must come,  it comes in time to save the life of the next child like Caylee.

Wednesday July 6, 2011

To Grandmother’s House She Goes

Following a Petrie family gathering in Alexandria Bay on Tuesday, Aidan is spending a couple days with my parents in Flackville, New York. Mom and Dad last saw their only grandchild almost a year and a half ago. I’m sure the reunion was a sweet moment for all of them.

My mom coordinated with family friend Dana to bring her six year old daughter Kathryn to the house today so the girls could get reacquainted. I’m always amused when I hear stories about how Kathryn refers to “Aidan’s bedroom” at the house, even though Aidan hasn’t stayed there more than a couple times since 2008. The girls shared a bed and conspired to stay up all night, but eventually fell asleep around midnight, I’m told.

On this end of the world, I got more accomplished in the apartment, although I have yet to make progress in Aidan’s room. But she and Bonnie will be pleasantly surprised when they see the difference in the office area and living room. I’m also pleased to say the Morning Glory plant looks fresh and healthy again.

Thursday July 7, 2011

The Full Review

I had a long chat with my mom tonight and got a full review of Aidan’s 2-day stay there. By the time I had called, Mom and Dad were home after a trip to Alexandria Bay to take Aidan back to Bonnie. Mom sounded a bit tired but exhilirated after spending time with her granddaughter.

A visit to my Uncle Neil and Aunt Jeanne’s place gave Aidan and Kathryn some time to see the pigs in the barn. Mom said the girls named the pigs but she couldn’t quite recall the names they chose. I’ll have to ask Aidan about it when she gets back.

The girls also enjoyed time together with Mom and Dad in Lisbon, playing on the playground at the school. Mom mentioned that she and dad took the girls to McDonald’s, too. I’m sure that trip earned them points with the girls, especially since Aidan frequently asks to go to Mickey D’s.

I laughed when Mom mentioned showing some photos of me as a kid to Aidan. My daughter looks just as tan right now as I did at the end of summers going back to school. I’m sure she thinks her old man was cute as a boy in those pics from 30+ years ago. I don’t think she’s seen kid pics of me recently, although she did see a baby pic of me, the one where my brother Will is holding me.

From Mom’s description, Alexandria Bay sounds like it is bustling with visitors right now. I’m glad Aidan got to see her mother’s hometown at this time of year. I wonder if Bonnie’s dad got an ice cream cone for Aidan like he frequently mentions on the phone we he talks to her. I’m sure they went to one of my favorite places for dinner, The Dockside, at least once. Aidan also loves that spot!

During the conversation, Mom mentioned plans coming together to meet at my sister and brother-in-law’s home outside Raleigh for Labor Day weekend. I’d like to make that trip so Aidan can see two sets of aunts and uncles she hasn’t seen in more than 2 years—and get more time with a grandmother she loves and cherishes.

Friday July 8, 2011

Go Greyhound

When I was 21, I rode a Greyhound bus from Canton, New York to Rochester to visit my girlfriend. I didn’t tell her I was coming so the phone call she received from me once I had arrived came as quite a surprise. That was June 1992. Almost two decades would pass before I experienced a Greyhound ride again, but in the last 8 months I’ve taken multiple trips between Dallas and Houston.

My daughter’s trip on Greyhound today covered a comparable amount of miles and took her and her mom from Watertown, New York to Western New York. When I heard they left around 8 am, I cringed. Not only was it a long trip, but the day started so early. But I saw it differently a bit later. I recognized the sense of adventure that Aidan may have been feeling during the trip, and how memorable that bus ride will be for years to come.

So two trips by Greyhound in one week are key parts of Aidan’s visit to upstate New York. I’m eager to hear all about it when she gets back to Lewisville. What did she see? Did she meet anyone interesting? Where did they stop along the way? What did she like most about the trips?

I know when I’ve ridden the bus, I’ve always felt that immense sense of relief when I arrive at my destination. But I also try to take in moments along the way. Those moments always last longer in my memory than the brief few minutes of arriving at the bus terminal and unloading. Sometimes it’s something funny that happens, like when a passenger almost got left behind in Corsicana one time. Sometimes it’s a grateful feeling of having enough money to buy a much-needed snack or getting much-needed sleep along the way.

Of course, the true joy of the day  for Aidan was most likely arriving at her great-grandmother’s home in Silver Creek, New York. Because we’re so far away from most relatives, she rarely gets to see them. It makes visits like this one so much more important when you consider her great-grandmother is 80 now.

Bonnie sent a photo of Aidan with a towel wrapped around her hair, a sign of a rewarding bath after a long journey. I’m sure my little girl is feeling wonderful tonight, surrounded by loved ones and looking forward to seeing even more relatives tomorrow. Saturday will be the last day of the visit before they return early on Sunday morning, and I know she will create even more special memories to share with me when I see her in a couple days.

Saturday July 9, 2011

The Bank/The Birthday Party

With a check to deposit for Bonnie, Aidan’s puppy and I made the trip to the bank on foot, me on my two feet and her on her four little paws. No one seemed surprised when I carried Emma into the bank lobby and right up to the bank teller’s window. I wish Aid had been with us for the experience. It seems you can go almost anywhere with an adorable little puppy who looks like a baby deer.

Aidan’s day would be far more significant; she celebrated her great-grandmother’s 80th birthday. Bonnie’s grandmother, Marilyn Thomas, turned 80 on July 2, and the family gathered today to mark the special occasion. From the photos sent by Bonnie, Aidan seemed to be having a wonderful time with her cousins. I can only hope that the time she spent with her great-grandmother today will be equally as memorable for her.

Sunday July 10. 2011

Welcome Home/Meet the Babysitter

The ladies have returned from a week in New York! I picked them up at DFW around noon, and Aidan was thrilled to see I brought her puppy. Emma has grown a bit since last week  and seemed content to have Aidan carry her around outside the airport terminal.

Tonight my girl and her puppy are sleeping next to each other. Both look like it’s the only place they want to be. Their reunion today was a blessed occasion, athough a tiring one for little Emma. Aidan played constantly with her and I think she wore out Emma eventually.

If Aidan’s endless energy wasn’t enough for the puppy, she found an ally in a visitor who came over in the evening. I arranged for a prospective babysitter to meet us here so she could get acquainted with Aidan. As Aid and her teenage babysitter played with Emma, the girl’s mom and I got acquainted too.

With the move to Richardson delayed at least a year, I decided to find a babysitter in Lewisville, and I noticed this young lady’s information at our church. I discovered the challenges of not having a regular go-to babysitter during the last school year, and I realize that rectifying that issue is essential.

The babysitter and her mother also met Bonnie this evening. She came over to spend some time with Aidan and me. She knew I would be contacting a potential babysitter and I think she may slightly impressed that I actually followed through with the idea. But in the end, I think it will be an invaluable resource for both of us, especially once the new school year starts in August. Best of all, Aidan and her babysitter seemed to get along wonderfully so I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of her around here in the coming months.

As for tonight, Aid and I finished the evening with a bowl of popcorn and Garfield: The Movie. I challenged her to stay awake for the next movie, The Old Man and the Sea. She seemed confident that she could do it. But before Spencer Tracy’s Old Man character fell asleep the night before setting sail in the movie, Aid was unconscious. I’ll have to ask her what she thought of the film when she wakes up in the morning. I’m sure her answer will be short.

Monday July 11, 2011

The Audition Helper/New Friends

I kept Aidan home today rather than take her to her summer program. She needed the rest, but I put her to work,too. It wasn’t the housework she was expecting. Instead I had her help me with an audition I had to tape for an industrial video about offshore drilling.

At first she thought I gave her the index card with lines on it just to read. I surprised her when I said I needed her to deliver those lines while I taped the audition.  Her part was about telling my character to use tag lines so the crane operator wouldn’t come unglued. She was magnificent, delievering her lines like a pro. She memorized them, although she was able to read them off the card during the taping.

The taping, and subseuqent waiting to get the slate video and audition scene butted together by a good friend in Houston, kept us in the house much of the day. She watched a lot of Nick Jr. and played with her puppy, while hoping to see her friend down the street. We happened to be checking the mail when her friend and her friend’s mom got home. But the mom told Aidan to come back later for playtime.

Aidan and I went home and she patiently waited until I let her go see her friend. At 4:15 pm, I said she could go but she came back two minutes later, saying her friend had fallen asleep already. I felt bad for her, but she quickly rebounded and made some friends down the street.

We saw two kids playing on a Slip “N Slide in front of their house. I sent Aidan down to introduce herself, then I walked over to join them. She had a blast playing with the water hose and making new friends. I chatted with the mom and I’m sure we’ll get together with them again. In fact, the girl is going to the same school as Aidan this fall.

So one lost playdate turned into a great opportunity to make a new friend.  Plus, I know she was pleased to participate in my audition taping. The only real downer of the day may have been her refusal to eat more than a spoonful of my housemate’s delicious vegetable soup. But I can understand that. Even though in contains pasta and hamburger meat, all the assorted veggies and seasonings may have overwhelmed her. Thank goodness I have cans of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup with the Disney princesses on them.

Tuesday July 12, 2o11

The Hot Walk

The distance from my place to the elementary school where Aidan’s summer program is held is roughly three miles. I looked at Google Maps back in June to see how far away it is, and I looked again today. It’s important to know the how many miles I’ve covered on foot.

Yes, with the temperature in the low 90s (and rising), I brought Aidan to school by walking her there. I didn’t make her walk, although she did walk several hundred yards during the trip. Instead I carried her on my shoulders most of the way. I only put her down for a bit to get a bit of rest before she climbed on my shoulders again.

What an incredible workout! I also found it a terrific way to talk to her. Neither one of us is distracted by anything. No laptop. No TV. No puppy. It was just the two of us moving from Point A to Point B. And she seemed to have a lot to say.

One of her comments relates to last week’s vacation. She said, “I would move to Buffalo, if it would make mama happy.” She and her mother chatted about the possibility of moving to Buffalo while they were there on vacation. It is not a plan actually, just something to consider at this point. When the three of us talked about it on Sunday on the way back from the airport, Aidan resisted the idea. But today, she expressed a very different view.

I laughed when she said, “This walk is making me tired.” True, the heat is tiring, especially when the temperature climbs above 100 degrees in the afternoon these days. But I reminded her that she was just along for the ride and my body was doing all the work.

Now that we’ve made that trip once, I think there’s no need for us to repeat it. The heat will be oppressive the rest of the month, and we already proved to ourselves that we could cover the distance in that heat. On the other hand, the 3-mile walk took no more than 45 minutes, and she could easily spend twice that much time at the park in this weather, especially if I bring cash to get her a frozen treat.

“One ice cream sandwich, por favor.”

Wednesday July 13, 2011

Change of plans

Lesson of the day: always carry my driver’s license.

I’m not always proud of every decision I make, and today I made one that wasn’t one of the year’s highlights. I failed to bring I.D. with me when I picked up Aidan at her summer program. The policy is, without I.D., they cannot release a child. To be fair, I haven’t been asked to show I.D. yet. They just happened to insist on seeing I.D. at a time that felt highly inconvenient.

Here’s why: I had my first murder mystery show as Sherlock Holmes tonight so I contacted another parent to ask if she could pick up Aid. She was at home with her sick daughter so she wouldn’t be available. So the change of plans involved me picking up Aidan early enough to bring her to my place for my housemate to watch her while I went to the show in Dallas.

So how did I solve the problem of no I.D.? I wish I had been calmer at the time. I felt stressed and explained that I didn’t have time to go home and get my license nor did I have any other proof with me or in the car (borrowed from my housemate). Finally, I said I live a public life and they could find me online very easily. I wrote down my name and gave it to the lead instructor to search for me on a computer. He came back and allowed me to take Aidan, and I thanked him profusely and apologized for not having my I.D.

As I walked Aidan out to the car, I explained to her that I didn’t handle the situation very well. I emphasized that I was unprepared and let the stress of time pressure make things tense. I wanted her to understand that I made a mistake, recognized it while it was happening, and plan to avoid making the same mistake again. She seemed content hearing my explanation.

There was one advantage for her in the change of plans. As soon as we got to my place, she was able to spend an hour with her friend down the street. Ths friend is the same one she was hoping to play with on Monday but the girl fell asleep before Aidan got there. I’m sure they had a wonderful time together as always.

Thursday July 14, 2011

Full Moon

I noticed one of the local meterologists mention on Facebook this afternoon that the moon would be full tonight. Around  9 pm, I carried Aidan outside and her mom followed with the puppy. We enjoyed the sight of the bright full moon in a mostly clear sky. Aidan said she wished she could jump on the clouds and go all the way to the moon. She really has a sense of adventure.

As we continued to look at the night sky, Aidan said she wanted to be the first one to discover the moon. I explained her to that the first moon landing by astronauts took place on her grandmother’s 20th birthday in 1969. She had a quick comeback: “Then I want to be the first kid to discover the moon.”

She was curious about how the astronauts in 1969 didn’t freeze up there. Her mother, who has interviewed astronauts including John Glenn during her years as a radio news anchor, explained that the astronauts wear special suits to protect them. Aidan seemed satisfied with the answer.

If it wasn’t so late, I would’ve shown her some videos online of that original moon landing. But while it’s fresh in her mind, I can do that tomorrow. Who knows? Perhaps the girl born in Houston, home to the Johnson Space Center, will one day be roaming the galaxies.

Friday July 15, 2011

Gingerbread

At the end of a full day at her summer program, Aidan was eager to rest and relax with her puppy. I dropped her off before 9 am and picked her up around 5:30 pm. I brought Emma with me to pick up Aidan and the three of us went back to my house. Aid watched her favorite channel, Nick Jr., and we agreed that going outside was not a good plan.

Aidan tends to want to spend hours watching Nick Jr. so any activity I can find to redirect her is helpful. I picked up several books for her at the library this week. As a fan of reading, she loves discovering new books, although she was hoping I bought these books instead of getting them at the library. Maybe she wants to write her name in them and that’s why she prefers the store-bought books.

But nothing pulls her away from the TV like baking. Tonight, my housemate Donna brought out a package of gingerbread mix.  I like giving her the duties of pouring the mix and water, and stirring it. This dough is hard to stir with little hands so I helped her. Then we made 1-inch balls and put them on cookie sheets. She struggled a bit at first rolling the dough in her hands but she watched me and felt more confident after a few minutes.

By the time we were ready to roll the cookie balls in sugar, her mom had arrived so the two of them handled that part of the process. Then I put the two cookie sheets in the oven for 10 minutes.  Aidan noticed that the sugar was barely noticeable once the cookies were finished baking.

It’s amusing how much time is involved in making cookies when they get eaten so quickly. Luckily, the mix came from my housemate, but when I factor in the time she spent buying the mix, the investment of time looks something like this:

Shop time: 30 minutes

Drive time: 10 minutes

Unload time: 5 minutes

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 1o minutes

That’s an hour and five minutes spent from the time the mix is grabbed off the shelf to the cookies cooling on the sheet. And how much time did we take to collectively eat two-thirds of our results? 5 minutes!

At least the smell of gingerbread lingered all evening.

Saturday July 16, 2011

Austin Baby

Hours before my public debut as Sherlock Holmes Aidan helped me run lines. I was on the couch reviewing the script, and Aid came over and asked if she could read the part of Austin Powers again like she did earlier in the week. But when the script had me calling her “Mr. Powers” she said she didn’t like it. I asked her what she preferred, and she said, “call me Austin baby.”

We actually read far enough into the script for her to provide lines for both Austin and Elizabeth Taylor. I enjoyed explaining the definition of words such as “pre-meditated” and seeing if she understood the events that take place in the story. Much of it may be beyond comprehending for her right now, but she got a great chance to continue developing her reading skills.

I do wish she could have seen the show tonight. I know she is eager to see me perform as Sherlock, and I’m sure I will get a chance to bring her to a show at some point. For now, I have a great deal to focus on as I am just beginning to perform in this capacity.

The show’s producer brought her 3 kids to the show tonight. The two older ones have behind the scenes duties and the youngest, her only son, helped in various ways. When Aidan is a bit older, I may be able to find ways to incorporate her into the crew.

She certainly was a huge help today. In fact, she’s been a huge help several times this week. As her reading skills improve, I will call on her to help me run lines and prepare for auditions regularly. Then, I think she’ll be ready to start writing stories and scenes of her own.

Sunday July 17, 2011

Uno!

In March Aidan and I spent a week in Houston. Her Spring Break gave us a chance to make the trip so she could see her uncle. That’s the last time she was in the city of her birth, and the visit was memorable. One of our highlights was a marathon Uno game that lasted for a couple hours and didn’t get finished.  Four months later, the Uno deck saw action again.

While the World Cup final aired on TV, and the US women battled against Japan, Aidan and I played several hands of Uno. She was very eager to play, and I enjoy that game. What I didn’t expect was the impromptu refresher in math that would follow.

It seems my daughter has forgotten the math she learned during the school year. Even simple math like 7 + 3 seemed to challenge her. Two months ago when her grandmother sent her flash cards as part of Aidan’s birthday presents, I felt like they would be wasted. I figured she had mastered simple addition and was already moving on to adding 3-digit numbers. Yet in the 5 weeks or so since the school year ended, she’s done virtually no math. So those flash cards will see a lot of action this week, and in the weeks to come before the new school year begins.

I should have encouraged her to watch the World Cup more closely. That math was simple to follow, with only 1 goal to add at a time. Sadly, the US women fell short to Japan.

During the game, which I watched with Aidan’s mom, I enjoyed the outstanding goals scored by Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach. The entire game was thrilling, although Bonnie called it “stressful.” It did feel stressful as the US took a 1-0 lead,  allowed a tying goal and later repeated by taking the lead again and allowing Japan to tie it up before the end of regulation.

Bonnie commented about how difficult it would be to have a child playing in that game. I know I would be there to support Aidan, and I’m sure her mother wouldn’t miss the game either. Soccer was a sport Bonnie played in high school, and I always enjoyed it during high school gym class. There’s at least a chance our girl could end up on a soccer field at some point. She’s certainly got the speed, strength and competitive nature to handle the sport. That reminds me, I need to get her out to the park again sometime to teach her more of the basics of the sport.

Monday would be a great day to start. I just looked at the forecast online and the high for Lewisville will only be 99 degrees. After a wicked stretch of triple-digit temps, I know she and I can handle the heat.

Monday July 18, 2011

Surprise Home School

On the way to Aidan’s summer program, we listened to Baker Street on the radio, which inspired some impromptu math. I explained that I was 7 when the song was first on the radio. Aidan knows I’m 40 now. So how many years have passed since I was 7? It took her a bit to figure it out and became a subtraction problem.

40-7=33

It felt like a pleasant little moment and started the day in a positive way. The day took a sharp turn when the summer program didn’t have Aidan’s name on the sign-in list. It turns out she wasn’t registered for the next 4 weeks. Surprise!

We drove back to Bonnie’s to explain the situation and she brought us to my place where Aid and I spent the day. While watching Nick Jr. was part of our day together, I also incorporated some educational lessons, reading a book, reviewing the proper way to write all upper and lower case letters, enjoying the music and dancing in The Fresh Beat Band on TV, discussing the drought in Texas, conservatively watering the lawn and the plants. Playtime with the puppy and 30 minutes of computer time also served as part of our day, and we ended the “home school” day with a trip to the Lewisville Public Library where we checked out 4 DVDs and six books.

The impromptu lessons worked well, and next time I will step it up with some actual plans for days we spend together.

Tuesday July 19, 2011

Lucky Mint

My girl went from miserable to mesmerized this evening. When my housemate and I picked Aidan up at her summer program, she was upset because I didn’t have her beloved blanket.  I suspect that she was tired and just wanted to sleep. What she didn’t know was that Donna had planned to drive to Baskin & Robbins for the Tuesday deal on ice cream cones.

I smiled as I watched Aidan’s pout turned into a joyous look as she recognized our destination. This was the second Tuesday in a row that we made this little trip for a $1 kids cone and $1.50 adult cones. The flavor we sampled last week was the same flavor each one of us chose today. Lucky Mint is available for a limited time only so we all felt the need to indulge in it today. What a treat!

It’s been wonderful for Aidan and I to have a caring individual like Donna in our lives. Little trips like this one, the cookie mixes she shares with us, and her general thoughtfulness may life so much more pleasant. I hope Aidan appreciates her. I know I do.

She even offered to pick up Aidan at school tomorrow so I wouldn’t have to drive back to Lewisville and back to Dallas to pick up Bonnie. That’s a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. Perhaps Aidan and I can discuss something nice we can do for Donna this week as a thank you for taking care of both of us.

Wednesday July 20, 2011

Singer/songwriter-Pizza Inn

On the way to her summer program this morning, Aidan sang a song she seemed to make up as she went. The lyrics included lines like, “It’s been a bad, bad, bad, bad year” and “It’s never going to be a good year,” Despite the negative content, she sounded quite upbeat as she sang it.

I listened carefully and occasionally glanced at her in the rear view mirror. She sounded so adorable and I imagined her one day singing one of her own songs on stage somewhere. Her puppy was part of her audience today; I believe she could easily sing for thousands in the years ahead.

Since I had an audition in Dallas today, I rode with her mom to work this morning and kept the car. Before I picked up Bonnie at 7, I thought it would be a terrific evening to go out for pizza and invite my housemate Donna to go with us. She was picking up Aidan for me today, and it seemed like an ideal way to say thank you.

When Bonnie and I got to my place, Donna told us that she took Aidan to Braum’s for a frozen yogurt cone. That made me happy. I love having one more person in Aidan’s life who enjoys giving her love and treats.

The trip to Pizza Inn was wonderful. The buffet was filled with delicious varieities of pizza, pasta and salas, and the grown-ups all ate far too much for one meal. Aid nibbled on her pizza, enjoyed some broccoli from the salad bar, and saved plenty of room for dessert.

Grandma’s birthday is today. Aid and I sent cards on Monday, but discovered they haven’t arrived yet when we talked to my mom on the phone. It was so cute to hear Aid tell her grandmother how much she misses her. They can carry on a conversation so well; both of them love to chat on the phone. I wished mom a happy birthday too and let her know I would call her tomorrow. We returned our attention to the meal and added to the stack of empty plates on the table.

When we finished, Aid came home with me and my housemate Donna. Aid was a sleepy girl, and I’ll make sure she gets plenty of sleep tonight. She’s got another fun-filled day tomorrow at her summer program, including an afternoon field trip to go ice skating.

Thursday July 21, 2011

Hot & Cold

In the midst of a long streak of 100-degree days, Aidan was dressed in layers this morning to go to school. She looked unusual already wearing pajama bottoms, especially ones meant for winter. She even had tights on underneath. But it was all her mother’s preparation for our little girl to go ice skating today.

The ice skating experience was a field trip with her summer program buddies. When I picked her up at 6:30, she boasted that she didn’t fall on her bottom at all. That’s a terrific accomplishment!

She’s been skating before, at both The Galleria in Houston and The Galleria in Dallas. Usually it’s me on the ice with her. I’m not sure how they handled it today, but Aidan seemed pleased with her skating time, and asked if I could take her back to the rink.

I asked her where the kids went skating and she said they went to the Dr Pepper Arena, which is in Frisco. It’s adjacent to a mall there and I recall we went to that mall several months ago. I remember Aidan and I watching 15 minutes of a  game there, although I can’t remember if it was a high school game or an adult league match. I do recall Aidan watching the sport with great interest and asking a lot of questions. She’s got hockey heritage on her mother’s side of the family so it wouldn’t surprise me to see her on skates regularly in the coming years.

Friday July 22, 2011

Rock Star!

I stayed up late last night but woke up early this morning. The plan to sleep in while Aidan was at her mom’s didn’t pan out. Good thing! By 8 am, Bonnie sent me a message saying she and Aid were coming over. Aidan had to be at her summer program by 8:30 and Bonnie wanted me to see how Aidan dressed for Field Day.

The theme of today’s Field Day was “Rock Star.” When I walked outside to greet her, Aidan was beaming. She was wearing a dress from 2009’s butterfly costime for Halloween. She was also wearing makeup, tights with tears in them, and brown cowboy boots. Bonnie said she wished she had gotten pink hairspray for our little rocker, but she would’ve then put Aid in a silver dress with pink cowboy boots.

I took Aid to school and she hesistated walking in the building. She didn’t see the other kids dressed for today’s theme. But they were there. Lots of little rock stars! Even some of the grown-ups were dressed like rock stars.

Later in the day when I picked her up, she told me that she had met Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.  I imagine a pair of the instructors dressed like the celebrity pair. She told me she got their autographs, too. That must’ve been quite a day.

Aid was still dressed as a little rock star when she and I went to the grocery store. One of the store employees helped Aidan get a cart in the front of the store, and complimented her on her wardrobe choices. He explained to me that his granddaughter is about the same age and likes to pick out similar to wear.

The evening brought a surprise: Aidan would have a sleepover with her friend Addison, who was back in town after being at her father’s place out of town the last several weeks. Aid was thrilled to hear this news, of course. But it meant the three of us finishing dinner at my place and hustling over to Bonnie’s to clean and prepare the apartment for a guest.

By 10 pm, Addison had arrived with her mom. It would be a late night for the girls and Aidan’s puppy who got an abundance of attention. As they played, Bonnie and I watched TV and wondered how long it would take them to be sleepy. I made frequent trips to Aidan’s room to tell the girls to settle down, to no avail. But eventually, her room grew quieter. They were asleep, right? No, just plotting their next mischievous moves.

Saturday July 23, 2011

Kid Central

The only child who had a houseguest last night and today ended up spending most of the afternoon with two additional friends who live in her mother’s apartment complex. The older of the two girls goes to Aidan’s school and it’s the same family we met a month ago at the apartment complex pool. It’s been a few weeks since Aidan spent any time with them but she had ample time to catch up today.

Midday I took Aidan and Addison over to that family’s apartment and later the girls’ father brought all 4 girls over to Bonnie’s apartment where they spent a couple hours. It was a busy, noisy environment with playing, dancing, talking by 4 little girls who drank chocolate milk and snacked on Fruit Loops, as if they needed sugar to get more hyper.

And then it got quiet. The girls’ father picked them up and an hour later Addison’s mom picked her up. Within a few minutes, Aid fell asleep on the sofa. I moved her to her bedroom. Her mom was hoping Aid would stay asleep until morning. Did that happen? Not even close.

But the evening brought indulging in Blue Bell ice cream sandwiches and a trip to the dog park. Lewisville has one of the best dog parks anywhere with a great variety of breeds. So Emma got to experience the same kind of play that Aidan enjoyed all day. I’m sure the puppy will sleep well tonight, even if Aidan doesn’t.

Sunday July 24, 2011

Poolside Bible Study

One of the joys of belonging to a church is the sense of belonging that starts on Sunday and last all week. Even on this particular Sunday when we didn’t make it to church, I still felt empowered by being able to attend a church function for youth in the evening. The Poolside Bible Study was intended for members for the youth group from middle school through high school, but I saw the invite on Facebook this week and felt the need to bring Aidan.

She was delighted to be able to show me her new swimming skill, submerging her head under the water. She also jumped in with confidence, despite not wearing a flotation suit. I was impressed with the progress she’s made since I last took her to a pool several weeks ago.

But the visit was not only about her spending time in the water; it was about being part of a community. I opened up and enjoyed conversations with new people. Aid played a lot with one of the youth members, Erin, a very sweet  teenage girl who obviously has a great love for kids. She was so attentive with Aidan and playful. I could tell my daughter loved every moment.

The Bible study itself was fascinating as Pastor Mary Beth set every one of us in motion to reflect on the blessings and burdens of water, the natural theme of a poolside session.  We listened carefully as several people shared their stories about significant moments related to water. The qualities of water were described in single words, such as vital and mysterious. The conversation about water led to a dialogue about the youth group’s recent mission trip to Winnie, Texas.

The immediate associations with water that came to mind with students who went on that mission trip were rainfall and hydration. The hot weather prompted a constant need to drink water and rainfall nearly every day of the trip impacted planned activities. In one instance, work that was supposed to be done outside was put on hold and a group of students visited a nursing home instead. I liked the way Erin put it: “We can have a plan, but God may have a different plan for us.” That statement resonated with me.

I hope Aidan was paying close attention during that conversation. I looked over at her periodically to see if she was listening. She seemed to be following what was being said. Of course, the subject matter is one we can talk about anytime and every day, if necessary. I like to know how she feels about these experiences and have a sense of her perspective. But as we left the gathering, she was more focused on making a cake for her mom tonight so I held off on having a chat about God’s plan and instead we discussed our plan to bake a cake and bring it to her mom. Perhaps that was also part of God’s plan for the evening.

Monday July 25, 2011

Ants at the Picnic

It’s wonderful living near a large park, especially one that provides so much shade on a hot summer day. That made it easier to agree to Aidan’s idea about having a picnic at 5 pm, while the temperature lingered near 100 degrees. I packed plenty of cold water, along with a variety of things to eat. As Aid said, “picnics have lots of food.”

We walked over to the park and looked for a spot to lay down the blanket we brought. Most of the ground there is sandy or covered it sticks but we managed to find a nice spot that was all soft grass. Then the picnic began!

We ate, drank, relaxed, chatted and generally enjoyed the time together. We laughed when Emma growled and tried to chase a bird. Within a few minutes, we both noticed a few ants. At first, they weren’t much of a nuisance. When the ants seemed to grow rapidly in numbers, we decided the picnic was over. That didn’t mean the fun was done.

I packed up everything and we walked over to the playground. Emma impressed us with her ability to climb up parts of the playground structures, although she refused to walk across the bridge that shakes. Maybe it was the holes in it or the unusual shape, but she did not like that part at all.

Emma did like the ice cubes we brought for her. Before they melted, she licked them. Once the ice cubes melted a bit, she splashed in the water. Aid and I also splashed each other, using a bottle with cold water in it.

The exercise and time outdoors were good for all of us. Aid, Emma and I napped in the evening, and I put it a Bambi DVD for Aidan when she woke up. She returned the favor by agreeing to watch “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” with me.

Tuesday July 26, 2011

An Hour of Math

Like yesterday, Aidan stayed at home with me instead of going to her summer program. Because she and I are going to Houston on Wednesday, her mom contacted the program coordinators to say Aidan wouldn’t be coming at all this week. Unfortunately, a full refund for this week’s fee does not get returned, only half of it does.

Math was also a topic of discussion for Aidan and I this afternoon. In the midst of trying to complete my writing assignments, I found the general noise in the house to be terribly distracing. On any other day, I could handle the sound of Aidan’s puppy playing with my landlord’s Boston Terrier. On any other day, Aidan’s singing would be a blessing. But today, I was hustling to write so I could not have work lingering while she and I are in Houston the next several days. So I came up with a plan.

As I sat at the kitchen island, a terrific spot for me to write, I had Aidan sit next to me and begin working on math problems. Actually I gave her only one problem. She was reluctant to work on it, and she even shed a few years. When she finally completed it sucessfully, I told her that it took her so long to finish one that she now had to work on math problems for an hour. Judging by her reaction, an observer might mistakenly think I told her all the ice cream in the world had disappeared.

But she started working anyway. I gave her one problem at a time, returned to my writing, and checked her work when she was done. Then I gave her several problems. She needed reminders about how to add and subtract two-digit numbers at first, but she handled it on her own quickly.

With half my brain focused on writing a blog post about restoration services after a storm, fire, or flood and the other half of my brain keeping an eye on Aid, I made little progress that hour. I was pleased to see her doing so well after the initial struggle. It may have helped that I set down a bowl of Fruit Loops for us to snack on.

As the end of the hour approached, I gave her some three-digit numbers to add or subtract. She got nearly all of them right. Then came the big finish:

7 + 11 + 10 + 5

This one took some time. She has never been asked to add 4 numbers together. So I explained a fast way to get started.

“I have 7 cookies and you have 10 cookies. How many do we have?”

“17.”

“Okay, so if I add one more cookie, how many then?”

She gave it some thought, and said, “18!”

“Good, now what is 18 + 10?”

“28!”

“Terrific. Now add 5 to 28 and what do you get?”

A few moments of thinking passed before she answered, “33!”

Perfect! The hour of math came to an end. She was free to watch TV, and I forged ahead with my writing.

Wednesday July 27, 2011

Go Greyhound

The long-awaited Houston trip is underway. Aidan has been asking to visit Houston again for months. Our last trip occurred during Spring Break in March, and it feels good to be able to take her back.

The ride by Greyhound, a customary trip for me, was so much more enjoyable with her. And she loves riding the bus! It also helped to have a fun activity to focus on together. I turned on the laptop and we played the available games: Minesweep, Hearts and Pinball.

Neither of us had played Hearts before and it was quite a learning experience. We played against 3 computer players and came in last place in the first several games.  But we rebounded and ended up winning one game.

I liked introducing her to Minesweep, a game I haven’t played in years. But the game with the greatest impact was Pinball. She talked about how good her grandpa is at this game. It’s true! My dad has been a dominant Pinball player for decades.

We arrived in Houston at 5 pm, and my brother was already at the bus station, waiting for us. Aid hadn’t seen her favorite uncle in several months and the reunion was sweet. Using his new smartphone, she took several pics of him.

The evening quickly turned into Movie Night as we watched 2 of the Shrek movies and The Simpsons movie, with a break to grocery shop. By the time we went to bed, 1 am had quietly arrived. At least one of us gets to sleep in tomorrow.

Thursday July 28, 2011

Peach Cobbler and Chicken Bones

Thanks to a satisfied client, two generous friends and a supportive brother, Thursday ran smoothly from start to finish. Aid slept in and spent time with her uncle before joining her friend Courtney on a ride to meet me in Stafford. My friend Josie dropped off the girls at the production company where I was working, and they spent plenty of time on the laptop, playing games as I finished my voiceover session. They also made peach cobbler with Kyle, the company manager. I’ve known Kyle for several years, first working for him on camera after responding to a Craigslist ad, and it was terrific to be able to introduce my daughter to him and many of the employees there.

The evening gave us more time with friendly folks as we enjoyed catching up with my friends Kevin and Kara. Dinner at Spring Creek BBQ was also memorable, for two reasons. First, we had a scary moment as Aid was choking on her food, most likely some underchewed chicken. Once she coughed it up, I comforted her and had her sit on my lap. She resumed eating several minutes later, and started examining the chicken bones. I moved some of them off her plate but she wanted them there. In fact, she wanted to take all the chicken bones home. I convinced her that we could take two bones with us and no more. She agreed, and I realized that I was really wrapping chicken bones in a napkin to put in my pocket just to make her happy.

After dinner, we returned to Kevin and Kara’s new home where Aidan and Kara spent time together while Kevin and I chatted about writing projects. Aid even watched a couple taped episodes of So You Think You Can Dance, featuring Lady Gaga. It would be another late night for the two of us, but one we spent happily in the company of good friends.

Friday July 29, 2011

Talking Crosswalk & The Ride Home

One of the must-see stops of our brief Houston vist was a talking crosswalk that I mentioned to Aidan months ago. Midday, she and I walked with my brother to that crosswalk. Almost immediately after arriving, the mechanical voice alerted us to wait, then gave us the go ahead to cross. Aid was delighted.

The walk in the neighborhood near my brother’s place was part of an active day that began in Missouri City at Kevin and Kara’s home, and ended in Lewisville at Bonnie’s. I’m impressed by how much we were able to pack into one day.

A visit to Starbucks for morning beverages
Relaxing time at my brother’s apartment
A video shoot and voiceover session in Humble
A stop at Walmart to pick up a booster seat
A ride to Lewisville with friends

Okay, so we were up at 7 am and didn’t arrive in Lewisville until after midnight. That gave us a lot of hours to fill. But the best hours for Aid were the ones spent with her uncle and then later riding to the Dallas area with her friends Branden and Courtney. The evening trip included a stop at Walmart to pick up a booster seat, ice cream cones at McDonald’s and a stop at Buc-ee’s in Madisonville,

The kids amused themselves during most of the evening drive, while I entertained and occupied them for awhile with numerous trivia questions. Between the ice cream and candy they consumed, it was a safe bet that they would be wound up all night. They certainly remained very chatty for most of the trip, although they became quieter during the last 50 miles. There seemed to be a chance they would be sound asleep by the time we arrived at Bonnie’s apartment.

But, no. The silence was short lived and the kids were energetic and talkative again once we got to Bonnie’s, perhaps due in part to the hyperactive state of Aidan’s puppy when she greeted all three of the them.

Eventually Bonnie, Josie and I sent the kids to bed, but we knew they had no intention of falling asleep. The three road warriors had much more to talk about so I left the light on, figuring they would talk themselves to sleep sooner or later.

Saturday July 30, 2011

A Gift of Presence

My daughter getting to spend a day with friends is a special occasion. There is nothing to unwrap; the gift is the presence of the friends. As an only child, Aidan spends a great deal of time with one or both of her parents. Her time with peers isn’t slight; she is typically in a summer program on weekdays. But that’s not the same as sharing time with good friends like the ones who were with us today.

I think my move to Lewisville, and away from Houston where I know far more people, allows me to appreciate the face-to-face time with friends more than ever. I enjoyed that time while in Houston this week, and it makes me happy to see Aidan getting to doing the same. Her friendship with Branden and Courtney started because of my friendship with their mother, and the two quickly started treating Aidan more like a little sister than a friend. They all get along marvelously.

We intended to go to a block party at a local park, but the incredible heat prompted us to find relief at an ice cream shop instead. So we went to Braum’s, Aidan’s favorite place for ice cream. In fact, it’s the place I took her to celebrate learning to tie her shoes. Oddly enough, she wasn’t wearing any shoes during our visit there today.

Branden thought pouring salt from the salt shaker into his hand would be a good idea. So I explained how some people believe tossing salt over one’s left shoulder brings good luck. I’m not sure that was wise to tell three kids at an ice cream shop. They started tossing salt and wanted to do it repeatedly. Josie and I let them do it twice. Once a family sat in the booth behind them, the salt tossing came to a sudden end.

By 8 pm, Aidan’s friends were on the road back to The Woodlands, and soon Aid was sound asleep on the couch. It’s been an action-packed few days, covering hundreds of miles, with numerous stops. She’s had a sensational time and earned a good night’s rest. Let’s just hope her exhaustion keeps her asleep until after the sun rises on Sunday.

Sunday July 31, 2011

A Swim After Sunset

The streak of incredible heat has no end in sight, as far as I know. Another triple-digit weather day meant staying inside and staying cool. I did run a couple errands early in the evening, and came back to Bonnie’s quickly so she, Aidan and I could go to the pool together at 8 pm.

The pool! It sounds like a refreshing place to escape from the heat. It wasn’t. It felt more like bath water. But Aidan had swimming with one of her friends, the girl whose parents are from Brazil. They had been there for hours by the time we arrived but Aidan got to swim with her friend for an hour.

As happens every time they see each other, one or both of them asks to have a sleep over. With Aidan in a summer program, a sleep over wasn’t an option tonight. Also, her friend’s mom suggested they do it another time. Of course, that wasn’t the answer Aidan was looking for so got upset. She pouted so much that her friend’s mom offered to let her stay. But the decision was made already.

I know it’s hard to say goodbye or goodnight to friends but Aidan has established a bad habit of pouting or crying every time she has to part with her friends. Her mom and I had a talk with her about it as we left the pool area. I’m sure there will be plenty of talks about it in the future as well. I want her to be gracious and accept the decisions of her parents, and show respect to her friends when it’s time to leave.

She did the same thing as her friends were about to leave yesterday. At times, I can attribute this behavior to exhaustion. If she’s not getting upset, she’s finding ways to delay the departure, especially if I’m there.

I have noticed that it’s different when she’s playing at a friend’s house and her friend’s mom brings her back. I suppose she knows there’s less wiggle room when another parent is bringing an end to a playdate. That’s helpful to remember, but doesn’t mean I’ll be giving that responsibility to other parents. Instead, I could give a stopwatch to Aidan so she can see when her time with a friend will be up, and she can start acting appropriately. One less temper tantrum a week will be more welcome than a cool pool.

Monday August 1, 2011

Return to Cool

Don’t let this entry’s title fool you. The weather didn’t suddenly get cooler, Aidan did. She returned to her “Summer’s Cool” program after a week away. Her and I drove her to the school hosting it, and I walked her inside. She was reluctant to go in. I think she wanted to stay home with me.

When I rode over with my housemate Donna to pick up Aidan after 6 pm, she was in far better spirits. Maybe tomorrow afternoon’s field trip to GattiTown is the reason. Or maybe it’s tomorrow evening’s Open House where the kids and grownups will eat pizza, enjoy a variety of desserts, and participate in activities. More likely, she was simply happy to be able to come to my place and relax with some TV (and her puppy) for awhile.

Thanks to Donna, the ride home became a ride to Braum’s for frozen yogurt twists, then home. A 79 cent junior cone provided the perfect distraction for Aidan who was asking for her “Baby” blanket. I forgot to get it out of her mom’s car this morning.

You might think that hauling around a warm blanket during the hottest period of summer might seem less appealing, but my girl is still very attached to her “Baby.” I expect it will be a long time before she is able to part with it. It did come in handy during one particular chilly morning when she and I walked to school last winter. I want that thought to linger awhile before I let it pass. The high temperatures will remain above 100 degrees all week and we need all the cool thoughts we can get.

Tuesday August 2, 2011

Open House

After a late night with little sleep and a long day with lots of writing, I found a welcome break in the evening at Aidan’s summer program’s Open House. My housemate Donna joined me at the event for Summer’s Cool, and we ate pizza and chatted with Aidan, who bounced between sitting with us and spending tme with her friends.

Shortly after we arrived, we each received a form asking for feedback about the program, including suggestions for a name change. Apparently they realized that Summer’s Cool sounds too much like Summer School. That doesn’t come packed with positive associations. I made a couple name suggestions: Summer Sensations and The Great Escape. What can I say? That’s all my tired brain could come up with this evening.

I enjoyed spending time in a place where Aidan enjoys numerous summertime activities. We even saw some of her artwork on one of the tables, a colorfully decorated cactus.

Part of the aforementioned form asked what other workshops or classes would enhance the program. I mentioned acting classes, photography and playwriting. Actually that would be a fun way to spend one day a week, teaching any one of those things.  I know Aidan loves learning how to use a digital camera, and the playwriting and acting classes could be combined into one weekly session or one longer program where the kids write a play, choose costumes and stage it on the same day.

I may want to hang onto that photography idea. I suspect that Aidan won’t be back at Summer’s Cool after this week and the school year doesn’t start until August 22. That gives us plenty of time to do some in-depth work with the digital camera. She could even create a whole portfolio to bring with her on the first day of school.

Wednesday August 3, 2011

Back to the Bigger Cone

Another day of soaring temperatures meant a quick trip to Braum’s on Main Street in Lewisville for a frozen yogurt twist. Until my housemate Donna brought us to this location, we had always gone to the Braum’s along 35 at Fox Ave. That location doesn’t have a Junior Cone the menu so Aidan always got a small frozen yogurt in a waffle cone instead of a Junior-sized sugar cone.

Today, without Donna with us, Aidan suggested going to Braum’s and I quickly agreed. But when we arrive at the drive-thru to order, Aidan said that we couldn’t get the Junior cones because we needed 3 people to order them. She’s always thinking around a situation. I went ahead and ordered two small frozen yogurts in waffle cones so she got what she wanted. But before we pulled away, I explained that two Junior cones were indeed an option with only two of us in the car. I suspect she really knew it already, but there’s a chance she didn’t.

Now let’s see how she handles going back to the Junior cone the next time Donna takes us to Braum’s. That could be as soon as tomorrow. It does seem to be an ideal way to beat the heat, if only for a few minutes.

Thursday August 4, 2011

That Dad

Standing in the frozen foods aisle at Walmart tonight, I became That Dad. Moments earlier, I consulted Aidan and Bonnie about which ice cream to pick out. Bonnie chose Dreyer’s Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Sundae. I think Aid had something else in mind, like the Double Fudge Brownie flavor. So as I sensed a temper tantrum developing, I intervened.

“I can put that ice cream right back on the shelf.”

I actually stood frozen for a moment as I realized that I was talking loud enough so anyone within 30 feet could hear me. Then I left the aisle and headed to find some loaves of bread. When Bonnie and Aidan arrived at the bread aisle, Aidan wasn’t ready to stop whining. So I gave her an ultimatum:

“If I touch that ice cream in the cart, it’s going back and that’s the end of ice cream tonight.”

The look on her face told me that she knew I meant business. The whining came to an abrupt end, and we continued our shopping trip. She was relaxed the rest of the time, and very helpful once we got to the self-scan checkout. I’m sure she may have just been tired but I am trying to address this type of behavior as soon as it starts. I often remind her that sharing and compromising are fundamental parts of family life, a lesson I’m sure I’ll be teaching to my Only Child for years to come.

Despite the borderline in-store drama, the evening was actually productive. Before the stop at Walmart, we went to Party City to pick up a few things for tomorrow’s Alien-themed Field Day at Aidan’s summer program. Thankfully her mom assumed the lead on this one and found the supplies to turn our Little Miss Sunshine into an Alien Queen tomorrow morning. I’m sure the results will be spectacular.

Friday August 5, 2011

Plutonian Queen

I love how dedicated Aidan’s mom is to Halloween or any day like Halloween. Today was one of those days. With a theme of Aliens for her summer program’s Field Day, Bonnie turned Aidan into a sparkly silver alien queen.

Our little Plutonian Queen looked spectacular! The timing of our arrival at school meant she walked in moments after another little girl in a silver dress and silver makeup arrived with her dad. The two girls could have been from the same planet.

As Aidan and I looked around, we didn’t notice anyone else dressed for the theme of the day. I assumed they didn’t make it a priority. But Aidan’s mom seems to live for these occasions. She would have done even more today if time allowed, but I reminded her that it’s not actually Halloween yet. When that holiday arrives, she will bring a big league approach to Aidan’s mummy costume.

I picked up Aidan after six, and I loved her response to my asking her how the day went.

“Best day ever!’

That put a smile on my face. I got a bigger smile later when I heard her singing a bit of a Lady Gaga song, albeit with revised lyrics.

“Don’t be a brat, just be a queen. Don’t be a brat, just be a queen. Don’t be a brat, just be a queen.”

Saturday August 6, 2011

Monster Movies

Aidan and I returned a couple DVDs to the library today for my housemate. Before backing out of the driveway, Aid held up one of the DVDs and said, “I wanted to watch this one.” That DVD was THE EXORCIST.

I explained to her that the film about a girl possessed by a demon is meant for grown-ups. But it started a conversation about horror movies, which I’m sure she’ll be watching plenty of when she’s older. She really enjoys vampires, ghosts and monsters, especially in shows like Scooby Doo.

So our first order of business at the library was to find a monster movie. Within a few minutes, I spotted a classic one on the shelf: FRANKENSTEIN. The Boris Karloff movie provided a great contrast to the other titles we picked up today: CHARLOTT’ES WEB, DISNEY’S MULAN, and ENCHANTED.

I also selected one more title because I recognized the Rankin Bass names. The legends of claymation made a film in 1967 called MAD MONSTER PARTY. I didn’t know it when I grabbed the DVD off the shelf, but the film features the voice of Boris Karloff as Baron Boris von Frankenstein. It looks like Aidan and I will have a little monster movie marathon sometime in the coming week.

In twenty years from now, she may be directing monster movies. But she’ll have to work quickly. While watching HOUSE CRASHERS with her mom and I this evening, she said she wanted to be a builder when she grows up. And a scientist. She said she would have to be a scientist first so she could learn how to become a builder. It looks like I’ll be paying for college and trade school.

Sunday August 7, 2011

View From Inside

Except for a brief trip to my place today, I spent the rest of the day inside at Bonnie’s. Aidan didn’t go outside once, and neither did her mother. There was no urgency to go anywhere, and unnecessarily spending time in the heat these days seems foolish.

I admit, I haven’t been paying close attention to the temperatures most days. I know that the DFW area has been at or above 100 degrees since early July. I know that the conditions make it difficult for Aidan to spend much time outside. Her bicycle has been unused all summer.

The TV occupied our attention most of the day, between TV shows and movies. Aidan took a break from Charlotte’s Web to play in her room for a bit, bit it was truly a lazy Sunday, for the most part. We won’t have any more weekends like this one left before she starts school.

I guess I should embrace the leisure, yet I know there is a massive amount of work to be done in the next 2 weeks to prepare her for school. Some of the workload will involve evaluating which clothes of hers still fit and which we can donate. We’ll use the keep-it-donate-it approach with toys, too. By August 22, her room will look amazingly organized.

But for today, none of that felt like a priority. Making scrambled eggs midday seemed ambitious enough. I even melted cheese slices in it. I have to lot of ground to cover in the days ahead so it was good to nearly stand still at least one day.

Monday August 8, 2011

Piece by Piece

Working at home with active daughter and her more active puppy can be highly distracting, but I found a way to be productive today. Some of it happened by luck. A friend from down the street walked by so I told Aidan she could go outside and play. With the extraordinary heat in place, the girls played inside at the friend’s home. TV occupied some of Aidan’s time today, too. But the key activity of the day came in the form of puzzles.

She worked casually on one puzzle until I gave her a deadline to finish. Once she started working against the deadline, she made progress quickly and finished 10 minutes early. She even completed a second puzzle with the help of my housemate. I have a feeling that I’ll be relying on puzzles a lot more often from now on.

I managed to keep her from asking to watch TV in the evening, too, when she found the flash cards I brought over from her mom’s place. They were a birthday present from her grandparents in May, but they haven’t seen much action. She did fairly well with the addition problem, then we used the cards for a round of Go Fish.

She will be staying at my place the next 2 weeks before school starts so I’ll be relying on these kinds of activities to keep her busy and keep her challenged. Sure, she’ll still get some TV time each day, but we’ll limit it so the transition to a structured school day is smooth and almost seamless.

Tuesday August 9, 2011

A Splendid Finish

Some days are highly productive and some days are thoroughly fun. This was not one of those days. I spent most of the day feeling exhausted and accomplished very little. Thankfully, Aidan occupied herself most of the day and needed very little from me.

I attempted to get a little work done in her room, and she happily joined me. We made some progress, albeit only a fraction of what needs to be done. But it’s good to get started on any home project and feel positive about it.

By the evening, I felt she deserved some time at the pool for being so helpful today. We spent a couple hours swimming and she made some new friends thanks to a trio of kids who joined us. The two sisters and brother played with Aidan for most of our time there, splashing with her and even carrying her in the pool. They treated her like a little sister. It was fun to watch.

Unlike our last pool visit, the swim tonight actually felt a bit refreshing, even though we went after sunset both times.  It’s great to see Aidan so confident in the water and starting to swim like a little fish. She’s gotten braver during the summer, and she is more willing to learn new skills, perhaps because of the influence of other kids.

Peers are often the best teachers, especially the girls who are slightly older than Aidan, like the girls tonight. She gravitates towards them and watches what they do carefully. In fact, it’s because of Aidan that we met the kids tonight. She swam over to the older of the two girls because she wanted to meet her. Once again, my social child demonstrates her ability to make friends fast.

Wednesday August 10, 2011

Back to the Pool

Without the funds to send her back to Summer’s Cool, Aidan is spending the week with me. Like yesterday, I asked her to occupy herself most of the day while I wrote two articles for clients. She checked in with me frequently to see if I was almost done so I had to remind her that interrupting me made my work take longer.

Again, her patience paid off as I rewarded her with a late afternoon trip to the pool. I brought along the alarm clock and limited our pool time to 45 minutes. It turns out that was plenty of time to cool off in this crazy heat. Aid also had ample time to showcase her new skills, jumping into the pool by herself. She said, “now that I know how to jump in by myself, I want to keep doing it over and over.”

I enjoyed showing her how to sink to the bottom of the pool by slowly releasing the air from my lungs until I was lying flat. She’ll need more time to do that on her own, but she is able to hold her breath under water for a few seconds. It seems once she learns a skill, she loves to practice it so I expect her to be able to hold her breath under water for 30 seconds very soon.

Thursday August 12, 2011

The Streak Is Over

My patient and understanding child definitely earned her trip to the pool again today. As I worked continuously for hours, she watched movies and played with her puppy, eager for the the Daddy-Daughter time that she deserved. With the 100 degree streak over in Dallas, we enjoyed a far more refreshing swim today than we previously experienced, and Aid jumped in first thing to celebrate our time together.

I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t break the record for consecutive 100 degree days, but perhaps we are closer to once again enjoying some outdoor activities, like trips to the park and bike riding. Except for the occasional outdoor field trip for Aidan, and her visit to New York in July, she’s spent so much of the summer inside. If it’s comfortable in Houston this weekend, maybe we’ll spend some time outside on Saturday. A trip to the Houston Zoo is certainly an option.

But inside time has its advantages, too. Today, Aidan enjoyed an introduction to Frankenstein. We watched the 1931 version with Boris Karloff.  It was also my first time watching it, and it was far less interesting than I expected, although it had its moments. “IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!”

Aidan wanted to watch the other movies on the 2-DVD set, including Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein and Ghost of Frankenstein. Since she seemed to be watching it casually, I renewed the library DVD onlines tonight so we can give all the Frankenstein movies another viewing after the weekend. I’ll try to remember to get some kind of monster-themed snacks, too. I just wish I could still find Frankenberry in the cereal aisle at the grocery store.

Friday August 12, 2011

Frankenstein Fever

Aidan walked out of her bedroom this morning, sat down on the couch, and immediately asked to watch one of the Frankenstein movies. The 2-DVD set from the Lewisville Public Library contains FRANKENSTEIN (1931), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935),  SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939), GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942), and HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944). So mid-morning, we began another day with a monster in the house.

We’re driving to Houston this evening to spend the weekend there, and Aid wants to bring the DVDs  so she can watch the movies with her uncle Will. I’m not sure if he’s ever seen these movies, but I suspect he will enjoy watching them with his niece. He’ll also be amused when I tell him what she asked me this morning.

Aidan: Was this movie made by real people?

Me: Yes, why do you ask?

Aidan: Because everyone is gray.

Me: That’s because black-and-white film was what was used at that time instead of the color film we’re used to seeing now.

Aidan: Oh.

It was a great question, and one I suspect has been on her mind since she first watched a black and white film. Even when watching the original FRANKENSTEIN yesterday, she didn’t make any comments about the “gray” people, and I didn’t think to explain it to her. But now she knows.

Keep in mind, at some point, she’s going to see another black-and-white film and assume it was made before filmmakers had access to color film. If it’s a modern film, I’ll have to explain to her that color film was an option but the filmmaker chose to use black-and-white instead. I definitely look forward to that kind of discussion about the creative choices available to a filmmaker.


Saturday August 13, 2011

Reunited

Ask Aidan who she will marry someday and she will always answer the same way. It’s a boy she’s known since they were both infants. Even though, before today,  she last saw him sometime in 2010, she has not forgotten him and brings his name up regularly. It made watching their reunion much more joyful.

I drove Aidan to see her friend at his father’s home. The visit was made possible solely by our weekend in Houston and their availability. During Aidan’s previous two Houston visits this year, her friend was out of town. In fact, he was out of state. Thankfully it worked out this time.

On the way, we drove through the area of Aidan’s first daycare, the place where she and her friend first met in 2005. While every other child she knew from that location, and the one other she attended, have long since been forgotten, she’s always had a special attachment to this particular friend. The bond has only grown stronger over time.

Rain fell steadily as we arrived at the house, and I went to the door to make sure they were home. After her friend’s father opened the door and greeted me, I went back to the vehicle to get Aidan and her puppy. I covered them with Aidan’s blanket and walked them into the house.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when Aidan saw her friend, but their shared response of shyness didn’t surprise me. I’m sure they both felt each other had changed a lot since they were together last. But they needed no icebreakers. Within a couple minutes they were playing and laughing. By the time I left they had moved to his room where Aidan played with his drums as he ran around like a typical boy excited to see the girl he adores.

Sunday August 14, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Our visit to Houston provided a rare opportunity to spend a relaxing Sunday with my brother. While I spent 90 minutes of the morning getting new headshots done along Allen Parkway, the rest of the day was all about taking advantage of unscheduled time. Whether it was watching TV and my short film from Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute, or Aidan cuddling with her puppy, the day’s activities reminded me of how much we miss being around my brother regularly.

School starts next Monday, and the school schedule will determine if and when Aidan can make any return trips to Houston this year. I suspect that we may be able to get back once for another weekend visit. If I have access to a car this fall, perhaps I can bring Aidan again by myself on a Friday afternoon after school. Her uncle may also be able to visit us in Lewisville sometime.

On our way back home this evening, Aidan mentioned her friend in Houston would be coming to see her (potentially) this fall. Later she told me her favorite parts of their playdate in Houston: eating pizza! She says they danced, too. I smiled when she said, “I was putting him first, but he was putting me first.”

After such an active weekend, I hope she sleeps in on Monday. She needs the rest and the time for sweet dreams about the last two days. Plus, her last week of summer vacation is starting and I want her to have the energy to make it an action-packed time.

Monday August 15, 2011

Summer Skills

An activity book I bought on Sunday morning at Kroger has turned out to be a terrific way to occupy Aidan’s time. With a heavy load of writing to tend to today, she stayed busy with this book called SUMMER SKILLS. It’s intended for students going into First Grade.

One of her tasks today was adding coins and finding the total value of the coins in each group. While I’ve worked with her on many math problems, this seemed to be new territory for her.  In another task, she had to find a path through a maze and use the letters she passed through to spell the phrase, “busy bee loves honey.”

I didn’t make the entire day about work, despite the tremendous amount of work and related responsibilities I have. Instead, I told Aidan that we would have blocks of Daddy-Daughter time today. We spent our first hour-long block of time watching the Halloween episode of  Modern Family (twice) and then an episode of Bath Crashers followed by an episode of House Crashers. Playing them on DVR meant skipping all the commercials.

Our second hour-long block involved swimming at the pool, where she met a couple kids who swam with us for awhile before they left. Once it was just the two of us, we stayed another 20 minutes and performed again in a mock TV show that we created last week. In the “Mel and Shel Show”, we play a father and daughter team that talks about pool safety and swimming skills. I have a sense that we will eventually tape an episode.

Dinner tonight involved a first-time trip to Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe. Although she ordered fish and French fries, Aidan ate and enjoyed several bites of my Crawfish Etouffée. It was a bit spicy, but she didn’t mention it until after four or five bites. Dessert consisted of a fudge brownie and ice cream, affectionately known as a Mud Sundae.

Shortly after we arrived, Aidan kept commenting on the restaurant’s kid-friendly feel. I pointed out the blues music playing on the speakers by saying, “they’re playing some great music.” Aidan quickly agreed.

“Of course they are!”

Tuesday August 16,  2011

Flip For Fun/Declutter Delights

Several weeks ago, getting Aidan to jump in the pool was a goal of mine. Now she’s not only jumping, she asked me to flip her. So as she floated face down, I lifted her quickly, raising her feet first and flipping her so her feet landed in the water first. When she first sank, I held my breath due to a little parental stress. But she quickly popped back up and was ready to do it again.

The hour-long adventure in the pool capped another busy day inside. Although I did less writing in previous days, I devoted a lot fo time to Aidan’s room. She was pleased, I’m sure, that I didn’t ask her for any help. I felt like she time to work on it will come but I needed to get it started.

A bed that she used to sleep in, until it was replaced by a larger trundle bed with a bookshelf, had been covered by boxes filled with toys. I uncovered it and pulled the bed out of the room. It will be going to Austin soon for a friend of Aidan’s to use.

I created a box for toys to be donated and brought in a paper bag for all the loose paper that can be recycled. Two boxes filled with clothes Aidan has outgrown are also close to making their exit. I won’t count the dog poop I picked up as part of the declutter process, although it should earn me points in some kind of competition.

The bulk of the organizational work needs to be completed next. I suspect it will be a task that takes an entire weekend. I’m thinking Aidan, her mom and I tackle in after school gets started and give ourselves a good incentive to stay focused all weekend.

Wednesday August 17, 2011

Who’s Your Sidekick?

Sometimes Aidan is my sidekick; sometimes I’m her sidekick. Today she demonstrated how well she handles either situation. Our travels together took us from Dallas to Richardson and back to Dallas for stops for a rehearsal, take-out lunch for her mom, lunch for us, an audition, and a beverage stop before we picked up her mom at 7 pm.

AIDAN AS SIDEKICK: At my rehearsal for this weekend’s Celebrity Mystery Theater show at Spaghetti Warehouse, she participated in our read-through by handling the dialogue that will be presented by volunteers from the audience.

AIDAN PLAYS LEAD: At Buzzbrew’s, she chatted with the server while I quietly checked email. The server came over to tell  me how my girl is so adorable.

AIDAN PLAYS LEAD: We brought salmon filet from Buzzbrew’s to Aidan’s mom across the street. I stayed downstairs and submitted for a film role while Aidan went up to the radio station with her mom to see some of the staff there.

AIDAN PLAYS LEAD: I wanted to eat at Buzzbrew’s but there is no PlayPlace there so I agreed to take Aidan to McDonald’s. After eating, she went out to play and made a new friend. When she and the boy came back inside, she spent more time with him and his family than at our table.

AIDAN AS SIDEKICK: At a production company in Richardson, we had a considerable wait. Aidan and I enjoyed watching the company’s videos playing on a nearby TV. But she grew tired and fell asleep while on my lap. I carefully set her down on the chair and rested her head on the table as I went in to audition.

AIDAN PLAYS LEAD: At six pm, we were on our way back to pick up her mom at work and I spotted a Starbucks along the Central Expressway. We took a beverage break and Aidan needed to use the bathroom. I grew concerned about the length of time she was away from the table and repeatedly looked back to see if she was coming out. A woman nearby noticed my concern and offered to check on Aidan. A couple minutes later Aidan returned. The chance meeting turned out to be a heartwarming experience as the woman who checked on Aidan asked if Aidan could color a picture for her. She gave Aidan some lined paper and 3 rollerball pens: orange, blue and pink. Another woman nearby also talked to Aidan, at first about Smurfs and then about Kung Fu Panda. Before leaving, Aidan gave the picture she created to the woman who gave her the paper and pens. Aidan was allowed to keep the pens, the woman said. She called them a gift for Aidan starting first grade next week.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Aidan receive so much kindness all day, but especially in this last stop. She’s such a caring and sensitive little girl. I know she recognizes the needs in others, and it’s heartwarming to see when other people recognize what she needs and respond to her in a helpful way. Days like today are also good in another way. They prepare me for the time when people will commonly refer to me as “Aidan’s dad” more often than I hear Aidan called “Marc’s daughter.”

Thursday August 18, 2011

Austin Bound

Less than a week after a trip to Houston, Aidan joined me for a road trip to Austin today. I had an audition for a credit union commercial, and shared a ride with an actress from Lake Dallas named Lorraine. Our day began early, departing Lewisville before 7:30 am and arriving at the audition location at 11:30 am.

The van ride down to Austin was comfortable and the conversation about acting was splendid. I packed a lot of activity books for Aidan but she napped instead, sleeping most of the way. Staying up late last night and getting up at six am today was to blame. But seeing her sleep so peacefully made me much more relaxed on first part of the trip.

The scenery in Austin was gorgeous, with majestic hills and spectacular views of miles beyond where we were on the road. Aidan woke up from a long nap by that time so she got to enjoy the views,  too.

For a second day in a row, Aidan joined me at an audition. This time she brought her Dora soccer ball. She quietly played while I was in the audition room, but she also got a chance to kick the ball around with me in an office adjacent to the audition sign-in room.

Back in the van, Aidan entertained Lorraine and I with a song. The way Aidan sang it so clearly and passionately made Lorraine think it was a song Aidan had heard somewhere. But Aidan explained that she made it up, and that impressed Lorraine, who has twin boys the same age as Aidan. In fact, one of them shares the same name.

Less than twelve hours after we left, we arrived back in Lewisville. Aidan got to relax and catch up with her puppy while my time to rest would have to wait until late at night when I took a break from a writing project for a client.

Friday August 19, 2011

Meet the Teacher

Summer is almost over,  although you can’t tell by the temperatures this week. In the midst of a busy day of writing, I took a break to walk Aidan to school for MEET THE TEACHER time. The walk was a hot one, but the experience was good for both of us. Aidan has spent a lot more time watching TV these last 2 weeks, and I have been nearly glued to the laptop writing almost every day.

Aidan was so shy walking through the hallway of her school. As she passed by her Kindergarten classroom, she spotted her former teacher. I suggested she wave to her teacher but she was overcome by shyness. That continued all the way into her new classroom as we met her First Grade teacher.

By going today, I found out that we don’t actually need to purchase everything on the lengthy school supply list. Aidan’s teacher highlighted the key items for us to buy before Monday and probably saved us 75% of what we would’ve spent. We’ll do our shopping on Sunday.

Aidan found out one of her best friends will be in the classroom next door, but one of her friends who lives in the same apartment complex, the girl I met back in June at the pool during her little sister’s birthday party, will sit across from Aidan. What a pleasant surprise!

On the way back to my place, Aidan and I talked about how much she likes her teacher already. I’m not surprised. Her teacher is a bright, beautiful and caring individual who will help make the next year of school a rewarding experience with memories that will last a lifetime.

Saturday August 20, 2011

Going, Going, Gone!

I was sitting at a Starbucks in the Uptown area of Dallas when I saw an email from Aidan’s mom about a loose tooth. Just a few hours before, I said goodbye to Aidan and drove to Dallas for an audition and my monthly murder mystery show. I had no idea that a major milestone was within reach.

After 11 pm I came back to Bonnie’s after my show and heard the good news. The tooth fell out this afternoon! I quickly realized that I would be going back out to get some cash. Thank heaven for 7-11.

I don’t know the going rate for a first tooth but I figured $5 sounds right. Aidan’s mom thinks I went too high, but I maintained that a first tooth deserves more than the subsequent teeth that Aidan will lose. Plus, I plan to explain to her that we don’t discuss money with our friends.

I remember losing a tooth at school during First Grade, although I cannot remember what the tooth fairy paid in  1977. I think it might have been a quarter, which was still a nice little sum. If I recall correctly, a pack of Topps Baseball Cards cost only 27 cents at that time.

I bet that one unopened pack is worth far more than 27 cents now. It might even be worth five bucks. Instead of cash, maybe I should ask the Tooth Fairy to bring her an unopened pack of 1977 Topps Baseball Cards. Then Aidan might get a Ron Guidry card in near mint condition. I would give her at least $5 if that happens, even if the card is only valued at roughly $2.

As for this tooth, it’s now safely tucked away and completely out of sight. I love the envelope she decorated for it. She drew her face and a lone tooth outside of her mouth. I’m told she made her mom pose for a drawing, too. Aidan also drew my face on the envelope.

I hope she sleeps through the night, but she’s been waking up the past few night. If that happens again, I hope I’m still awake. I want to see her as she discovers the Tooth Fairy already paid her a visit. But if it takes until morning, waiting to see her new smile up close for the first time will be worth the wait.

Sunday August 21, 2011

School Shopping Day

I can’t recall the last time we were so productive on a Sunday. The final day of Aidan’s summer vacation provided many action-packed moments in the stores. On the flip side, a tax-free weekend helped us save a bit of money as we shopped at Marshall’s and Walmart.

Fortunately we didn’t need to do heavy-duty shopping for clothes or school supplies. Our list of must-have items was actually fairly short. That didn’t mean it was easy to find everything.

We managed to save a lot of money on crayons by avoiding Crayola and buying another brand that cost just 19 cents per 24-count box. I assume they work just as well and don’t disintegrate as soon as they touch paper. I guess I’ll find out if the teacher send a note home.

We will be using the same lunch box and backpack from last year. Both are still in very good condition. Aidan also has a superb wardrobe, thanks in part of clothes sent as Christmas and birthday gifts. In fact, she’ll be wearing a dress tomorrow that her Aunt Rhonda and Uncle Eric purchased in Mexico.

One of the indulgences of the day was the purchase of a pair of red “princess” shoes at Marshall’s. Aidan loves them! She asked to wear them at Walmart, and she’ll wear them tomorrow to school.

Not only will Aidan return to school with one less tooth, she’ll be going back with a bit less hair. We took her to Regis for a much-needed haircut. Her mother asked her if she wanted to grow her hair out, but Aidan said she wants to keep it shorter.

Now she’s sound asleep and getting the rest she needs to begin a brand new school year. I expect a smoother start than we experienced last year. When summer vacation, we expected to be in a different town and Aidan expected to be at a different school. But going back to the same school will make life much easier. While she has a new teacher and new friends to make, she’s already familiar with the school so the transition this week should present few issues.

I hope.

Monday August 22, 2011

First Day of School

Sleeping in was not an option today as a new school year got underway. But even before the alarm rang, Aidan was awake and eager to get the day started. Our collective team effort actually began last night, a practice we should aim to continue every evening. Her first day attire was chosen, backpack washed, lunch container partially filled and placed in the refrigerator, and alarm set for 6:30, although we didn’t need it.

The first day of a new school year is a time to start rituals and routines. It’s also a time to celebrate another milestone. As the new school year gets underway, it’s one more reminder of how fast our little girl is growing up.

I took a pic of her in the dress she wore, a gift from her Aunt Rhonda and Uncle Eric in North Carolina. Bonnie and I like to incorporate family members into these occasions whenever possible. I posted the pic on Facebook to share the occasion with friends and family. The pic of a smiling Aidan, minus one tooth, immediately began prompting “likes” and comments that came in all day.

Because she’s not enrolled in the after school program yet, Aidan got a special treat today when school ended. She got to go home with a friend and classmate who she saw quite a bit during summer vacation. I picked her up three hours later and heard bits and pieces about her day. By the time she and I arrived at the office building where her mom works, Aidan was asleep.

She woke up once we got back so her mom got some time to interact with her. Aid seemed to enjoy her first day, but getting details out of her was challenging. I think she was simply exhausted. She did say that the teacher asked anyone who has lost a tooth to come up to the front of the class, and Aidan said she was the only student who’s missing a tooth. It’s great to see her looking so proud of an “accomplishment” like this one.

Tuesday August 23, 2011

A Taste for Vampires

Aidan is showing signs of a strong liking for vampires, thanks in part to a Disney Channel movie called “My Babysitter’s a Vampire.” She asked to watch the rest of the movie she started yesterday, and I’m sure she’ll want to watch it all the way through again so I better find out when it’s on again so she can have the complete movie. Last night at Bonnie’s, we just recorded the last 45 minutes or so when it was time for her to go to bed.

She’s already shown an interest in zombies, and we spent a lot of time this month watching the Frankenstein movies. I guess vampires were inevitably going to be next. This particular movie is actually enjoyable, perhaps because some of the characters get bitten and become “fledgling” vampires. I don’t follow vampire lore so this is new territory for me.

I didn’t make the connection at the time but I fed her chicken while she watched the movie. Instead of just heating it up on a plate, I could start making her Vampire Chicken when she’s in the mood for vampire movies. I saw a terrific recipe for Vampire Chicken online. It’s a crock pot recipe chocked full of garlic gloves, I imagine to keep vampires away. I’ll have to ask Aidan if she’s willing to try it. I can’t assume; she may secretly want to become a vampire. If I surprise her with Vampire Chicken, it might ruin her plans.

As far as I can tell, Day 2 of First Grade went well. She seems to be in a good mood, despite a lack of sufficient sleep in the last several days. She did manage to wake up in good spirits today, and thanks to the efforts of her mom, Aidan went to sleep promptly tonight. That’s very important anytime, but especially in the midst of the first week of school.

Sleep as much as you can, baby.

Wednesday August 24, 2011

Exhaustion

The most peaceful moment of my week came as Aidan and I fell asleep together on the couch. She’s had a busy few days of school, and my week has been action-packed as well with insufficient rest. I knew a nap was needed today, but I didn’t realize that my baby would be willing to snooze with me. It was blissful.

My nap preceded a late evening drive to Houston so the rest was vital and life-saving. I made it to my destination, after numerous stops along the way, around 1:30 am. After a Thursday afternoon shoot and some Houston film industry events in the evening, I’ll be headed back to Lewisville less than 24 hours after I arrived in Houston. I want to be there to take Aidan to school on the last day of her first week.

Before we napped, Aid asked to watch the recorded portion of “My Babysitter’s a Vampire” again. I told her that I would try to find the next broadcast so we could record the entire movie but she assured me that wasn’t necessary. She said she didn’t like the earlier part as much.

I may want to record the entire movie anyway because Aidan has earned a sleepover this weekend, and the kids who come may not have seen the movie yet.  I’ll want to consult Bonnie when I get back to town so we can brainstorm about creative sleepover ideas, although movies and pizza/popcorn/ice cream sounds appealing and easy.

I can’t imagine I will be any more rested by that time. But sleep deprivation won’t slow me down, not when I’ll be in charge of the sleepover since it was my idea. I guess that means I’ll also be spending some time on Friday cleaning Bonnie’s apartment and preparing Aidan’s room for guests. I’ll work quickly so I can squeeze in one nap before the end of the school day, if I’m lucky.

Thursday August 25, 2011

A Day Away

Spending a day away from Aidan typically provides some fresh perspective, especially when I’m spending that day in the city of her birth. Houston brings back memories of my daughter’s first few years, from time we spent together at KHOU where I produced several projects as a freelancer to walks around the University of St. Thomas when Aidan was still small enough to travel by stroller.

After playing a TV news reporter in an industrial video for Jiffy Lube, I went to a couple film industry mixers in Houston with a friend and frequent director of mine.  One of the stops was at a bar called Boheme in Montrose. The drive there reminded me of my first time driving into the neighborhood in September 2001. Today my friend and I even drove by the condos where Bonnie and I lived from October 2001 to October 2002. The same Hollywood Video Store is in front, and Niko Niko’s is across the street. That first year brought a lot of highs and lows, and came long before we were parents.

Aidan’s been to that neighborhood several times since she and her mom moved to the DFW area in January 2009. Katz’s Deli is one of the reasons we go back there when we’re in town. That was the first restaurant she went to, and I believe she was less than two weeks old at the time.

My late night drive back to Lewisville provided a few other reminders of those frequent trips I made in 2009 and 2010 to see Aidan or bring her back to Houston. I felt a sense of relief not having to do it anymore. I also felt a sense of responsibility to be even more careful on this particular. I was exhausted and stopped many times along the way to rest. I won’t tell Aidan that I stopped at Buc-ee’s on the way to Houston and on the way back. She might ask me why I didn’t bring her back a Dr Pepper ICEE.

Friday August 26, 2011

Another Sleepover

An exceptional first week of school has earned Aidan a sleepover tonight. She reminded me immediately when I picked her up at school. She wouldn’t forget a promise I made. I had planned to check with her friend’s mom to see if Aidan could host the sleepover, but I was just as happy to find out her friend wanted Aidan to sleep there. Luckily, it’s the friend who lives in the same apartment complex.

On the way to school this morning, I heard about Aidan’s adventures after school yesterday. While I was in Houston (and her mom was working), my housemate Donna picked up Aidan at school. Apparently they had a sensational time, judging by Aidan’s new sunglasses from Walmart and her stories about going to McDonald’s AND Braum’s. Donna knows how to make Aidan very happy.

Regarding the sleepover, I think it’s a win-win-win situation. Aidan gets to spend time with a close friend. Bonnie gets to sleep in on Saturday. And I get to catch up on writing assignments since I spent much of today sleeping to overcome the exhaustion of driving overnight. Welcome to the weekend!

Saturday August 27, 2011

Sleep-in Saturday

Aidan’s sleepover allowed her parents to happily sleep in until mid-morning. What a wonderful reward after a long week! After a commercial audition, I returned to Bonnie’s and watched Hurricane Irene coverage on TV until we went to the pool to meet Aidan.

Aid was already swimming with friends when we got there.  Her mom and I joined them in the pool and we swam for an hour. Learning to swim was Aidan’s biggest accomplishment of summer vacation, and she’s now fearlessly jumping into the water and swimming underwater, too.  She even loves having me flip her backward into the pool.

The oppressive heat (and sunshine) kept us from staying outside too long. It topped 100 degrees again today and will continue to reach 100 during the next week. It doesn’t allow for us to do much outside so inside activities dominate any plans. This evening it’s watching recorded episodes of Word Girl and one or more of the movies we rented from Blockbuster.  Aidan’s choices will come first, although I suspect she will be asleep earlier than usual tonight.

Or maybe not.

Sunday August 28, 2011

Swimming Sensation

Watching Barbie movies and Irene coverage on TV dominated the first several hours of the day, and I wrote a 500-word article for a client during that time, too. But Aidan and I took a break from technology for some fun in the pool. She’s really becoming a little swimming sensation, jumping in the pool numerous times and swimming underwater with confidence.

We played a few games underwater where we both had to go below the surface and hold up a random number of fingers. The other person had to identify how many fingers were being held up. Then we went under and imitated the moves of an animal for the other person to guess. These games seem to be helping her hold her breath longer.

The most fun may have come from tossing her into the air while we both were in the pool. She loves the thrill of it. I tossed her forward and backward, although we didn’t do the flips today.

Late at night, I watched some of the MTV Video Music Awards. I recorded it overnight so Aid and I can watch it this week. I’m sure she will enjoy seeing live performances of songs she enjoy, and the fashion choices of people like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. I’m sure I’ll our viewing will lead to a fresh blog post this week as I expect plenty of entertaining comments and questions from her.

Monday August 29, 2011

A Cherished Cupcake

There are not enough Dunkin’ Donuts in Dallas. I’m not saying we need as many of them as Starbucks stores, but having at least one between downtown Dallas and Lewisville would be reasonable. Maybe it’s a good thing. I would have used this gift card and brought home $15 in donuts.

Okay, so Dunkin’ Donuts weren’t an option tonight. I told Aidan we would use the gift card this evening, but that was before I discovered there is no Dunkin’ along Stemmons Freeway. So the plan had to change. A sweet replacement would be necessary.

After Aid and I picked up her mother at work, we went to Pei Wei for dinner. Instead of driving back to Lewisville and eating at 8 pm, we went to the Uptown location. Chicken Lo Mein was the entree of choice for all three of us. We finished eating shortly after 8 pm, and walked around the corner to get Aidan her sweet treat.

The Pei Wei we went to is close to a special place I took Aidan to months ago: The Cupcakery. This spot features gourmet cupcakes in a wide variety of flavors and designs. It also features a sign on the front door that stated the closing time is 8 pm. So we were 15 minutes late.

I didn’t notice that sign when two customers were walking out. I held the door for them and planned to walk in. But an employee stopped us to say the store is closed. I think I uttered aloud, “how disappointing!”  He heard me, and asked who wanted the cupcake. Bonnie and I both looked at Aidan. I think something happened in that moment because the employee walked back into the store and returned with a cupcake in a box for Aidan.

We all thanked him profusely and walked back to Bonnie’s vehicle. Once inside, Aidan opened the box to examine the little work of art. The white cake was beautifully decorated with pink and white frosting and a candy flower. Bonnie and I expected Aidan to gobble it up right away. Not a chance. She held onto it all the way home, and refused to eat even a nibble until I had taken a photo of her and the cupcake.

Aidan got her photo and freed herself to begin eating the cupcake, frosting first. But that’s when the special cupcake became a treat for me, too. She didn’t want more than a taste of the frosting which meant I was the lucky recipient of the rest of it. I savored every bit.

And to think, my original goal was to pick up a dozen donuts for tomorrow morning. Actually, if Dunkin’ Donuts just had a Stemmons Freeway store, I would’ve stopped tonight.  But I definitely would have locked up the dozen. Otherwise, a few of the gang would have disappeared late at night.

Tuesday August 30, 2011

Rain From God

Flooding from Hurricane Irene is devastating parts of the Northeast. Entire towns are cut off by washed out roads and bridges and flood waters, while we are desperate for rain in Texas. We’ve had so much sunshine this summer that seeing an overcast sky in the morning seems wonderful.

A few raindrops accompanied the drive to school. Aidan asked if God makes the rain. I quickly said, “yes.” So she replied, “why doesn’t he send us rain?”  My short answer wasn’t sufficient apparently. I explained how a variety of  factors influence weather conditions. But she was already moving on to a different topic.

“What does God look like?”

I imagine God to look like a spirit, a man, a woman, virtually anyone and anything.  Aidan expressed a similar perspective, saying God needs to look human to help humans and look like an animal to help animals. By this time school was within sight. But the spiritual questions weren’t over.

“What does Jesus do for a living?”

That was easier to answer. Jesus looks like anyone, everyone. He can fill the spirit of any living person or take the form of any human in order to help people. In essence, we can meet Jesus anytime, if we encounter individual’s who make helping others a priority in life.

That’s a great closing thought to share in the moments before dropping off Aidan at school. It also relates to our daily goal of helping someone. And it makes me wonder, if Jesus is living among us right now, what would be do for a living?

Some may suggest lofty vocations, such as cancer researcher, but I imagine Jesus would be working at 7-Eleven or Starbucks. He could touch more lives  daily that way. I know I  feel my white chocolate mocha with whipped cream on top is like a religious experience. Jesus might already be working in Uptown Dallas—wearing a green apron and no beard.

Wednesday August 31, 2011

Hot Walk/Cool Pool

Aidan attempted to schedule a last-minute playdate at the end of the school day but it didn’t work out. Her friend Caroline’s mom had somewhere to go with her daughters. I didn’t let a moment pass before redirecting Aidan with a back-up plan. We would stop at 7-Eleven on the way home. That was a sufficient plan. She quickly moved past the lost playdate.

We moved a bit slower to reach 7-Eleven since we were on foot. Actually we were on my feet. Aidan rode on my shoulders and carried her “baby” as I walked. It was an excellent workout, and she always enjoys going home that way, even when it’s as hot as it was today. The stop at 7-Eleven allowed her to get a smoothie and cookies, and gave us a terrific break halfway home.

If I didn’t have work to do, I would have taken us straight to the pool, but we made it there eventually. Aid is all about jumping in the water these days, and it’s great to see her with such a sense of adventure. I was just happy to get some relief from the heat, but I did my sharing of jumping in, too.

Summer is not yet over, but I am already realizing that these fun moments in the pool are limited.  I can’t recall when the pool closed last year but I anticipate it will happen in the next few weeks. It’s been such a great shared experience for Aidan and I, it makes me want to find an indoor pool in the area so we can continue swimming through the fall and into the winter.

Thursday September 1, 2011

Sleepover

According to the custody agreement, Aidan is supposed to stay with me on Thursday nights. We didn’t follow that guideline last school year. We didn’t do it last week either. But tonight Aidan is with me and I will take her to school in the morning.

She’s sleeping now but the evening was full of high energy as we went to Braum’s and Walmart with my housemate Donna. Braum’s has become quite a tradition for Aidan in Lewisville. She did make one change though. Instead of getting a frozen yogurt twist, she asked for all chocolate. When we got to the house, homework awaited Aidan. I didn’t even let her turn on the TV. Disney Channel would have to endure one less viewer.

Her assignment  (due tomorrow) was  a poster entitled ALL ABOUT ME. She started it a couple days ago but had many more details to fill in, including writing down 3 super cool facts. She and I chatted about what makes her cool and we ended up choosing her Mohawk heritage, her TV appearance last winter, and her status as the only family member born in Texas. I think a couple of those items will surprise her teacher.

Friday September 2, 2011

Walk a Mile

The school day began and ended the same way: with Aidan on my shoulders for a one-mile walk between my place and school. While the morning chat focused on homeless people after Aidan spotted a shopping cart and blanket along the way, the evening chat after ESD was influenced by comments from her teacher about failure to finish work and follow directions. I was not pleased to see a sharp turn in her behavior report at the end of the second week of school.

I explained to her the importance of respecting herself and respecting her teacher. It’s not about just getting the work done and being polite. I emphasized that I want to see her become a class leader and a leader in life. That starts with doing what it takes to finish an assignment in a timely manner and ALWAYS listening to the teacher and respecting her.

Words, even clearly delivered ones, can sometimes work less effectively if there is not an accompanying visual image. So I told Aidan that anytime she is tempted to make choices like she did today, I want her to think of me carrying her on my shoulders, and remember the effort put forth by both of her parents to ensure she gets a good education and she’s well taken care of. I also reminded her that those homeless kids we discussed this morning don’t have the same access to good education, and she is wasting that opportunity if she doesn’t take it seriously every day.

The behavior in school eliminated her opportunity to watch TV when we got to my place. That typical ritual was replaced with homework. We opened her school planner and found an activity to complete. I also looked online to get acquainted with more resources from the school and her teacher, including the class spelling contract and a website to help students learn to spell and use works correctly. Thanks to today’s experience, the new after school ritual will be educational rather than recreational. Even just 30 minutes of spelling and reading will be tremendously helpful.

But the evening wasn’t all about work. Aidan realized that she could earn privileges back and we watched Monsters vs. Aliens on TV. I think she appreciated it now much more than before.

Saturday September 3, 2011

Working Weekend

Even while self-employed I find myself working on a Saturday. A client sent me 6 links to drug addiction articles to rewrite and I got started last night and finished the 6th and final one late tonight. Thankfully I didn’t write all day but it did occupy my time for many hours so I feel like I didn’t get much out of having Aidan here today.

She seemed to enjoy herself all the same, watching quite a bit of The Disney Channel after working on an assignment I gave her in her school planner. After a little encouragement and direction, she dutifully occupies herself while I’m writing, interrupting me only for important things usually, like reaching the two remote controls for the TV which were set high on a shelf. But a day filled with TV viewing must be counteracted by a day of anything else tomorrow.

So now, while it’s late at night, and my girl is sleeping soundly (probably dreaming about all the episodes of MY BABYSITTER’S A VAMPIRE that she watched), I am devising a no-TV plan for Sunday.  It doesn’t even have to involve going anywhere, although I do plan to get us to church in the morning. I think that one action can set us in motion for the rest of the day and take us to a place with no television sets.  Temperatures will be cooler of Sunday, dipping down into the low 90s for a high. Perhaps I can pack some drinks and take her out on her bike for the first time in months.

Sunday September 4, 2011

Dunk It Forward

When I was in Houston most recently, a friend and director I’ve worked with frequently joined me in attending a mixer for a horror film competition called Splatterfest. As part of the event, the producer of Splatterfest gave attendees a chance to win some great prizes, including gift cards. My friend won a $15 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card, which he kindly gave me to after the event.

Finding a Dunkin’ Donuts in the Dallas area is challenging but I discovered there’s one in Highland Village, a short drive north of Lewisville. I decided that Aidan and I would make the trip there after church. We hadn’t been to church in weeks so the return today, involving communion, made our return feel even more important. I brought Aidan up to receive communion, and she enjoyed the experience. I explained how in the church where I was raised, communion was a routine part of mass, but here it takes place on occasion, making today an extra special Sunday.

The return to church coincides with my drive to provide more visible support to friends and acquaintances. As I’m devoting time to help others more often, I’m talking about it with Aidan so she understands the need for helping others. When she asked me earlier in the week, “what does Jesus do for a living?”, I explained that he helps others and inspires us to help others, too. Helping someone else is part of a new bedtime ritual as well, when I ask her how she can help someone tomorrow. So the theme that started during the summer and will continue for a lifetime (hopefully) is really taking root now.

The visit to Dunkin’ Donuts gave us an opportunity to help someone else. My plan was to pick up a dozen donuts and go home, but Aidan wanted to stay and eat a donut there. So we stayed, ate donuts, and entertained each other. The gift card covered our purchases of donuts and beverages, and we had a little left on the card when we were done.

We started to leave but I felt like demonstrating that effort to help others so Aidan and I gave the gift card to a mother and son who just walked in. It was a small act of kindness, but an important one. I reminded Aidan on the way out that we do what’s within our reach to help others daily.

Monday September 5, 2011

An Extra Day

Labor Day provides a wonderful day to do virtually anything, including staying at home and doing nothing, which is how we spent the day. Actually we did a bit more than nothing. There were Dunkin’ Donuts to eat, spelling activities to complete, TV shows to watch, dogs to feed, hands to wash, and many more little things to do.

Aidan, Emma and I did get out of the house once this evening for a walk in the park. The comfortable evening temperatures made it a pleasant trip there and back. It marks a welcome change from the heat we’ve been experiencing for months.

More change is coming in other ways. Our time in Lewisville appears to be limited, and that became a conversation topic for Aidan and I as we walked through the park. I cannot share exactly where life may lead us next but a move seems inevitable. Less than a year after I moved to Lewisville to be close to Aidan, after more than a year and a half of frequent trips back and forth from Houston, it’s likely I will be uprooting myself again. It’s not that I was exactly “rooted” here, but I did feel a sense of being prepared to stay here through the end of the school year.

I asked Aidan what she thought about a potential move, and she said she didn’t have any thoughts. She went on to explain that she understands her parents make all the decisions for her. But I  want her to feel included in the decision-making process so I’ll be asking her how she feels along the way. She’s a smart and intuitive girl; her perspective always matters.

Tuesday September 6, 2011

Tears for a Panda

I didn’t like Kung Fu Panda the first time I watched it. I enjoyed it only slightly the second time. But the idea of watching the sequel didn’t bother me. So this evening Aidan to the Cinemark 8 in Lewisville where the Tuesday prices are only 75 cents per ticket.

The story impressed me and I didn’t find a dull moment during the entire film. I did encounter a very emotional moment though. It came  during a scene when Po was hidden in a box of radishes by his mother who left him there to protect him from wolves. The story had hinted that Po had been possibly abandoned by his mother so I was ready for the reveal, but Aidan was especially troubled by the scene. She started to cry and she put her head down. The separation of mother and baby overwhelmed her.

I comforted her and asked her to tell me what she was feeling. She was imagining losing her parents, a natural reaction to that scene by a six year-old, especially one who endures the experience of being a child of divorce every day. I reminded her that her mom and I aren’t planning to go anywhere without her. I also told her that her feelings were perfectly normal, and I was feeling sad because of the scene, too.

Although the story took a positive turn at the end, Aidan was still upset by the separation and asked if Po and his mother ever saw each other again. I suspect they do in the story that may be told in the next sequel. That comforted her a little. But before we got to her mom’s apartment, she was already speculating about where she would live if her mom and I were no longer here or able to take care of her. Suddenly my teary-eyed little bug was envisioning a world in which she lived with one of her best friends and they were raised as sisters. If it didn’t make me feel so emotional, I would have been more amused by her Plan B for the future.

I advised her that several other factors may help us decide what home she would end up in. The parents of a friend may not be able to take care of her, but family members might be more suitable options. I mentioned a few potential people, and she latched on to one of them. If Aidan gets her choice, she’ll be raised by her Uncle Will. I don’t need to tell him she said it; I bet he already knows.

Wednesday September 7, 2011

A Breakthrough

TV comes on. TV stays on. Time passes. Sometimes we don’t know what we even watched. In 30 minutes of a Disney Channel show, not much sticks.

Today we made a breakthrough. I managed to keep the TV off while Aidan was at my place for 2+ hours. She didn’t ask to watch it once. Instead we ate, did some spelling exercises, read books, discussed the meaning of words in those books, and played. The two hours flew by, and I feel like I can remember every moment.

The window of time between school and bedtime is a short one. Because Aidan is enrolled in ESD, I tend to pick her up close to 6:30 pm. That doesn’t leave much time for dinner and homework. Tonight her mom picked her up by 8:30. Tomorrow night Aidan will stay here.

Regardless of where Aidan stays, those two hours between school and bedtime can be spent wisely. I just need to have a game plan every day. It doesn’t have to involve school work every evening. It could be a trip to the park, especially when the weather is much more comfortable these days. But anything I can do to reduce her weekly TV time would be beneficial.

Thursday September 8, 2011

The Drawing

After walking home from school with Aidan, I opened her backpack to see what needed my attention. One of the items she brought home is a drawing of her family members: me, her mom, her and her puppy. I complimented her on the results, and tacked it to the wall above my desk.

Unlike drawings with everyone standing side by side, this one is different. It features me on the top of the page, with her mother below me, Aidan below her, and Emma at the bottom. We each are inside a bubble or some kind of boundary lines. Everyone appears brown only, except me. I appear to be wearing blue pants, a purple shirt, and my hands are pink. I’m also the largest in the picture.

I’m sure an expert could provide a page of interpretations of this one drawing. But I will keep it simple and use the drawing to remind myself every day of how important I am in her life, from my presence to my choices. Those choices can make the difference in her life now and for a lifetime. That’s a responsibility that can only be helped by daily reminders like this drawing.

As I look at another piece of her artwork on my wall, one she made during Vacation Bible School in June, I see a star with the words “World’s Best Dad” on it. In my opinion, it’s not a title I earned. It’s what I aspire to be every day.

Friday September 9, 2011

The Mystery Reader

Last week I arranged to be the first Mystery Reader in Aidan’s class. Her teacher booked me for the surprise session this morning, and I looked forward to it for days without mentioning it to Aidan. When I dropped her off at school this morning, she had no idea that she would see me less than 2 hours later.

I brought two books with me. One was her 3-Minute Stories book, which contains numerous little stories. I chose Stone Soup to read because I enjoy that story and I recall being in a play version of the story when I was in second or third grade.

I knocked  on the classroom door and Aidan opened it. She was so surprised. That was a nice touch by her teacher. Her teacher also gave Aidan a chair so she could sit next to me while I read. Her classmates were so enthusiastic and well behaved. They were quick to participate and answer questions during the reading time.

As a part of reading Stone Soup, I shared a story about how people came together in the midst of the Ice Storm of 1998 in northern New York State. Working together helped people get what they needed and made life better, just like in the story. No one could make a meal out of garlic or a potato, but all the ingredients came together to create a meal everyone could enjoy.

After Stone Soup, I began reading The Traveler. The book was a gift to me from my friend Ronda. She gave it to me at a going away party she hosted for herself in Houston two years ago, and since then it’s been a shared favorite book for me and Aidan. Aid knows the story well and wanted to read it with me. So the two of us read it to the class. It was a fun experience to share the time with her and get acquainted with her classmates.

As I wrapped up my reading time, I gave the class a copy of WonderDads Dallas. I explained to them how parents and kids can get fun ideas from it. They wanted to know how I wrote it so I told them I had to research stores, restaurants and activities all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

I’ll have to remember to use Stone Soup for future reading sessions with that age group. But next time I will bring along a special prop. I’m sure I can find a beautiful, smooth stone. If not, Aidan will find one for me. She’s already quick to bring in rocks and leaves and twigs. My little nature lover!

Saturday September 10, 2011

Sleepover Times Two

Aidan spent much of last school year with her best friend, both in the classroom and at ESD. This year the girls are in different classrooms so they see a lot less of each other. But they still share ESD time, and this weekend is giving them plenty of hours together.

The first sleepover started last night. I brought the girls to my house after school, and they consumed about 4 plates of sliced cantaloupe. Bonnie joined us after work, and thanks to pizza, ice cream, and their natural high energy, Aidan and her friend stayed awake until midnight, if not later. I expected them to watch a movie but they didn’t sit still very long all evening.

The day here started quietly but the two of them soon were wound up. Normally after a sleepover, I would transitioning Aidan to say goodbye to her friend. Not today! Part of the arrangement with her friend’s mother was to have the girls at her house today. So when her friend’s mother arrived around 2 pm, we packed up all the necessary items to send with the girls and wished them well.

The second sleepover would work out well for all of us. Aidan got to enjoy extra time with her best friend, and I would be free to watch 9/11 programming late into the night. It’s a subject I have not discussed with her at this time of 10 year anniversary events and television programs. Tomorrow I will ask her what she knows about 9/11, in case she has heard or seen something recently.

While all Americans have been impacted by the events of 9/11, I didn’t lose a friend or family member. It didn’t profoundly affect my life on a daily basis for the last ten years, so I cannot understand the depth of the pain of so many thousands of people who lost loved ones. But what I can do is introduce Aidan to the significance of the day. She is likely to encounter someone who lost a father, a mother or a child in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in the other hijacked aircraft, Flight 93, that went down in Pennsylvania. She already shows a strong sense of empathy, and one day it may serve her well when she meets one of people whose lives were forever changed.

Sunday September 11, 2011

Certain & Uncertain

When I woke up this morning, I was only certain of one thing: Aidan and I would attend church today. Beyond that, nothing was scheduled, locked in or nailed down.  I like days like today.

I picked up Aidan at her friend’s house, and we drove to church for the 11 am service. It felt good to be among good people. It felt to hold my daughter tightly as we heard mentions of 9/11. It felt good to know that nothing was going to separate is in that moment.

The topic of uncertainty was addressed in the day’s sermon. At first, I related that uncertainty to the events of 9/11: not knowing where the next attack would occur; not knowing if a loved one made it out of the towers; not knowing what deep the impact on the country would be. But the horrific images and inspirational acts of 9/11 were eventually replaced by something more current in my life and my daughter’s life.

We’re blessed to not have an illness in the family. Also, we haven’t lost a home to the Texas wildfires. But our feeling of uncertainty is just as real. The road ahead is about to change again, and we’re preparing for it. It’s going to be a different life soon, a better life. That doesn’t make it easy right now. In fact, it’s overwhelming.

I think that sense of being overwhelmed swept over both me and Aidan’s mom today. Being productive seemed challenging as this life change quickly approaches. I did manage to take Aidan to the pool but I didn’t even have the energy to swim and just basically supervised her. Fortunately a friend of hers came to the pool and the two of them played together.

Aidan doesn’t have a real sense of the Life Change that is about to take place. I’m not even at liberty to share it here. I can say that it will have a tremendously positive impact on all of us. Aidan’s life will be improved with far better opportunities available, touching all areas of her life.

Before the change comes, we will build a bridge then cross it. What awaits us on the other side is worth all the effort. I just need to find some better tools.

Monday September 12, 2011

More  BFF  Time

As if back-to-back sleepovers wasn’t enough time, Aidan got to spend more time with her best friend today after ESD. Her friend’s mom had a class this evening and needed someone to take cvare of her daughter until 8 pm. I went to ESD to get the girls, then drove to Dallas to pick up Bonnie.

I was ready for an action-packed evening. I brought apple juice and cantaloupe for them to snack on, and figured they would chat all the way to Dallas. Instead they fell asleep on the way and remained asleep all the way back.

They managed to wake up for one last hurrah in the evening. As they ate dinner, I quizzed them about spelling words. I had them take turns using each word in a sentence. Aidan’s teacher encourages parents to participate in nightly spelling activities, and gives plenty of options for these exercises.

As the late summer heat continues in the Dallas area, we’ll be occupied after school the next several days with inside activities. By the weekend, a visit to the park after school will feel more reasonable. I want us to enjoy some outdoor recreation again. Although we managed to avoid TV watching this evening, physical exercise needs to become a priority again.

Tuesday September 13, 2011

Record Breaker

A record-breaking day of heat in North Texas earned Aidan and I an hour-long swim in the pool this evening. The 70th day of 100 degree temperatures didn’t seem as harsh as it sounds as an overcast sky made the walk from school more tolerable. But we didn’t hesitate to cool down with ice cream sandwiches when we got to her mom’s apartment.

After Aidan successfully completed her spelling homework, we went directly to the pool. The time together was wonderful and the exercise was important. I also realize how little time we have left to swim in that pool, and it’s merely because the pool will be closing soon.

If it turns out that today is our last 100 degree day of the season, I’ll be thrilled. I will miss the summer, but not the heat. The chance to settle into something more comfortable is a welcome change. I will get Aidan outside as much as possible. Bike rides, picnics, soccer are some of the obvious choices for fun, outdoor activities. A camping trip would be terrific one weekend.

But that’s not happening tomorrow. Even if we stay under 100 degrees, it will still be quite warm. And honestly, can anyone tell the difference between 98 and 100 degrees just by feeling it on his or her skin?

Wednesday September 14, 2011

Minus One

The loose tooth is loose no more. After I picked up Aidan at school, she told me the tooth is out. It didn’t fall out. She removed it herself. That’s my girl.

She went to bed tonight with Tooth #2 in a small purple container, a little treasure chest. It’s now safely tucked under her pillow. She made $5 on the first tooth, but that was a special tooth. The market price for this one may be a bit less.

While we will be celebrating another milestone, I can’t stop thinking about another event that took place today. I didn’t know about it when it happened this morning. I didn’t get the news until I saw a letter from Aidan’s principal.

A young student at a nearby school got approached by a man claiming to need help finding his dog. Luckily the student was unharmed but threat was real nonetheless. I talked to Aidan about the dangers of talking to people she doesn’t know, and her mom continued the same conversation.

One of the main points she made is that “strangers” don’t always look mean or evil. That’s the message I remember hearing from a program called Yellow Dino several years ago. People who intend to harm children don’t have to look like villains. That’s why it’s important for our kids to know how to recognize behaviors that tell them someone wants to harm them.

The school encourages students to walk to and from school in groups. You can bet many parents will be more vigilant tomorrow after reading that letter from the principal. I know that for us it’s going to spark an ongoing dialogue about safety that will last for years.

Thursday September 15, 2011

The Few

The change is coming and today I let a handful of friends know. Last night I told my mom during a phone conversation. But it’s not public knowledge yet. It’s strange having news to share that can be interpreted as good and bad, depending on the person hearing it. But so far, the only people who have heard it consider it good news.

It’s the kind of change that leads me to feel bold and adventurous about the future. It’s the kind of change that makes me pause to enjoy a walk home from school with Aidan today. And her puppy. And a hefty duffel bag.

The timing of this pending change in our lives coincides with a reason to look back as well. Tomorrow marks 10 years since I arrived in Texas, married at that time and joining my wife in a move from Albany, New York. Oddly enough, the movie Aidan and I watched on The Disney Channel this evening was made by a Texas director and released in 2001. It was the first time either of us had seen Robert Rodriguez’s SPY KIDS.

I want to do something special to mark the occasion of my 10 years in Texas. It may be something as simple as going to a Texas-themed restaurant for dinner. I may wear a cowboy shirt all day, too. That reminds me, I really need to get a pair of cowboy boots. Aidan’s got a pair and she loves them. I’m sure my little Texan will want to wear them tomorrow evening when I tell her we’re celebrating her home state.

Friday September 16, 2011

10 Years in Texas

The sky darkened as I picked up Aidan at school at 6:30 pm, and before we started our errands, the downpour began. It rained heavily as we ran into McDonald’s. It pured as we came out 45 minutes later. It didn’t stop while we went to the bank and Walmart. It kept coming down and soaking everything.

It amuses me that I didn’t bring Aidan’s raincoat or the umbrella with me. Even the forecasters said the chance for rain was small. Maybe that was the expectation in the morning but by evening it was a hard, long-lasting shower out there. And we needed it!

By the time Bonnie got to my place, it was nearly 9 pm and the rain had ended here. The three of us went to Cristina’s Fine Mexican Restaurant where we were joined by my housemate Donna. We decided a dessert at Cristina’s would be a terrific way to celebrate 10 years in Texas.

Aidan was pleased to devour the fudge brownie with ice cream that I ordered for her, while Donna tried fried ice cream for first time and Bonnie ate the flan. I helped Aidan eat her dessert and happily sipped my Mojito. I recalled one of my first visits to a Mexican restaurant in Houston back in 2001. Bonnie and I lived near a place called La Mexicana, and went there several times. In the winter they enclosed the patio and placed heaters out there to keep guests warm. The atmosphere was always joyous and the food was fantastic.

10 years has passed so quickly, it seems.  As we finished our visit to Cristina’s, the waiter brought us shots of Kahlua and one shot of a Shirley Temple for Aidan. As she downed her shot, I suddenly had a premonition of Aidan at 21. I’ll be 55 at that time.

I think I better stay in the moment instead. I’m not ready to look that far into the future, even for a few minutes. We’ve got a lot more Kid Time to enjoy first.

Saturday September 17, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I need to make Aidan chocolate chip pancakes sometime. The ones she had today were not exceptional. Technically, they may not even qualify to be called CCP.

The apartment complex where she and her mom live hosted a community breakfast.  The three of us got there shortly after 11 am and discovered only pancakes an a little bit of fruit remained. The poor folks who arrived after us thinking food would be served until 12 pm as advertised were not pleased. But none of that mattered to Aidan.

She sprinkled the chocolate chips on top of the pancakes after her mother poured the syrup. Aidan clearly enjoyed them as she took one big bite after another. But with kids in the vicinity, the plate of pancakes quickly got set aside so she could socialize.

As she mingled in the next room, her mom and I chatted about the events that are coming up. There is a strong feeling of anxiety as we begin to make preparations. But we started making some visible progress this afternoon, and that always helps addressing a new wave of duties and responsibilities in one’s life. I think going to church again tomorrow morning will help as well. It will also provide more  positive energy for Aidan, and like her mother and father, she needs all the positive energy she can get right now.

Sunday September 18, 2011

Circle of Life

Aidan asks some terrific questions. Sometimes I can answer them. Sometimes I can’t. For example, at church this morning during one of the songs, Aidan said, “why do we call him God?” I don’t recall why the name God was chosen so I told her I didn’t know, but I explained how it sounds better than Fred.

Earlier this weekend she asked me what the “Circle of Life” means. Apparently some fellow student at school mentioned the phrase this week.  I was able to handle that question easily.

The reference came back into our lives today as we went to see The 3D version of  The Lion King. As soon as the Circle of Life song started, Aidan immediately recognized the phrase and smiled. I suspect her eyes lit up, too, but I couldn’t see them behind her 3D glasses.

Now I better figure out why God is called God. It’s a question I never thought of asking at her age or any age. If I don’t have the answer before I pick her up from school on Monday, she will probably ask me to look it up online.

Monday September 19, 2011

Kids Eat Free

For the second Monday in a row, Aidan’s BFF spent the evening with her after ESD. I arrived at school just before 6:30 pm and they were the last 2 students there. Right away I found out they were seriously hungry. I heard numerous suggestions.

“Can we order pizza?”

“I like Chinese food and I can use chopsticks.”

“We can go to McDonald’s.”

I overruled those options and took them to Denny’s instead. It wasn’t a hard sell. When I mentioned the joy of eating pancakes for dinner, they were sold.

The great thing about Denny’s is a Kids Eat Free program. Each child under 12 gets a Kids Meal when an adult orders an entree. We did even better this evening.

When I asked the server about the program, she offered to not charge for Aidan’s meal and her friend’s meal. What a deal! I thanked and made sure the girls thanked her as well.

Aidan stuck with the pancake plan while her BFF ordered spaghetti instead. The girls talked non-stop, ate quite a bit, and entertained each other —and me.

Once we finished dinner, I drove us back to my house and got the girls to do some homework. Aidan brought home new spelling words for me to cut out into individual little cards. As I cut each one out, I handed it to the girls and asked them to use the word in a sentence.

I love these kinds of evenings. They’re productive, pleasurable and peaceful. I need to string more of them together.

Tuesday September 20, 2011

Whip My Hair

Last night a repeat of Jimmy Fallon aired. I was watching only because I had been watching Leno to see my new commercial for Frank Kent Ford. It happened to be the episode  where Jimmy Fallon had Bruce Springsteen as the only guest, and the two sang a song called Whip My Hair with The Boss looking like he did in the mid-70s and Fallon dressedand sounding like Neil Young.

I introduced Aidan to the song this evening before bedtime and she immediately loved it. I love how she switched from the smooth, high voice of Neil Young to the raspy sound of Springsteen, copying what she heard me do. I need to play the actual song for her then tape her performance. We’re overdue for another YouTube video.

I really need to get a video of Aidan and her BFF, too. They are so goofy together, and it’s a joy to watch them entertain each other. They got plenty of play time this evening after school thanks to her friend’s mom picking them up.

When Bonnie and I arrived, the girls were just about to eat dinner there. Her mom’s friend made some mighty fine meatloaf, although Aid needed to be persuaded to eat it. For a girl who likes hamburgers plain and dry, meatloaf packs a serious punch with all the ingredients inside. I really enjoyed it, but I’ll remember to avoid making it for her anytime soon.

Wednesday September 21, 2011

Small Windows

There is a small window of time on a school night for mindless fun. It arrives after dinner and homework is finished. It can even include the bedtime ritual of book reading and story telling.

This evening, Aidan’s mom picked us up at my place after she got back in town from work. Aidan and I had already started her spelling homework so we finished it in the car. That freed her up to play with some neighbor girls who were outside when we got to her mom’s apartment.

While Bonnie worked on a grad school homework assignment, Aidan and the girls played outside. I brought Emma out for some playtime, too. I was happy to see Aid riding her bike again. Her mom has been keeping it outside lately so it’s easily accessible. Personally, I get concerned that someone may steal it because there is no lock on it. But I do see other kids’ bikes in the first floor hallway and none of them have locks.

Once inside, Aidan and I turned on the laptop and watched some videos online. Her first request was to watch China Ann McClain’s “Calling All the Monsters.”  Then I played the Jimmy Fallon/Bruce Springsteen performance of “Whip My Hair.”  A series of Spooky Buddies video clops followed. I managed to move us from the laptop to the TV by telling her Modern Family was on. She and I love that series, and two episodes aired tonight back to back.

That’s a lot to pack into one evening, and yet my endless energy girl didn’t seem a little bit tired. I’m not sure how she sustains her high energy after being in school from before 8 am to almost 3 pm, then being at ESD from 3 pm to 6:30 pm. I feel like I’m moving in slow motion next to her at times. Maybe it’s me who needs a smaller window between dinner and bedtime.

Thursday September 22, 2011

Back to School Bash

From the moment a message came home about the Back to School Bash, Aidan and I made a commitment to attend. So today instead of bringing her home after ESD, we stayed at school to enjoy the event.  The Back to School bash led up a PTA meeting at 7 pm and included pizza and cookies, arts & crafts activities for kids, and several  tables featuring information and resources for parents.

I love how Aidan picks up booklets everywhere she goes. This evening she brought home a booklet in Spanish. She may be one of the few people still interested in the Yellow Pages.

One of the best aspects of the event was something simple. The ability to be in school after-hours for a fun gathering is something I fondly remember from my school days.  I could see how much Aidan enjoyed it. She did want to take me to her classroom but that area of the school was off-limits.

I wish I had brought the camera. One of the walls would’ve provided a terrific spot for a photo. I’ll try to remember to get a pic of Aidan there today when I pick her up at ESD. We won’t have many more opportunities left.

Friday September 23, 2011

Monster Mash

After walking home from school with me, I figured Aidan would be hungry. She wasn’t. I assumed she would be thirsty. She wasn’t. She wasn’t tired either. She had only one thing in mind: to watch China Anne McClain’s “Calling All the Monsters” video.

The rest of her YouTube time was spent listening to songs that came up when I typed in “Monster Mash songs” for her. I know she listened to Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s classic version more than once but it was accompanied by different videos. She even showed me one monster video that had Justin Bieber’s head on an animated body.

When she wasn’t singing along, she was studying lyrics and replaying her favorite moments. Clearly she felt her online time tonight was one of the greatest gifts she could have received. Since I spent most of my day on YouTube editing my own videos, it seemed natural to give her some time on a site she enjoys as well.

As she listened to the songs, I watched TV. Or I tried to watch TV. I kept changing channels, never quite interested in anything very long. I did stay on one program about ghosts for a bit.  “Ghost Adventures” is a Travel Channel series about ghost investigators. I found myself intrigued (like I am with any ghost show) and started thinking a ghost tour would be a terrific outing for Aidan and me next month. I remember going on one years ago in Houston with stops at Spaghetti Warehouse, a cemetery near downtown, and an abandoned hospital. We didn’t see any ghosts but we heard from riveting stories.

We’re still five weeks away from Halloween. Monster Mash will be here awhile, although we won’t be in the same place when October 31 arrives. October will bring a great deal of change in our lives, yet there is something comforting about knowing that wherever we are, Halloween will be a memorable time for my little mummy.

Saturday September 24, 2011

Dog Soccer

Making friends at the park is usually an easy task for Aidan. But today she got help from the spectacle we created. It was hard not to notice us. We were a dad and daughter playing soccer with 2 dogs.

Actually only one of the dogs was playing soccer. My landlord’s Boston Terrier was eager to chase the ball, stop the ball, and bite the ball. He even scored a couple goals. Aidan’s puppy merely chased the other dog. And since they were both on leashes, I must’ve looked absurd kicking the soccer ball to Aidan while trying not to tangle the leashes.

Aidan met a six year old whose dad is originally from Boston so the six of us (2 girls, 2 dads, 2 dogs) hung out together for awhile. I noticed the dad’s accent and his Red Sox cap, but I asked him where he’s from anyway, as if I didn’t have a clue. He’s been in Texas for 5 years. I assume he has a wife but we didn’t talk about spouses. I tend to not bring it up. Introducing myself as a divorced dad seems unnecessary when I’m with people I may never see again.

While Aidan was easily making a new friend, the dogs were doing even better. Kids from a nearby birthday party swarmed Bostona and Emma, and I allowed them to pet the dogs. Some of the kids even got to walk or hold the dogs. The dogs loved it at first, but they quickly grew tired of so much attention. That meant it was time to take them home, and it was not a moment too soon. If we had stayed another ten minutes, Aidan might have asked if she and her new friend could do to dinner.

Sunday September 25, 2011

Artist & Brush

It never fails. Aidan and I go to church and come home with a fresh perspective on life and faith. The 75 minutes we spend there fortify us for the week and often leave a lasting impression thanks to some key tangible element.

When one of our pastors gathered the children near the altar, the tangible moment for us arrived. She spoke about an artist and a brush, explaining to the kids how the artist,  and not the brush, creates the art. In simple terms, she concluded, we are the brush and God is the artist.

I know Aidan was carefully listening even if I couldn’t see her. I was captivated, too. The idea that we function as the brush of a greater artist is heartwarming thought. It’s also a humbling one.

I want Aidan to have a sense of humilty as she grows up. But I still want her to feel secure. I think it’s possible to have both. It means carefully navigating through a multitude of experiences, moments and events.

I’m lucky. I get to spend a lot of time with my daughter. I get to share these moments with her, like the one at church where she puts her head on my shoulder during a song or when she is eager to tell me about the arts & crafts activities after children’s church.

Today’s finger puppets to tell the story of Baby Moses were especially cute. She colored them in children’s church, and I cut them out when we got home. She was so delighted to put them on her 5 little fingers.

Yes, I’m lucky.

Monday September 26, 2011

The Fries Get Company

Aidan likes her hamburger plain and dry. She likes her hot dogs the same way.  She’ll eat chips but never salsa or dip. All that makes tonight’s occurrence almost magical.

After I brought her home from school, I made us hamburgers, fries and broccoli for dinner. I handed her the plate and she started on the hamburger first. A few bites into it, she set it down and shifted to her fries. That’s when the unexpected happened.

“Can I have ketchup for my fries?”

I felt a sense of joy hearing that question. I scurried to the fridge and discovered the only ketchup container there had only a couple tablespoons of ketchup left in it. Maybe that’s a good thing. If the container had been full, I might have handed Aidan a bowl of ketchup for her 15 French fries.

Food is a big part of our lives. Aidan complimented me on the yogurt I packed in her lunch, as if I created the flavor or manufactured the product. She asked for more yogurt this evening, but I had other dessert plans. Thanks to the arrival of the Fall season, pumpkin ice cream is once again available in stores. I didn’t have to ask her if she wanted some. I just had to hand her the bowl. She made those two scoops last a lot longer than I did.

Tuesday September 28, 2011

Scream

I’ve seen children scream in grocery stores. I’ve seen parents scream at their children. But today’s scream at the store was Aidan wearing the mask from the Scream movies.

She found it in the Halloween aisle at Albertson’s. It was cute to see her in it and even more entertaining as she walked around the store wearing it. She even persuaded me to wear it for a couple of minutes. Between the two of us, we amused a handful of shoppers as we walked around. Aidan put the Scream mask back on before we reached the check-out area, “startling” our cashier.

I did get a glimpse of some fear in Aidan when we were looking at items in the Halloween aisle earlier. She seemed afraid of the big fuzzy spiders. During a recent visit to a Kroger store, she seemed timid around a candy dish with a ghoulish figure that tries to grab your hand as you reach for candy. I’ll have to be on high alert for this items when we’re Trick or Treating next month.

For a second night in a row, Aidan and I each enjoyed a dish of Dreyer’s Slow Churned Pumpkin ice cream. It’s like rich scoop of absolute Autumn joy. If she was old enough to drink coffee, I would happily share my Coffee Mate Pumpkin Spice creamer, too.

Wednesday September 29, 2011

Favorite Child

I often jokingly tell Aidan that she is my favorite daughter. She quickly responds, “I’m your ONLY daughter.” The frequent joke turned into a conversation during dinner tonight when she saw the cover of the latest Time Magazine.

The October 3rd issue features a story called “Playing Favorites” by Jeffrey Kluger. I explained to Aidan that some parents favor one child over another (or the rest) without admitting it. She was reluctant to accept that truth but quickly explained how her mother and I can’t pick a favorite since she is our only child.

I remember wondering as a kid if my parents favored one of their five children at any given time. Since every parent-child relationship is unique, I now realize that my Mom and Dad may have enjoyed particular aspects about each one of us without necessarily favoring one child. I suppose I could ask them now, but I’m not sure I need to know.

The article about favoritism promises to be a fascinating read.  I quickly scanned it tonight and saw a mention of how 65% of mothers and 70% of fathers exhibit a preference for one child. That figure came from a professor of human and community development after multiple interactions with 384 sibling pairs and their parents. Maybe I need to get that professor to join me the next time I see my family.

Aidan does understand a bit about “sibling rivalry” even without having a brother or sister. On occasion, I notice it when she’s around friends and I pay any attention to them. On other occasions, it’s her puppy Emma who appears to be jealous of the attention I give Aidan.

Tonight there was a bit of jealousy from Emma and her pal Boston. They wanted to know why I wasn’t feeding them when I was making dinner for Aidan. After I filled a dog dish with food, I notice it was tipped over soon after.That may be one of the dog’s way of saying, “so I guess I’m not the favorite one around here.”

Thursday September 29, 2011

Down & Back

I seem to be experiencing a lot of “down & back” days lately. That’s when I drive to Austin and back or Houston and back in the same day. It’s usually an exhausting trip, especially if I don’t stop to eat anything. But today’s trip was pure joy, thanks in part to a good audition and the chance to drive a Ford Edge.

As I got acquainted with all the features of the Edge, I became more eager to show the vehicle to Aidan in the evening.  When I picked her up at school and mentioned a surprise, she thought the surprise was inside the vehicle. I explained that the surprise was the vehicle.

The first feature I showed her was the voice command. But she was more interested in the rear view camera. With as cool as the temperatures will be in the morning, she may be most interested in the heater.

The highlight of our daddy-daughter evening was provided by the Disney Channel. The two of us watched “16 Wishes” after dinner. I noticed that Peter DeLuise directed the film. I told Aidan that the actor who plays the father on “The Wizards of Waverly Place” served as the director of this film. But I was wrong. It’s actually David DeLuise on “Wizards” so I’ll be correcting that mistake in the morning. But she won’t care. She’ll be focused on more important things, like the rear view camera in the Edge.

Friday September 30, 2011

Sensational Sleepover

We closed out the week and the month with Aidan’s final sleepover in Lewisville. The action-packed evening for Aid and her BFF began with a trip to Orange Peel for frozen yogurt fun. We grabbed a few things at Walmart then headed home.

After time spent on Disney.com and eating pizza for dinner, the girls turned their attention to little musical performances, which I videotaped. They loved seeing themselves when I played the videos for them. I even uploaded one of the videos to YouTube.

The evening ended with some Disney Channel shows and popcorn, some of which went to the dogs. Aidan’s friend fell asleep first, then Aidan followed less than 30 minutes later. Judging by their high energy at 10 pm, I was surprised to see them sound asleep before midnight.

With only a week left to our time in Lewisville, and a trip to Houston coming tomorrow, tonight was really the last night to do a sleepover. It wasn’t planned; I heard from her friend’s mom this afternoon. One of my favorite moments was surprising Aidan and her friend with news about the sleepover. The joyous expressions on their faces was heartwarming.

Saturday October 1, 2011

Off to Houston

Saturday morning came early today but I managed to get up before the girls did. The sleepover ended with a big breakfast consisting of yogurt, French toast, cereal and coffee. Okay, the coffee was for me but the girls were not underfed at anytime during the 16 hour period they spent together.

By late morning, Aidan and I were off to Houston with her mom. Aidan made the trip in her new booster seat, purchased and assembled by her mom. The old car seat is history and our six year old looks a bit older sitting in the back seat now.

We arrived in Houston just in time for me to attend the first of two production meetings. Aid and her mom went to check out their new apartment in Houston. They will move in next weekend.

After my meetings, I walked the few blocks to my brother’s apartment. The four of us went to dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Montrose that we used to visit on occasion when we lived in the neighborhood. After dinner, we went to the Kroger on Montrose Blvd. where we used to shop when we lived nearby. Since we were so close to our old house, we drove over to see it again and tell Aidan about how she lived there for the first few years of her life. We also drove by her former daycare, which has undergone massive changes. It now also occupies a lot that was next door. Business there must be booming.

Aidan’s new home is very close to her other former daycare. Her mom drove her over there earlier in the day. Appparently Aidan still remembers her time there even though she was last there in January 2009 when she was a few months shy of turning four. I’d like to visit there again. It hardly seems like so much time has passed since those daily drop-offs and pick-ups.

Sunday October 2, 2011

NFL Kicks Disney Off TV

A day of watching football with my brother in Houston meant Aidan couldn’t watch the Disney Channel all afternoon. She wasn’t prepared to hear that news, but she managed to occupy herself by coloring, going online and playing with toys. She was rewarded in the evening with her beloved Disney Channel so she could watch a few episodes of her favorite shows and the television movie HALLOWEENTOWN.

This kind of visit will likely become a regular thing in the coming months as we schedule time with her uncle for meals, movies and other fun reasons to get together. She’s seen him so infrequently in the last year and the chance to see him regularly is a welcome idea to her. Unlike the situation we experienced living in the same place, regular visits will become something special to plan and look forward to each week.

Getting Aidan to watch an entire game of football may take some effort. It would help to get her a jersey to wear when the game is on so she can feel more connected to the sport. I envision a trip to Academy Sports & Outdoors in the next week or so to pick up a little Texans jersey or shirt for her as a present. It can be the kind of thing she gets to open next weekend once she is in Houston after the move.

Monday October 3, 2011

New School/Old School

Aidan enjoyed a day off from her school in Lewisville thanks to our Houston trip. That meant sleeping in on a Monday, always a welcome event. But she was excited to see her new school in Houston during our late morning stop. In fact, she walked ahead of Bonnie and me so she could get to the front door of the school first.

We met with the registrar and icked up all of the necessary paperwork before taking a tour of the school. The registrar told us there is only one space left in first grade for a student. Other classes have no vacancy and parents are being directed to other schools in HISD. We are so lucky! From what we could tell, the school sounds like a terrific place for Aidan, a school that will foster her interest in music, dance and acting. They even offer violin lessons, although Aidan’s mom is more interested in having her learn the piano, which is another opportunity.

While we were in town, we stopped by their new apartment complex to look at additional options. Bonnie has already chosen an apartment but isn’t pleased with the size of it. So we looked at two options today, an upstairs and a downstairs option. I liked the downstairs because of its easier access (and no stairs). The upstairs apartment is smaller and I wasn’t comfortable seeing Aidan walk out to the patio and play on the railing. I strongly encouraged Bonnie to consider more carefully the downstairs apartment.

The decision will be made tomorrow most likely and the price may be a bit lower by then. At any rate, Aidan will have a new room this weekend for us to decorate and set up for her. She looked at ease in both apartments and seemed more interested in using the swimming pool today. We’ll have to make time to get there this weekend.

Another special part of our Houston visit was seeing the daycare Aidan once attended. The staff there was delighted to see how big Aidan has gotten. While they’re seen her in videos, they haven’t seen her since January 2009 when she and Bonnie moved to the Dallas area. Aidan has some memories of being at the daycare, but she didn’t seem to recognize any of the people there. I’ll have to find photos of her time there to share with her once we’re settled in Houston.

Tuesday October 4, 2011

Chicken Dinner

I just finished sending an email to Bonnie to ask her to let Aidan know I was missing her when I discovered they were outside. Bonnie brought Aid over after picking her up from school. Apparently yesterday I suggested they come over for dinner, which I clearly forgot dur to a hectic day and a lack of sufficient sleep.

So I cooked lemon pepper chicken and French fries for dinner with Double Fudge Brownie ice cream for dessert. But I made the horrible mistake of not having ketchup. What was I thinking? I tried to recover but it didn’t work. Aid didn’t like mustard as an alternative. She also gave a thumbs down to spaghetti sauce. Epic fail! If I have to run to the store during dinner to get ketchup next time, I will.

Aidan earned a “Terrific” rating in her first day back at school after the weekend. She was also excited to bring home new spelling words. Her mom cut them out and Aidan spelled each one three times as I made dinner. It was a very pleasant time for the three of us.

At the end of a busy day, and with so much left to accomplish this week, moments like these ones feel especially good. I need as much peace as I can get right now to balance out the chaos that’s about to arrive. Let’s hope no other challenges creep into this week.

Wednesday October 5, 2011

2 Days Left

After school and ESD, Aidan came over to my place with her mom for dinner. She wasn’t interested in eating, even though I was serving spaghetti. I think she’s feeling unsettled with the move approaching quickly.

Usually she enjoys her time at my place as we watch TV or play, but this week has a very different feel to it. It’s not much of a relaxing time. There is far too much to accomplish. I know this is a short-lived hectic period, but I am trying to do what I can to put her at ease. Tonight it’s setting aside a snack cake that she asked to be included in her lunch tomorrow.

Thursday October 6, 2011

1 Day Left

A monster day of cleaning and organizing began early for Aidan’s mom, and I joined her in the evening after a day trip to Houston for an audition. Once back in town, I picked up Aidan and we came home. She wanted a playdate with her BFF but I explained to her that the move is creating a massive amount of duties for us.

She was happy about getting pizza for dinner. An earlier request was also on my mind this evening. On the way to school this morning, Aidan asked if she could bring cupcakes tomorrow for her final day there before the move. She said it would be a great way to make the day more special.

She fell asleep before I got back to the apartment so she doesn’t know I picked up a dozen pumpkin spice cupcakes and a dozen chocolate chip cupcakes. That is a terrific way to end any week. I’m sure Aidan will be impressed by my selection. Of course, she and her classmates will have to wait until the end of the school day to enjoy them.

Friday October 7, 2011

Goodbye, Southridge

Aidan’s time at Southridge Elementary came to an end today. I brought her to school in the morning equipped with 2 dozen cupcakes, and she had more than a dozen at the end of the day. A classmate celebrated a birthday so I imagine there was a surplus of sweets.

Unfortunately, her teacher was not there to see Aidan off.  But Aidan did spend time with her BFF at ESD, then her mom and I took the girls out for dinner and dessert at Braum’s. I’m so glad the girls got a little extra time before the move this weekend.

After we took Aidan’s friend home, the three of us stopped by the apartment. Bonnie stayed in the car while Aid and I went in. She was so surprised to see the empty rooms and took a few minutes to explore the room she had been living in since January 2009. She said, “it’s like we never lived here … except for the trash on the floor.”

We went to my place for a short night of sleep. Bonnie and Aidan’s move comes tomorrow with an early start to the day. We need to get on the road at 5 am to meet the movers in Houston at 10 am.

Saturday October 8, 2011

Hello, Houston

A short night of sleep followed by a long drive followed by some surprises made for an interesting move-in experience. Due to the mover’s inability to unload the belongings because he couldn’t get the tractor trailer into the complex, the alternative was renting a U-Haul truck. Unfortunately, the mover supplied by Mayflower couldn’t rent due to restrictions by U-Haul. The clerk at U-Haul said he owes the company thousands of dollars; he said someone stole his identity. Regardless of the truth, I ended up renting the truck so the movers could move Bonnie and Aidan’s belongings from the tractor trailer to the U-Haul truck at a lot in midtown.

Aidan stayed at the apartment with her mom and seemed so thrilled to be in the new place. She even wanted to help, but mostly just walked around and occupied herself by opening a few boxes as the afternoon rolled along.  By late afternoon, she fell asleep on the living room floor.  I took a little nap, too.

After napping , Aidan and I went to the Greek Festival for a couple hours. It’s an event we went to several times in past years, especially when we lived across the street from it. Going back with Aidan one her first day back in Houston made the return feel so special.  We didn’t leave underfed. We started with souvlaki, tried the cheese pizza next and she enjoyed ice cream, too. I especially liked our visit to the bazaar area where we looked at all kinds of items for sale. She was particularly interested in the religious artwork, especially the ones featuring God and Jesus.

When we got back to the apartment, sleeping wasn’t a priority so we unpacked several boxes. She was eager to unpack and take boxes out to the dumpster.  I think the nap and the new surroundings energized her. I expect a smooth transition this week thanks to all the positive energy she is feeling.

Sunday October 9, 2011

When It Rains

The rain came down steadily for hours and we got soaked as we went to lunch at 59 Diner. With school starting tomorrow, we had much to accomplish today. Bonnie and I bought Aidan some new school clothes for her first time at a school with uniforms.  During our shopping trip, we also went to Academy Sports & Outdoors to get Aidan a Houston Texans jersey. We found a cute one for little girls, and it’s got #80 (Andre Johnson) on it. Bonnie found one with quarterback Matt Schaub’s name and number on it so we presented both options. I explained the duties of a quarterback and a wide receiver, and Aidan chose the wide receiver jersey.

Monday October 10, 2011

New School

My beautiful girl looked spectacular in her blue t-shirt, khaki pants and new Polo shoes today. She seemed a little shy when we walked her to class after registering her in the school office shortly before 8 am. We met her teacher and discovered Aidan will have a classmate with the same name. As a baby, she was in daycare with a baby boy named Aidan. Bonnie explained to the teacher that we call our girl Aidan Kate so hopefully the teacher will use that to distinguish between the two Aidans.

When we picked her up outside her classroom in the afternoon, my brother Will accompanied us. Aid was delighted to see her uncle. The two of them spent time together when we got back to the apartment. She’s really missed him since I moved to Lewisville last November and brought her to Houston so rarely since then.

I could tell that Aid had a good day in her new school, and experienced a lot of new things. For example, at her former school, she always took a packed lunch. Today she got to eat the school lunch and said she liked the chicken sliders. She also thought it was funny to have recess before lunch.

Tuesday October 11, 2011

School Pictures

Aidan’s second day at school gave her a break from the school uniforms for Picture Day. Her mom dressed Aidan in a dress bought in Mexico by my sister Rhonda and her husband Eric. It’s the same dress Aid wore on the first day of school at Southridge.

Aidan also participated in her first dance class at school. She had plenty of good things to say about dance class. I expect this will be one of her favorite experiences during the school year.

After school, Bonnie and I picked up Aidan and took her to Starbucks for a treat and a little homework time before we went to a nearby Montessori school where we may enroll her for afterschool care. All three of us were impressed by the facility, and will make a decision tonight about enrolling her there tomorrow for a November 1 start. She recognized some of her new schoolmates so I’m sure she would adjust to the place pretty quickly.

I may look for a place to rent near the Montessori school so I am close by to pick her up daily at six pm. Because Aidan’s mom will be working until 7 on weekdays, I will be the one to pick up Aid. If I can find a spot within a few blocks, I can walk over to pick her up and either go home to make dinner or take her to a nearby spot for a bite to eat.

Wednesday October 12, 2011

The One Reward

Leaving at 4:30 am for an audition in New Orleans meant missing the morning ritual with my baby, but I thought a lot about her during the 12 hour trip there and back. The audition for a John Deere SAG commercial gave me a chance to bring her back a little souvenir from Louisiana.

When I went to Scottsdale two years ao, I brought back a refrigerator magnet for Aidan. This year it broke and she asked if we could glue it back together. We intended to, but it never happened. During the packing last weekend, I threw it in the garbage.  It wasn’t going to be repaired after all.

The new refrigerator magnet features an alligator and a lobster in a canoe. I looked at about 15 options at a convenience store and chose that one because it looks interesting and silly at the same time.  She put it on the fridge immediately.

We enjoyed some cuddle time as we watched Disney Channel shows. It made a very exhausting day feel quickly forgotten. I wanted to set every other bit of work aside and just sit with her.

Thursday October 13, 2011

Thank goodness for Uncle

The drop-off at school for Day #4 went well. Okay, maybe it wasn’t outstanding. Aid said she didn’t know where to go and she was hesitant as she got out of the vehicle and started walking towards the school building. I knew she would be fine. She just needs her bravery tested from time to time.

Aid and I spent the evening at Will’s. Bonnie drop ped her off and I walked over after an audition. It is so good to have all this time with my brother after months of seeing him so rarely.

As I finished my day’s work, Aid and her uncle played. After less than a week back in Houston, Aid seems to be quickly settling in. And thanks to finishing her homework 2 days ago, she had plenty of play time this evening.

I feel so much better having a support system here. I can tell it’s going to have a profound impact on our lives, even if Aidan only sees her uncle once a week. It already is starting to feel like home around here.

Friday Octover 14, 2011

A Weekend Return

A midafternoon departure from Houston us in Lewisville around 8 pm after one of the most relaxing and enjoyable drives I’ve made on I-45 in a long time. We made several stops along the way, including an extended stop at Buc-ee’s where we walked Emma and Aidan chose taffy as her one treat inside. The weekend return to Lewisville was set up for Bonnie to get her old apartment cleaned as I packed and Aidan played with her BFF.

Unfortunately, Aidan’s friend ended up being in Galveston this weekend so no play time and sleepovers seem likely. It may be for the best. Aidan has had a cough this week and really needs some time to rest so she can return to school on Monday feeling better.

After getting to Lewisville, we took Emma to my place so she could play with her Boston Terrier pal while we went to dinner at Carino’s. The relaxing dinner felt like a terrific way to wind down at the end of a long day. Aidan and I weren’t very hungry so we brought leftovers home.

Tonight will be the next to last night Aidan stays at my place in Lewisville, and the next to last night I will have a space of my own for a little while. After she went to bed, I searched Craigslist for rental apartments and rooms. I even posted an ad describing the kind of place I have in mind. I want to find something more than adequate but there is also considerable time pressure. I am trying to keep in mind that I want more than a little place for my stuff. (Thanks, George Carlin.) I want a place where Aidan and I will be comfortable playing, reading, resting, watching TV or anything else we choose to do after school, on my weekends with her and anytime she is there with me.

Saturday October 15, 2011

Eagerness & Exhaustion

I didn’t sleep at all last night, and somehow I managed to stay up almost all day. I did take a short nap and needed the rest before my murder mystery show this evening. I think part of the inability to sleep came from my eagerness to get my belongings packed. Now that my time here is coming to an end, I want to hustle to get it all done. I do realize that Aidan has always enjoyed coming here and I’m sure she will miss it in the weeks ahead.

She made a friend down the street who she won’t get to see anymore. The little girl was playing on the sidewalk before 9 am, and I was tempted to wake u Aidan so she could play with her friend. But I let her sleep instead. With a cough that has lasted for several days, she needs all the rest she can get.

So while I packed this morning and afternoon, and Aidan’s mom ran errands and supervised the cleaning of her old apartment, Aidan primarily watched her favorite shows on the Disney Channel. Sometimes a day of TV is perfectly fine, given the circumstances. It won’t be repeated tomorrow. We have much to accomplish on Sunday.

When I returned from my murder mystery show, it was late but Aid refused to sleep. So she and I chatted and a read some of her National Geographic Kids magazine to her. I also showed her a video made by River Pointe Church in Sugar Land that I appear in. She enjoyed the video featuring malfunctioning robots. Also, she mentioned how she wishes she could go to one of my live shows. I think she would enjoy it, especially since she knows some of the dialogue after running lines with me during the summer. I will try to plan a time when she can accompany me to a show  in the next few months.

Sunday October 16, 2011

Done in Lewisville

My final day in Lewisville was rather unceremonious. While Aidan watched her beloved Disney Channel, I packed everything in my room. I managed to get most of it into Bonnie’s Honda CRV, with the exception of a few items I will have to retrieve in the next week or two.

It’s been a good place to stay since last November, safe and secure. Its close proximity to Aidan’s school and a large park were other assets we enjoyed. Also, I always appreciated having a helpful and supportive housemate who was especially kind to Aidan.

We will miss the kindness of Donna much more than the house itself. It was her who really made the place feel like a home. Aidan will likely remember all the treats. Donna seemed to have an endless supply of popsicles and popcorn. She was also willing to share her DVDs and offering to get movies from the library for Aidan. Thanks to her, I went to the Lewisville Public Library numerous times to check out movies and books, sometimes bringing Aidan with us.

Bonnie and Aidan got haircuts in the afternoon while I slept to prepare for an evening drive to Houston. Aidan’s “bob” looks adorable as always. She first got that cut at Visible Changes in Houston when she was around 2 years old.

The three of us said goodbye to Donna and got on the road at six pm. I wish I had taken a pic to document how cramped we were in that vehicle. It was almost comical. Nearly every inch of available space was filled by boxes, leaving only Aidan’s booster seat, the floor in front of her and the front seats open when the three of us and Emma got in. Five hours later, we were in Houston and sleep couldn’t come fast enough.

Monday October 17, 2011

 The New School Difference

At Southridge Elementary in Lewisville, parents can walk their children into the school but not past the door inside the front hallway. There is also a drop-off area for car riders that is supervised by staff members, while students help their peers exit the vehicles quickly and safely. The burst of morning energy is something I enjoyed and I typically parked so Aidan and I could walk to the school’s front door.

At the new school, I also see a lot of parents walking their children to school. But, as I walked Aidan into school this morning, I realized how many other parents do the same thing. There is no stopping point near the front office. Parents can accompany their kids all the way to the classroom. That’s what I did, taking Aidan to her classroom. We were a bit early so we sat on a bench in the hallway until it was time for her to go in.

The pick-up process is new for us.  Aidan was at ESD in Lewisville so I went to the school cafeteria to get her and never had to sit in a line of vehicles occupied by parents waiting for their kids. At the new school, that’s what we’re doing for the first few weeks until Aidan begins attending an afterschool program. Bonnie and I waited in the line and eventually a staff member came by and asked who we’re picking up. Using a walkie talkie, she relayed that information to someone else who announced Aidan’s name. It seems to be a fairly smooth process, but I decided that I would rather park and walk to get her than wait for 20 minutes (or more) in the line of vehicles.

Tuesday October 18, 2011

Ikea Trip

After Bonnie and I picked up Aidan at school, the three of us went to Ikea. Her mom wanted to go to get some items to help organize the apartment. Shopping also gave Aidan some ideas on how she can decorate her room. At the moment, her room is not fully unpacked. That really needs to be a priority for the coming weekend.

Because Bonnie’s new job has only light commitments this week, she has been at home most of the day. The opportunity to spend time with Aidan immediately after school is a blessing and allows for activities like our shopping trip today.

Wednesday October 19, 2011

The Walk Home

Aidan and I enjoyed our first walk home from the new school. A windy day in Houston didn’t slow us down, and we stopped for ice cream on the way. The shop is a place we had not been to before, and doesn’t appear to be a chain.

I assumed she would want chocolate, but she surprised me by asking for pumpkin. I ordered her ice cream in a waffle cone and mine in a dish. I figured I would end up eating most of her cone anyway.

She and I enjoy these walks together. They are an opportunity to talk, learn from each other and laugh. And she rarely has to do much actual walking. She usually sits on my shoulders, like she did today.

Thursday October 20, 2011

Mexican Food in Midtown

One of the assets of being back in Houston is being able to spend time with my brother. Today we picked up Aidan at school, got Bonnie and drove to Midtown for an early dinner. Because the weather was so good today, I suggested we find a place to sit outside.

A Mexican restaurant, Cyclone Anaya’s, provided a perfect spot for us to dine and relax. Aid loved all the Halloween decorations inside, and gobbled up tortilla chips before eating one of her cheeseburger sliders. She managed to save some room for Tres Leches, which her mom and I helped her finish.

Friday October 21, 2011

A Full Friday

At the end of her second week at the new school, Aidan got to wear a school shirt for the first time. The uniform store at school was our first stop as her mom and I selected t-shirts, polo shirts and a hooded jacket for Aid. She chose to wear a red t-shirt first.

After school, she and I made gingerbread spice cookies, which filled the apartment with a deliciously overpowering scent. Later we called my parents to catch up with them. Last week they sent a package to Aidan filled with all kinds of fun items, including a bear, a porcelain doll, makeup, movies and more. Aid told her grandparents about how much she likes the things they sent. My sister Rhonda gave some of the items to my parents when they got together in North Carolina recently so Mom could mail everything at one time.

Because Aidan sees her grandparents so rarely, I always enjoy seeing her talk to them on the phone. I know they enjoy hearing her voice and entertaining comments. While we chatted, I told them that I am making a plan to travel there with Aidan during the holidays. Spending time there in December would be a special experience for Aidan, and I am eager to get home again. It’s been three years since I was last there.

After the phone call, the three of us watched one of the movies sent in the package. Aid wanted to watch Sleeping Beauty, although I was pushing for The Pacifier.  She also got another wish. I lit the log in the fireplace so she could enjoy a nice fire during the movie. It wasn’t cold enough outside to need a fire, but Aid was happy and it gave me a chance to explain fireplace safety.

Saturday October 22, 2011

Party City

Clearly Aidan’s favorite holiday is Halloween. She loves to visit the Halloween section in any store, and she thoroughly enjoyed her visit to Party City this afternoon. Although she went in planning to be a mummy with a homemade costume this year, she came out with a costume for a Goth Vampire.

She couldn’t wait to try it on when she got home. It’s a good thing. They gave us the wrong size so her mom had to return it and get the correct size. While she was out, Aidan got busy putting in her vampire teeth and putting on black lipstick.

Aid even got a costume for Emma. It’s a little big but Aidan’s puppy will make an adorable ladybug. I wonder how long she will allow Aidan to keep pulling the costume hood over her little head.

We haven’t figured out when trick or treating will be in this neighborhood, but I am absolutely sure it will feel like Halloween each and every day leading up to the actual event.  Aid would be perfectly happy wearing her costume all the time. She even begged to wear her new bat earrings. But some things have to wait.

Sunday October 23, 2011

Halloween Preview

As the morning was getting underway, Aidan was once again wearing the black lipstick and talking through vampire teeth. What made her appearance even more entertaining was her choice in clothes. She put on a new pair of khakis and her white school t-shirt. Even Goth Vampires can follow a school dress code.

Thanks to a trip to Half Price Books later in the day, she brought home a Halloween book about mummies. That will take care of her interest in mummies now. Her choice to dress up as a vampire instead just saved her mom a lot of time making a costume. That’s a great thing at a time where the two of them have so much left to unpack in the apartment.

Monday October 24, 2011

Flat Tires

Aidan was eager to ride her bike after school today so we worked together to make it happen. Or so I thought. She put on her helmet and I took off her training wheels. We walked outside with her bike to a spot in the parking lot, and while taking her puppy out on the leash, I held her up as she pedaled the bike. It was a short-lived experience. Within moments, I noticed the front tire was flat. I checked the back tire and it was also flat.

Okay, so until the tires get filled with air, riding will have to be postponed. My brother has an air pump that we can use to fill those tires. But I’m not eager to get it done yet. The reason? The massive mosquito problem in Houston makes being outside for more than a minute feel unbearable. I have bug bites. Aidan has bug bites. I’m sure most Houstonians are dealing with mosquito bites right now, too.

Tuesday October 25, 2011

Singer/songwriter

Last week Aidan came home from school with an assignment to write a song that she will share in class. The night before it became due, she worked with her mom on the song called A SPOOKY NIGHT. It was a challenging experience for her as she struggled to find words to get started. It was made more challenging my writing with a pen. When she made mistakes, she wanted to start over on a new piece of paper. Switching to pencil helped, and her mom guided her through the writing process.

The song came together nicely, with the blend of upbeat and spooky elements that Aidan had in mind. She sang it, then I took a turn singing it and improvised a bit. Due to my repeating portions of lines, she discovered how a written song can be interpreted by a singer. She liked the repetition so I explained how she could mark a line “2x” or “3x” if she intended to repeat it.

She sang it a couple more times, using the repetition of certain lines, and felt very proud of herself. I’m proud, too. Later, as I put her to bed, I explained how the writing process can be messy. Rarely does a writer start and finish as expected. He or she encounters all kinds of challenges that makes the process a tough one at times. But I told her, recognizing that writing is messy can help her accept the frustrations along the way.

Wednesday October 26, 2011

A Pei Wei Day

In Lewisville, we enjoyed our occasional trips to Pei Wei for the Chicken Lo Mein. This evening we made our first visit to a nearby Pei Wei here in Houston. Aid is always eager to use chopsticks, just like her parents do.

I remember my first visit to a restaurant with chopsticks. It was a school trip to Ottawa that included a stop at a Chinese restaurant, as I recall. I wasn’t interested in Chinese food so I ordered a hamburger. Fortunately for my daughter, her experiences with food are much broader than mine were at a young age. She’s eaten foods before age six that I didn’t try until my 20s or 30s.

Today was also marked by the good news that Aidan’s song earned an “A” in music class. She said she sang it in class, and her teacher commented on how it was written in the right format. I’ll be saving that song and framing it to hang on her wall soon.

She also came home with her school pics, taken the second day at her new school. She looks adorable with a slight smile and bright eyes. She didn’t smile wide enough to reveal her missing teeth. I was secretly hoping she would.

Once this very busy week is over, and Halloween is behind us, I’ll get these pics in the mail to her grandparents, aunts and uncles. I’m sure her aunt and uncle in North Carolina will be delighted to see Aidan is wearing a gift from them in the photo. I may even mail some of her artwork to them too.

Thursday October 27, 2011

Gift Times Two

At three o’clock, I picked up Aidan at school and was eager to give her mail that arrived for her today. My parents sent a Halloween card so I brought it with me so Aid could open it right away. But before she opened the card, she had a gift for me.

So we sat on a bench and she opened her card to read the lovely message inside and she discovered her grandparents sent her some cash to get herself a treat. It looks like she will be using it to replace the vampire teeth she lost at school on Tuesday.

The gift for me was made by Aidan in school and wrapped carefully. I opened it slowly, having no idea of what was inside. When I realized it was a paper thermometer, I was delighted. Aid proudly showed me how it features the Farenheit readings on one side and Celsius on the other. It’s also safely contained inside a plastic bag so it won’t get wet.

I added one more “gift” to the afternoon before we got home. After picking up her mom at work, I stopped at a Smoothie King for berry blend smoothies. Unfortunately, Aidan spotted the large chocolate chip cookies and was disappointed I wouldn’t buy one for her. Thankfully she recovered quickly and was smiling again within a few minutes.

Friday October 28, 2011

Game 7

The final game of the 2011 World Series prompted me to take Aidan to Kroger to pick up some food and beverage supplies for the night. I think we ended up spending an hour (and $100) there while browsing, sampling some homemade mac and cheese and some salmon. Aid also spent her Halloween money from Grandma and Grandpa on a Veggie Tales book of devotions.

I let Aidan pick out some treats, telling her that she could select two things if she agreed to watch the game with me. She picked a cupcake with a doll head and body on it and a caramel apple. We also bought one of her favorite juices, affectionately called “brain juice” by us.

The game ended up being a dismal loss for the Texas Rangers who lost the series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Aidan was only slightly interested in watching. She did enjoy the songs. In fact, she said the songs were her favorite part.

Saturday October 29, 2011

School Carnival/Tumlinson Manor

The day brought a big Halloween celebration at school followed by a Halloween party at the home of friends in Missouri City at night. By the time she and I got home, it was after midnight and she was already asleep. That’s no surprise after a day of playing on a giant slide at the carnival and gobbling up candy and other goodies at the party.

Now that we’re back in Houston, getting a party invite from dear friends here gave us a chance to actually make a party. It seems to happen rarely for one reason or another that we can get to a party. So making the drive to this one felt important.

Our friends Kevin and Kara hosted the party, and Kevin greeted us at the door while dressed as a Ghostbuster. By coincidence, Aid had asked to buy the DVD at Randall’s today. Aidan’s costume (Goth Vampire) seemed to impress the party guests and she alternated between keeping her vampire teeth in her mouth and handing them to me. She even drank her “brain juice”—which we dubbed “blood”—with her vampire teeth in.

One of the highlights of the night was watching the Thriller video on a big screen TV. Aid loves the song and she’s seen the video more than once. Last Halloween, her mom took her to a Lewisville Halloween celebration and she watched dancers perform to the Thriller song. I’m sure it will be a part of many future Halloween celebrations too.

Another fun part of the night had to be the Candy Poker. Although Aidan didn’t play, she helped me make bets by tossing a piece of candy whenever necessary. I think I won two hands total and she was so happy for me both times. I think winning a giant pile of candy was only part of the reason she seemed so happy.

Sunday October 30, 2011

Bye Bye, Lewisville

With some of my belongings still in Lewisville, and a package for Bonnie remaining at her old apartment complex, we set aside today as the best time to make a drive up and back. Aid handles the road trips fairly well and did the same today. It helps that she has a stop at Buc-ee’s to look forward to each time.

We left Houston late morning and returned close to 9 pm. Aid was ready to run around when we got to my old place. She didn’t get much time to stretch. We were back on the road in about 20 minutes. But she got one last look at the place and Emma got to play with Boston one more time.

The drive back felt so long to all of us, and Aidan fell asleep for a short time. But the reward of getting back to Houston felt tremendously good. Rather than putting Aidan to bed right away, we let her stay up for a bit, hoping she would wind down quickly. That rarely happens, but I am always optimistic. What made it harder was the fast approaching golden day of Halloween. If I was her, I would have struggled to fall asleep too.

Monday October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

The magical day arrived and Aidan was so excited when I picked her up at school. We promptly drove over to Will’s apartment to get him and stopped at Randall’s to get a pumpkin carving kit. The short time between school and trick or treating involved carving Aidan’s pumpkin and getting her in costume. She even did a little of the carving and then named it “the Great Pumpkin.”  When we returned from trick-or-treating, the jack-o-lantern got a candle and I placed it outside for the neighbors to enjoy.

One of the most special parts of trick-or-treating this year involved Aidan reuniting with her dear friend Advik. The two of them have known each other since they were babies and have only seen each other one other time this year. But they have such a special connection. Aid even squealed when she first saw him tonight.

Aidan and Advik were part of a large group of kids who trick-or-treated around a few blocks of West University. The area we walked around was well decorated and some of the residents really put on a show. At one stop, several costumed people were on a porch to hand out candy. I snapped a pic of Aidan pulling back a little when an evil-looking clown handed her candy.

I didn’t dress up, beyond wearing my personalized New York Giants jersey, but my brother picked up a costume at Party City. It was a timely choice to go as Charlie Sheen, although nobody seemed to comment on his costume. Aidan was happy to know her uncle would be dressing up for the holiday and I got some cute pics of them together before we went trick-or-treating.

After returning to the home where we first gathered before trick-or-treating, the kids sat around the table and ate pizza. Aid had to sit next to Advik and both me and her mom took several pics of the adorable little pair. The kids had a great time closing out the night, and the parents enjoyed themselves too over pizza and a glass or two of wine.

Once we got home, Bonnie took on the task of washing the black out of Aidan’s hair, and I put in the Ghostbusters DVD.  At the end of the movie, Bonnie put Aidan to bed for a short night of sleep.  As the jack-o-lantern glowed outside, I took Will home and the big night came to an end.

Tuesday November 1, 2011

Who You Gonna Call?

It’s amazing how a movie made when I was a teenager can be so appealing to my daughter in 2011. For the second night in a row, she watched GHOSTBUSTERS. Even though she fell asleep before the end, she enjoyed it and danced during the song.

One of her favorite parts is an early scene with Bill Murray testing the ESP ability of two college students. Murray repeats Jennifer Runyon’s line of “8 o’clock” with the same inflection, which makes Aidan giggle every time.

Another part that she seems to focus on is the scene where Janine is clearly showing an interest in Egon. She laughs at his line about mold spores in response to Janine’s question about what he does in his free time.  She also loves how Louis and Dana interact, and  comments on how absurd it is for Louis to mention he’s going to take a shower after Dana has shut the door in his face.

I’m so glad we own this DVD now and can watch it over and over. It also comes with versions dubbed in other languages so I’m sure we will end up watching in Spanish sometime. No problema!

Wednesday November 2, 2011

Math and More Math

On Mondays, Aidan brings home a packet of homework filled with math problems. Sometimes she does it all at once. This week she is breaking it up into smaller chunks.

It’s great to see her approach math with such eagerness and interest, especially when I consider how math was not a strong subject for me or her mom. But Aidan is learning math differently than we did in school. I also notice the difficulty level of her homework here in Houston is higher than it was in Lewisville. These are good challenges for my young student.

One of the assignments involved completing a chart showing three different types of rides available and determining all the options possible with three tickets.  I like how these types of problems go beyond addition and subtraction to test her ability to think about a situation. She struggles a bit at times to come up with every answer, but rarely does she back down from figuring it out.

Thursday November 3, 2011

Cuddle Time with Electric Company

The most popular show with Aidan right now has to be The Electric Company. The new version of the show features strong educational elements delivered in fun songs and playful situations. I barely recall the old version, but I like many of the songs in this one so I can enjoy watching the show with Aidan.

That’s a good thing because she can watch the same episode over and over. This evening, we cuddled as we watched a several episodes. She’s quick with the remote to rewind a part of the show she especially likes. She’s so accustomed to using the remote that way for recorded shows and movies that she forgets that we’re not watching live TV.

Friday November 4, 2011

Calling the BFF

It’s been more than a month since Aidan last saw her BFF in Lewisville. Earlier this week I got a call from her friend’s mom who left a message asking for us to call back. We finally had time to make that call this evening so the girls could “reunite” by phone for a bit.

We used my new phone to make the call, and as soon as her friend was on, Aid disappeared into her bedroom.  Her mom and I smiled at each other and we realized that our little girl was wanting privacy for her phone call. It’s a sign of things to come.

After the phone call, I made great progress in organizing Aidan’s room. Most of the floor is clear now thanks to placing some items in the closet and emptying a couple boxes. We still need to spend more time unpacking boxes, gathering items to donate, and finding places for the things to keep.

Saturday November 5, 2011

Out of the Darkness

A couple weeks ago, Aidan’s mom registered to participate in the Out of the Darkness Community Walk. She and Aidan experienced the suicide prevention walk several years ago when Aid was a baby. This time was very different for Bonnie because she assembled a team to join her. TEAM DANIELLE consisted of Bonnie, Aidan, Bonnie’s brother Brian and me. We also brought Emma to the walk.

Bonnie did well with the fundraising aspect of the walk, generating more than $200 in donations in a short period of time. I managed to secure one small donation. With more time next year, and figuring out how to help Aidan raise money, I think we can comfortably set a goal of $500.

The walk at Houston’s Stude Park was an emotional experience for all of us. During the early part of the gathering before the actual walk, Bonnie explained to Aidan why we were participating. The loss of Aidan’s Aunt Danielle to suicide is the reason we came together to honor her memory today. Even at a delicate age, it feels important to Bonnie and me that Aidan understand this aspect of her family story. She will never meet her aunt, but knowing that her aunt is very much present is comforting.

I carried Aidan on my shoulders during a great deal of the walk. She requests it often, and while I can still make it happen I will. One of her favorite parts of the walk was reading the signs held by individuals along the way. The signs featured inspirational messages and statistics related to suicide.

At the end of the walk, each of us wrote a message on a blue balloon in honor of Danielle. The attendees released those balloons at the same time, filling the beautiful Houston sky with hundreds of balloons. I recorded a video of the balloon release, starting with Aidan holding the balloon. As I continued recording, I could hear Aidan getting upset. I think she didn’t want to let the balloon go. But thanks to the video, she can revisit that moment over and over in the coming months and years.

Sunday November 6, 2011

Texans Win!

Last Sunday we drove to Lewisville and back. Today was a much more relaxing day as Aidan and I watched the Texans game at my brother’s apartment. Aid and I walked over around noon with Emma and Will held the kick off for us. Aid wore her #80 Andre Johnson jersey, although Johnson has been out for 5 weeks now due to an injury.

The rest of the team played very well and had a commanding lead much of the game. As they scored each time, Aidan would express her delight. Maybe better than the score for her was the availability of food and drink she likes. On the way there she said, “I wonder what Uncle will have for us to eat.”  said we might get pizza, but a tuna fish sandwich and Gatorade were well received.

As the game came to a close, Aid wrestled with her uncle. She likes showing how tough she is these days. She was using some of her TKD moves, I think, with some strong kicks and punches. One of her swings knocked over a bottle. Luckily it was empty but it’s obvious this pint-sized powerhouse can do some damage if she wants to.

Monday November 7, 2011

“Good Afternoon”

I love the part of A CHRISTMAS CAROL when Scrooge abruptly cuts off his nephew with a “good afternoon!” It’s one of those phrases I will likely repeat throughout the holiday season. I’ll probably prompt Aidan to say it more than once too. This evening, the movie played on TV as Aidan did her homework with the help of her mom.

So it’s here. With Halloween behind us, the holiday season starts to really take over. Yesterday marked 7 weeks until Christmas, and the holiday ads are already running. But we’re usually a bit slower to get on the holiday bandwagon, often decorating very close to Christmas. I imagine that will change this year.

One of the little joys in life right now has nothing to do with the approach of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s seeing Aidan get to spend time regularly in the evening with her mom. Bonnie is not yet working her 11-7 schedule so she’s been free to pick up Aid at the afterschool program alone or with me. Even when she is working until 7 soon, she won’t have the intolerably long drive home like she did in Dallas where she wasn’t getting home until nearly 8 pm.  It’s a big win for Team Aidan.

Tuesday November 8, 2011

My Little Native American

Aidan has Native American heritage, yet she’ll find like I did that when it’s not obvious, it becomes an opportunity to share the story. I grew up knowing very little about my family heritage. Once in my 30s, I finally became registered as a member of my family’s tribe in Canada. That status is a source of pride for me, and it may become the same for Aidan.

At her afterschool program today, she made a Native American headband. In fact, she was just finishing it when her mom and I arrived. She wore it immediately and kept it on when we went to Whole Foods. A couple at the store noticed her and the husband commented on how Aidan’s “hat” was the best he had seen in the store.

I’m sure everyone sees the little white girl getting ready for Thanksgiving, and that’s okay. But it’s important for her to know that, despite her very Caucasian appearance, she has a family story that is worth knowing and celebrating. This Thanksgiving, we’ll make that story part of our family tradition.

Wednesday November 9, 2011

Family Dinner

Aidan loves to eat at restaurants. There’s no question she developed that interest from her parents who enjoy the same thing. She’s been asking to go out to eat at least once a day for the last several days and today she got her wish.

Her mom suggested that we go to Mission Burrito, and Aid and I quickly agreed. The cooler temperatures in Houston made sitting outside a viable option but we ate inside instead after Aidan got a little play time outside first. She also got to play a bit outside before we left.

I know she enjoys these family dinners. They are usually unscheduled and can happen any time during the week, depending on her mom’s schedule and my availability. But despite our divorce, dining at restaurants has been one consistent activity we’ve done together for years. Sometimes we’ll eat out more than once a week, and our preference is not fast food.

At some point, when our respective situations change, these family dinners may occur less frequently, but for now they are a time to share a meal, share stories and share time. When there is so much change going on and adjustment in progress, these family dinners are even more important. I don’t always recognize their value, but when I see Aidan’s contentment, I understand.

Thursday November 10, 2011

Family Dinner #2

Aidan got to enjoy a second night in a row of going out to eat thanks to a trip to California Pizza Kitchen. Her uncle and I picked her up at her after school care facility, picked up her mom at work, then drove to CPK for dinner. Unfortunately, Aidan wasn’t fond of her Honey Chicken pizza. She didn’t like the flavor and struggled to eat even one slice. Maybe we should’ve ordered the Traditional Cheese.

Her incentive for finishing it was getting to order dessert. So she managed to eat one slice, although she never touches the crust. Once she earned her brownie with ice cream, she was thrilled.

We brought the leftover pizza home but I imagine she won’t eat it there either. I guess that means I will get to eat honey pizza for lunch sometime this weekend. I’m sure it will be absolutely delicious, even if many of the pieces of chicken were already devoured.

Friday November 11, 2011

The Tradition Rap

With an audition in Dallas in the morning, I took a bus overnight from Houston to downtown Dallas. That meant I was away when Aidan needed to go to school in the morning. Our usual walk to class was replaced by a drop-off by her mom and uncle, accompanied by Emma.

When I returned in the evening, Bonnie and Aidan met me near the Greyhound station downtown at Buffalo Wild Wings. I suggested the place since it was close and it was dinner time when I got back into town. It’s safe to say that Aidan liked the choice. She was dancing to the music several times, talking about how she was “getting down”, making her mom and I laugh.

One of my favorite parts of dinner was when she introduced us to a song she sang at school today called THE TRADITION RAP. It’s all about holiday and seasonal traditions and she assigned us parts to say. We must’ve performed that “rap” about 10 times, but every time was entertaining.

Saturday November 12, 2011

Flight Booked!

An ongoing conversation between Aidan’s uncle and me has been about how and when to get home to New York. Our last visit home occurred in July 2008 when my brother, Aidan and me spent a week there. Aidan was only three at the time and our trip coincided with a LaBrake family reunion. But we have not been able to get back since then, and our only other trip to see family came a year later when my sister Rhonda got married in North Carolina.

As of today, we now have a plan. Actually, we have more than a plan; we have tickets. Will and I got online this morning to get the tickets from American Airlines. After shopping on other sites recently, we discovered a lower ticket price on American. The December 26th flight will take us from Houston to Dallas to Chicago to Watertown. The Watertown service is new. In fact, it isn’t scheduled to begin until next week.

Aidan has been to New York a couple of times in the last two years. I’m grateful for those trips because she’s gotten to see all of her grandparents both times. She’s also gotten to spend time with her friend Kathryn who is the same age.

This trip comes at a great time. Not only will we be able to celebrate the holidays with relatives, I can also celebrate my birthday at home for the first time in more than a decade, if memory serves me correctly. Plus, I want to schedule some time to start interviewing my mom and a few aunts and uncles for my book about the 14 LaBrake siblings.

Sunday November 13, 2011

Party Day!

The last few days gave been an action packed time of socializing for Aidan. Dinners out during the week preceded a work party last night that she attended her mom. Today she ended the week in a big way by attending an evening birthday party for a classmate who turned seven.

Aidan arrived at Chuck E. Cheese’s in her Justin Bieber shirt and with a decorated face. The face painting came during a stop at Kroger on the way to the party to pick up a gift card and birthday card. A woman dressed as a clown was providing animal balloons and face painting, and Aidan wasn’t interested in the balloons today.

Her face looked adorable with a flower and a butterfly on her cheeks and a little red heart on her forehead. We were the first guests at the party and we met some other parents of Aidan’s classmates who also arrived before the birthday girl Anastacia and her mom. Once they arrived, the party kicked into high gear and the kids were moving non-stop to play games and win tickets.

My little girl is such a gracious friend. She gave every ticket she won to the birthday girl. At one point, she won 25 tickets in one turn at a game and she immediately handed them to Anastacia. That made me smile. She is a very generous girl.

One of Aidan’s favorite parts of the evening came when Chuck E. Cheese himself made an appearance. He greeted the kids (at 2 simultaneous parties) and sang to them. There were plenty of photo opportunities for the parents as the kids gathered around the large, fun-loving rodent.

Cheese pizza was a hit but Aidan opted for ice cream only for dessert. Then she returned to the game area for more fun. She and Anastacia spent the last of their tokens. The evening ended with pics in the little ride with Chuck E. Cheese that takes a photo of the rider. We left at close to 9 pm after a full evening of food and fun.

Even though Aidan’s birthday doesn’t arrive for another six months, I asked her what she wants for that occasion. She quickly responded by saying she wants a princess party. Her mom has already offered to let her have a sleepover with a few friends so it looks like the princess movies and makeovers will be key elements of that night.

Monday November 14, 2011

The Morning After

Upon waking up this morning, Aidan was already reflecting on the joys of last night’s birthday party for her friend Anastacia at Chuck E. Cheese’s. While barely conscious, she was smiling and saying how awesome last night was. With those kind of fresh memories, it was guaranteed to be a delightful Monday.

Or maybe not.

When I picked her up at her afterschool program, she told me that she threw up during lunch. Not only did she throw up during lunch, she threw up on her lunch. She seemed to take it fairly well. From her story, I gathered that she threw up while eating vegetables, but the “green” color she described may have been from mucous.

For someone who lost her lunch at lunch, she seemed to be in fine spirits after 5 pm. She gobbled up her tuna fish sandwich for dinner, although she asked for chicken soup which we didn’t have. She was reluctant to eat her mixed vegetables (which doesn’t surprise me) so I agreed to feed them to her.

Tuesday November 15, 2011

Lost Lunch II

I picked up Aidan at her after school program and she seemed to be feeling fine, but she told me she threw up again at lunch today. I recall kids throwing up when I was in elementary school. One time makes for a great story. A second occurrence seems almost legendary.

But she didn’t hesitate to ask for a snack at Starbucks this evening while we waited for her mom to finish work nearby. She ate yogurt and drank some mango juice as I read stories to her from one of the books she bought at the book fair today.  By the time I started the second story, her mom had arrived.

Her appetite seemed fine at Whole Foods as she snacked on an apple, and she ate all of her chicken, some of her squash and a bite or two of mashed potatoes for dinner at home. But I’m concerned about this consecutive sick-at-lunch occurrence so I am planning to eat lunch with her tomorrow. If there is something serious going on, I want to find out.

Wednesday November 16, 2011

Best Lunch Date

As I dropped off Aidan at her classroom this morning, I asked her to let me know when her class goes to lunch daily. She showed me the list of daily classes and activities so I could see lunch occurs at 10:40 am. But rather than let me remember it on my own, she insisted that she write it down.

I arrived at school about 20 minutes before lunch began so I could check in at the office and be ready when she and her classmates made their way to the cafeteria. Aid was the last student in the line and I had to call out to her to get her attention. She literally jumped for joy and hugged me several times.

I can’t recall the last time I enjoyed a lunch outing this much. After going through the line and watching her select chocolate milk, a grilled cheese sandwich, fruit and a Rice Krispie treat, she and I sat at a table with a few of her friends. I could tell Aid was thrilled to have me there. In fact, she wanted me to stay after lunch and spend some time in the classroom.

In the midst of lunch, Aid asked me to tell jokes so we did several Knock Knock jokes. I also showed a couple videos from Sunday’s birthday party since Aidan’s friend Anastacia (the birthday girl) was at lunch along with Logan, another classmate who attended the party.Aid tenderly offered me bites of fruit and decided that she didn’t want her grilled cheese sandwich so she told me to eat it. Based on how little she actually ate, I am glad she had a decent breakfast this morning.

After lunch, I walked with Aid back to her classroom. In the hallway, she gave me the best hug and seemed like she wanted to squeeze every moment out of this visit to savor. As much as she enjoyed it, I think I relished it more. It was so rewarding to spend the time with her but it was also enlightening to see how her lunch period runs from beginning to end. I can’t imagine a better lunch date.

Thursday November 17, 2011

Math with Mom

Aidan’s verbal skills are impressive so we tend to spend more time on math problems when doing her homework. She comes home with a homework packet on Monday that’s due on Friday and will get a section or two finished each night usually. Depending on who is available, her mom or me will spend the time guiding her through the assignments.

The two of us have very different approaches in helping Aidan. Her mom tends to be calmer than I am. Also, we may explain each problem differently.I think it’s great for Aidan to have the influence of both of us, but not at the same time.

This evening, while I worked on some writing, her mom helped Aidan with her homework. It is great to know Aidan is getting more time with her mom these days before Bonnie’s new radio station launches. I can see that Aidan enjoys it very much. Even after the launch, I’m sure Bonnie will remain an instrumental part in Aidan’s homework completion each week.

Friday November 18, 2011

Pei Wei

It seems that Pei Wei is the only restaurant where Aidan eats her entire meal. This evening was no different. We visited the location on Waugh once again for dinner before running errands and returning home.

Aid got the Lo Mein Noodle Bowl with chicken, as always. She loves using the chopsticks and even likes to bring a new set home with her. I fully expect her to be no longer using the “bridged” chopsticks by the time she’s seven. She certainly gets enough practice with them.

Saturday November 19, 2011

Road Trip to Dallas

Back in the summer, Aidan helped me rehearse my lines as Sherlock Holmes in the Celebrity Mystery Theater show. I even brought her to a rehearsal once. Now, she finally got to see the show as she and I made the drive to Dallas with my brother.

We left by 1 pm and arrived in Dallas after 5 pm. Dinner at Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse preceded the show at Spaghetti Warehouse. She seemed to be on the top of the world the entire evening.

Once the show started, Aidan was seated with the son of our producer and some other acquaintances, closer to the front of the room. I nearly broke character and smiled when I entered the room as saw her standing on her chair, beaming at me. She also loved seeing her uncle play the murder victim in the show.

She didn’t stay in her seat through most of the show. She ended up spending more time behind the curtain, peering through at times and hanging out with Morgan, our sound tech and daughter of our producer. I was hoping Aidan would watch the entire show, but I am glad she found other ways to entertain herself.

After a terrific show, we greeted the audience members, many of whom took pics with us. Aid was a part of the photos, an experience I know she loves. By 10:30 pm, we were headed back to Bonnie’s Honda CRV for the long drive back to Houston. Within a short distance on I-45, Aidan fell asleep and remained asleep all the way home.

Sunday November 20, 2011

Star Pizza

The lack of cooking in this place has become a constant. No one is to blame really. We always seem so tired and have little in the fridge to cook consistently at home. So going out was again a necessity. Tonight Aidan wanted pizza so we ended up at Star Pizza.

Our little cheese pizza lover got one giant slice of cheese pizza that I cut in half. She was irritated by the sprinkles of oregano on it. I think that may be why she didn’t eat much of it. Meantime, her mom and I indulged ourselves with a chicken alfredo pizza.

One of Aidan’s favorite parts of the visit was the artwork in the booth. The highly comical-looking people painted on the back of the booth all had very exaggerated features. Of course, Aidan wanted a pic of herself and this artwork. This has become a custom around here. She asks for a pic and expects it to be immediately uploaded to Facebook. More often than not, that’s what happens.

Monday November 21, 2011

Launch Day

The reason we returned to Houston was something we didn’t tell anyone at first. In fact, I discovered today that there were people who still didn’t know, although we’ve been here since last month. But it was made clear when I posted on Facebook that Bonnie’s new station, News 92, was launching today.

After picking up Aidan at her afterschool program, she and I went grocery shopping for a dinner worthy of a celebration. We picked up chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes with leeks and bacon, ice cream and wine. I anticipated having it ready for seven when Bonnie was supposed to be finished, but she worked later and we all ate together after 8 pm.

I know Aidan is proud of her mom’s success in the past and her ability to secure a good job here. Today’s launch also reminded me of exactly why we’re here. After several weeks of Bonnie working with no on-air product, I have been eager for this day. As soon as Aidan got in the car this evening, I made sure she heard her mother’s voice on air so we could enjoy that moment together.

Tuesday November 22, 2011

Barbie Nutcracker

The holiday season is really here. I can tell by the approach of Thanksgiving and the fact that Aidan and I are again watching the Barbie Nutcracker movie. It’s actually a cute movie with a long dream sequence in which Barbie meets a prince who’s been turned into a nutcracker by an evil mouse.

The animation on these Barbie movies is primitive compared to the more high tech animation on a film such as Shrek. But Aidan doesn’t mind. She is so captivated by the story that she can watch it over and over. She’s also learned the lines after repeated viewings since getting the DVD last year or the year before or whenever she first got it.

Wednesday November 23, 2011

Lunch with Mel

It’s been years since my friend Melannie saw Aidan. I think Aidan may have been only 3 at the time. It was most likely before her move to the Dallas area in January 2009. So it made today’s lunch feel very special.

Melannie met us at Hendrick’s Pub after noon. Aidan and I had just come from Whole Foods where we were on Ham Patrol for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner at our friend Erin’s house. It was so good to see Melannie get acquainted again with an older Aidan who impressed Melannie with her stories about the history of dance and amused both of us by asking to use Melannie’s makeup.

I think the waitress was pretty impressed too by a six year old girl ordering a turkey burger and asking for more fruit when she finished the fruit that came with the chocolate mousse cake. Aid barely touched the cake but made sure she got more fruit. Her good nutrition values certainly showed today.

Thursday November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The holiday that Aidan had been talking about for weeks finally arrived and she had fun the entire day. Because her mom had to work, Aidan, my brother and I went to our friend Erin’s house without Bonnie. And even though Aidan barely remembered Erin at the start, and didn’t know anyone else there, she warmed up eventually after her initial shyness to make a strong impression on everyone.

One of the people she bonded with most was Megan, the girlfriend of Erin’s son Seb. Aid last saw Seb in September 2008, I believe, when Hurricane Ike was affecting Texas. She might have seen him once after that but I can’t recall. So spending time with Seb, Megan and a few other people in the afternoon without me there was a very brave move for her. The group went for a walk in the woods and seemed to be gone a long time. When they returned, we heard from Megan that she carried Aidan on her back.

One of my favorite moments of the day came in the evening when the karaoke machine was set up and Erin asked me to sing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” It’s a song I sang years ago at her karaoke parties, before Aidan was born. This time, I sang the song while holding Aidan as she quietly sang the words too. In some way, I felt like the song had come full circle for me.

Thanks to leftovers, we had a second meal with Bonnie once we picked her up and got home. Even though she had to work all day, it was great for the four of us to share a meal on this special day. We finished a full day with a viewing of the latest Spy Kids movie, which we got from Redbox on the way home.

Friday November 25, 2011

Katz’s Never Kloses

Once again, dining out is customary for this little trio. Aidan told me earlier in the day that she likes to go out to eat because it means we don’t have to cook and we have more time to talk. She’s right. We do tend to talk more when we’re out than when we’re eating at home.

The late dinner choice was Katz’s, the first restaurant that we took Aidan to. It amuses me that a girl who can eat cheese on pizza looks with such disdain at cheese on spaghetti, as if it’s not really cheese at all. She actually wanted macaroni and cheese but she’s already had plenty of that this week.

She tends to eat very slowly, which makes her mother and I go into a mode of reminding Aid constantly to keep eating. She tends to be more play-minded at the table, which is what I noticed when I ate lunch with her in school recently. But what little she eats in a restaurant may be made up by frequently asking for something to eat during the day. Actually I would prefer her to do that instead of eating a lot at one sitting.

Saturday November 26, 2011

Return to The Galleria

In 2010, Aidan celebrated her 5th birthday at Rainforest Cafe. I can’t remember if she’s been back to the The Galleria between then and now, but we made a stop there today. Although she wanted to eat at Rainforest Cafe, her mother overruled her. Instead, they both got haircuts at Visible Changes and we walked around a short time, long enough to enjoy the impressive Christmas tree on The Galleria ice rink. Then we left the mall.

Bonnie picked nearby Kenny and Ziggy’s as a dinner destination. Although Aidan tends to order apple juice or orange juice when we’re out, I suggested one of the specialty drinks on the menu: Dreamsicle. She was impressed with the flavor and encouraged her mom and me to try it too.

One of the simple pleasures of the meal was letting her prepare my coffee. She is so eager to take on this task so I enjoy telling her how to do it. 2 sugar packets and 3 creamers! She did the same steps a second time after the server filled my coffee cup again. When I didn’t take a drink within a couple minutes, she assertively reminded me that I hadn’t tried my coffee yet. It was delicious both times and I told her she had prepared it perfectly.

Sunday November27, 2011

Changing the Channel

Usually if Aidan and I are in the the living room together and the TV is on, chances are we’re watching one of her shows or movies. That’s how today started, but shortly after noon, I managed to get control so I immediately changed the channel to KHOU. The local CBS affiliate airs the Texans games and I was eager to see the Texans extend their win streak to 5 games.

Before changing the channel, Aidan mentioned her interest in going to her uncle’s place to watch the game. She also said she could wear her Texans jersey. Neither of those things happened. But she also didn’t sit with me to watch the game. I figured I would get to share at least 5 minutes of the game with her, but she quickly found other ways to occupy her time, primarily with toys and books in her room.

Monday November 28, 2011

Morning Meeting

Aidan’s behavior at her former school was rarely stellar for more than a day or two at a time. But it seems she’s struggled with staying focused and obeying the teacher even more here. So her teacher asked Bonnie and me to meet her this morning before the school day began.

We arrived at 7:30 am but did not go straight to the classroom. Bonnie planned to take Aidan to the cafeteria but I had assumed we would bring her with us for the meeting. That’s what we ended up doing.

Aidan started the meeting in my lap but moved to Bonnie’s lap after a few minutes. She was clearly uncomfortable being the center of attention when the attention didn’t involve praise. She was very shy, a natural reaction, and didn’t make eye contact with her teacher most of the time. But it seemed the greater message was getting through.

If Aidan’s defiance is school was an isolated issue, the meeting would have been unnecessary. But it has become a consistent issue. In anticipation of today’s meeting, I told her a story at bedtime last night about a fictional little boy (based on me) who was sent to the store by his mom to get a few groceries but returned instead with baseball cards. The point of my story was to take care of what’s most important first before doing anything else. Aid seemed to understand that point last night. Now let’s see if she can carry it forward after today’s meeting.

Tuesday November November 29, 2011

Aisles of Fun

After picking up Aid at daycare, we spent an hour at Starbucks. The time there allowed her to enjoy a snack and finish her homework. It wasn’t just the homework assignment in the packet for today. Because she got a good start on the homework while at daycare yesterday, she was able to complete the entire packet this evening and won’t have any more to do before turning it in on Friday.

With her mom still working well past 7 pm, Aid and I used the time to grocery shop. It’s one of my favorite activities to share with her. We picked up a box of fire logs due to the current string of chilly nights and early mornings. The fire made the apartment feel so toasty warm.

While we visit the grocery store frequently, bigger shopping trips where we fill the cart are more rare. But this evening we got a lot of stuff, even Aidan’s first request, Sun Chips. She was also delighted to see me buy pancake mix. I wanted to get the kind with blueberries in the mix, but she wanted the kind without the berries. She also asked for Danimals “Coolison” yogurt. It’s the kind with two flavors in side-by-side tubes that you fold and squeeze together. I did not know that when we bought it so she was confused when I almost tried to separate the plastic tubes. Yes, I am learning just as much from her as she is learning from me.

Wednesday November 30, 2011

The Voicemail Message

This morning when I dropped off Aidan at her classroom, her teacher commented on what a good day Aid had yesterday. That made me breathe a sigh of relief as I walked back through the building. I figured Aidan would have another good day and she would get some good-behavior momentum going.

I was wrong.

Shortly after 2 pm, her teacher left me a voicemail message regarding Aidan’s behavior. The 1:30 message explained how Aidan refused to clean up her desk and didn’t complete her work. Her teacher also mentioned how she would be sending home a “behavior contract” in which we could outline some specific rewards and consequences. One other part of the message keeps playing over and over in my mind: she said the next step would be sending Aidan to the office.

When I picked up Aidan at daycare, this voicemail message was the only thing on my mind. We discussed it on the way home, and she suggested her own punishment of no TV. We actually ended up watching TV, but we definitely weren’t going to watch her shows. Instead, I looked through the guide and noticed that a Billy Graham broadcast was on. It’s not the kind of thing I would normally have us watch, but under these circumstances, it seemed like the right choice.

Graham spoke of love, even saying, “love is a verb” at one point, not a feeling. I think my stress over how to respond to Aidan’s behavior needed this kind of programming for soothing. My first reaction with her tends to be one of strong irritation, then disappointment. But I do want her to know I love her no matter what and that we’re going to have to work through these problems to find a solution together.

Thursday December 1, 2011

A “Green” Day

The new month began with a meeting with Aidan’s teacher who seemed to be exasperated with Aidan’s unwillingness to follow directions yesterday. By the end of the day, she moved Aid to another classroom. So we discussed the Behavior Chart she would begin sending home as of today and Bonnie and I encouraged Aidan to have a “green” day so she could get along with her teacher and earn the reward of watching one of her favorite TV shows again.

I’m not sure if this meeting alone helped or some other influence did it, but Aidan earned a “green” on her behavior chart. Maybe it was the green school shirt she was wearing. At any rate, I rewarded her by making pancakes this evening for dinner. I made one in the shape of an “S” for her and one in the shape of a “C” for me. The letters represented nothing in particular but we just something different.

She earned the reward of one TV show, although she didn’t end up watching anything. Of course, she may not realize that show doesn’t carry over until tomorrow. If she has another “green” day on Friday, she still gets to watch only one show.

Friday December 2, 2011

Holidays at The Galleria

When Aidan was a baby, I produced a holiday special at The Galleria for KHOU Channel 11. As part of the production, we taped an interview with figure skater Oksana Baiul followed by her performance on the ice. I’ll have to find the DVD of the program this month and show it to Aid.

Returning to The Galleria in Houston during the holidays feels special, even without actually shopping. Our visit this evening was about enjoying time together in the most festive venue in the city. Aid and I enjoyed ice cream from Marble Slab while watching the ice skaters skate, some elegantly and others not so much. Aid wanted to skate too but I told her we would find a time to come back soon to get on the ice.

One of my favorite parts of our visit was seeing her face as she walked into a store called Justice. She absolutely adored it and found several items that she clearly wanted. She looked so cute in big, fuzzy slippers and I started taking pics of each item that drew her attention.

The stop at Justice turned into a little fashion show as she tried on several outfits, including a cute cable-knit gray dress. I managed to get out of the store without spending anything by continuously reminding her that Christmas is too close by for us to buy anything right now. She seemed satisfied with that answer.

Saturday December 3, 2011

Heart-Shaped Pancake

I knew I would be spending the bulk of the day away from Aidan to drive to Dallas for a private holiday show in which I performed as Sherlock Holmes. She wanted to come with me, like she did recently for one of my public shows. But I figured she would benefit more from spending the day with her mom and not be on the road with me coming back late at night.

Since she slept in and I had to leave by midday, we only had a little time together, but I found a way to make it memorable. The other day when we made pancakes, I saved a couple in the fridge. Aidan didn’t remember that. So when she asked for a heart-shaped pancake, I told her I would make one for her next time we had pancakes. Then I quietly took the pancakes out of the fridge and cut one into the shape of a heart. I brought it to her heated and covered in real maple syrup. She was so surprised!

Since I got a new phone recently and I am always agreeable when she asks me to take pics with it, I took a pic of her heart-shaped pancake. She knows the next step too is posting the pic on Facebook. Her mom and I are really raising a social network-savvy kid.

Sunday December 4, 2011

Texans Win Number 9

Because the Houston Texans continue to win games every Sunday, it’s hard to miss the game. So I told Aid we would watch the game together. I don’t think she watched more than a few minutes of it, but she managed to occupy herself during the afternoon hours while the game was on.

I think part of her lack of interest may come from never having seen a game in person. If there was some way of getting tickets for us to a game at Reliant Stadium, I believe she would be more interested in the sport. Yet even this early exposure to NFL football could lead to interest in future years.

The Texans managed to win yet again and improved their record to 9-3. They have an excellent shot at making the playoffs too. So it looks like I will have many more opportunities to continue to introduce Aid to pro football. I suppose it would help to actually get her a football for us to toss around. Academy Sports & Outdoors, here we come.

Monday December 5, 2011

The At-Home Campfire

The chill in Houston makes lighting a fire feel so pleasantly warm and relaxing. Aid kept calling it a “campfire” and I thought that was adorable. She said we could do so many things around the campfire: read, tell stories, and tell jokes.

Since Aid came home with a “yellow” on her behavior chart, I told her that TV was not an option, although I later changed my mind when I found out that the Charlie Brown Christmas show was on ABC. She wasn’t interested in watching it though; she seemed more entertained by reading one of her National Geographic Kids magazines.

This particular magazine had a feature about kids who recalled the events of  9/11 ten years later. That prompted a conversation about 9/11 as I explained to Aid what happened that day. I shared the basics in the most gentle way I could, and that seemed to satisfy her curiosity. But I encouraged her to ask me questions about it anytime.

Tuesday December 6, 2011

Bone Chilling

It’s not winter but feels like it here in Houston. We’re lighting logs in the fireplace every evening, and Aid is going to school with her bright orange winter coat. I like that she’s getting this early taste of chilly weather a few weeks before we fly to northern New York.

When I picked her up at her after school program, I brought a few items for extra warmth, including a hat, scarf and gloves. The purple hat and scarf belong to her mom but looked so adorable on her. She insisted on wearing my blue gloves to complete the winter ensemble.  Then she asked me to take a pic of her, which immediately got posted to Facebook.

Her poses are so amusing these days. In this evening’s pic, she “froze” as she slipped on the second glove. I think she wanted an action shot.

Wednesday December 7, 2011

Taxi Taxi

What a wild start to the day! Our routine was disrupted by the failure of the car to start. The ailing battery probably couldn’t handle the frigid overnight temperatures. I went out to start the car at 7:35 am and came back in a minute later to tell Bonnie and Aidan about the problem.

Rather than take her to school late, I called Yellow Cab at 7:41 am. Within minutes a cab had arrived and Aidan and I enjoyed a ride to school. She liked the novelty of this mode of transportation and I was impressed by how quickly the driver arrived. By 8 am, she and I were at her classroom.

I suppose I could have asked the driver to wait, but I didn’t. Instead, I walked the mile or so back to the apartment. It certainly was a brisk walk due to the chilly temperature, but I didn’t mind. I actually enjoyed it, partially because I carried Aidan’s blanket “Baby” and it kept my hands warm. I really should’ve brought my gloves but in the rush of the morning, I left them behind.

Thursday December 8, 2011

Green Follows Red

Aidan’s dismal behavior day yesterday disappointed me, especially since she couldn’t remember what she did wrong at school. While I understand it’s a long day between school and after school, I think she was conveniently forgetting. I discussed the issue with her at length last evening, and her mom did the same after work.

I think the incentive her mom gave her helped Aidan rebound today to earn a “green” rating. In order to go skating this weekend, she has to get a “green” both today and tomorrow. She’ll also get to watch ARTHUR CHRISTMAS.

Evenings have been very different lately. The time I spend with Aid between after school and picking up her mom was previously filled with TV shows, especially ones she recorded. But with her behavior at school lately causing her to lose TV time, the TV has been off in general.

But not tonight.

Her “green” rating earned her a show, The Wizards of Waverly Place, which she watched at her uncle’s place before we started watching the first half of the Browns-Steelers game. Aid was eager to make chocolate chunk cookies, and she was entertaining Will and I during the game with a street-wise character she created after putting on a pair of her uncle’s sunglasses.

Friday December 9, 2011

Power of Facebook

In summer of 2010, I met a woman at a film shoot at the restaurant where she works, and we’ve stayed in touch since then, mainly through Facebook. We hadn’t seen each other since then until today, most likely due to my move to the Dallas area last year. But this evening we got together again as I brought Aidan to her house for a visit.

Aid seems to enjoy meeting new people and tonight was no different. She got very comfortable quickly and spent a lot of time entertaining my friend and me. She’s been dancing a lot lately and gave us freestyle performances in the living room and on the patio. She even used my friend’s scarfs, the kind that turn into cozy hats.

The most memorable part of the evening came from her 20 minute improvised rap song. As my friend and I ate pizza, Aid got up and started singing and kept going and going. She’s quite good at rhyming and her lyrics sound so advanced for a six year-old. My friend said I should be recording these performances. She’s right!

In the midst of watching Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer and the Jim Carrey version of The Grinch, we went out to the patio several times, despite the chill. Since we brought Emma, she got to run around the yard with Aid. That puppy loves getting outside and running. I wish she had a yard, like the yard we had on Brinkman Street here in Houston.

It was late by the time we left, and Aid fell asleep on the sofa. She looked so angelic there, I would have been just as happy to curl up next to to her and sleep as well. But I thanked my friend for a wonderful evening and took Aidan home instead.

Saturday December 10, 2011

Super Saturday

Aidan’s day started well after I was on the road to Austin with two actresses for an audition. But I caught up with her mid-afternoon at The Galleria. She was surprised and excited to see me. She didn’t know I would be there.

Thankfully this girl has almost endless energy. She needed it today. She spent hours with her Aunt Amanda and Uncle Brian, who arrived last night from La Porte. I followed what was going on thanks to her mom’s Facebook updates.

Once we were all at the mall, where we met up with Bonnie’s friend/coworker Scott and his son Alex, we went ice skating. At first, Aidan needed a hand to hold onto. I guided her around the ice, and she was helped by her uncle as well. But she began getting frustrated. She wanted to skate better and faster immediately. That’s our girl.

Actually, she did much better when we let her skate on her own. She maintained her balance, and she handled the occasional falls very well. She even asked me to not follow her because she wanted to be as independent as possible.

We must have skated for close to a couple hours, even with the short break for the ice to be resurfaced. By the time we left the ice, it wasn’t because Aid wanted to leave. She would have been happy to keep skating, but we needed to have dinner.

With our group smaller by two after Scott and Alex left, we walked towards Ninfa’s, but Aid didn’t want to go there or Chili’s. She had her heart set on Rainforest Cafe. In fact, she mentioned going there during the last visit she and I made to The Galleria. So she told her mom where she wanted to go, and she got her wish. She even got to bring home a cup that lights up.

That cup startled me on the way home when I was backing up on a street and looked behind me for a moment. It looked like a police car was parked there. A few minutes later we saw an actual police car and Amanda suggested driving behind it with the lighted cup flashing. That would’ve been funny.

When we got back to Bonnie’s apartment, Aid worked on a Christmas card with Amanda. Her plan is to send it to Bonnie’s other brother, an uncle Aidan hasn’t seen in a few years. The front of the card has a lovey Christmas tree on it, and lots of glitter glue. I’m sure he will love it.

Sunday December 11, 2011

Movie Night

I love a lazy Sunday. I spent my first part of the morning playing a marathon hand of Uno with Aidan before even getting up. She really enjoys that game, and she recalled the time when we played it with her Uncle Will last March but never finished. I think that game lasted at least two hours. This one lasted at least 45 minutes.

By midday, the TV was on for the Texans game against the Bengals. Actually I watched a bit of it and slept a bit, and woke up at the end as they won their 10th game of the season. With my eyes still closed, I heard the announcers call it, just before Aidan walked over to the sofa to let me know. Even though she wasn’t interested in watching the game, she was definitely pleased to know the hometown team won.

I’ve been in the holiday spirit for weeks, and I know Aidan has been feeling it daily too. But our trip to the movie theatre helped her mom feel that holiday spirit after watching Arthur Christmas. Her mom and I were delighted to hear Love Actually’s “Billy Mack” playing GrandSanta. Love Actually has become a holiday tradition for us, and even Aidan has watched it.

Once we got back to the apartment, Aid asked to watch It’s A Wonderful Life again. She fell asleep during the movie last Sunday so I put in the DVD. But she fell asleep on the floor next to me before the movie was even close to over so it looks like we’ll be watching it together again next weekend.

I had high hopes that I would get Aidan’s room cleaned after the game, but that didn’t happen. That is a monster of a task that needs to get done before Christmas. I may have to spend a day this week working on it.

Monday December 12, 2011

MIA Calendar

The behavior calendar that Aidan’s teacher started recently is now missing in action. It wasn’t in her backpack so I can only assume that she left it in her desk at school. As a wise dad, I suspect that there’s a specific reason attached to it getting left behind. She’s been aiming for “green” days and this calendar has helped at times, but she’s had some less than stellar days as well.

With less than two weeks until Christmas, I figured keeping her behavior good at school would be easier with daily reminder about Santa’s naughty or nice policy. But that’s clearly not working every day. She did manage to string together two “green” days last week before the weekend so that’s encouraging. At the same time, her behavior has led to an ongoing dialogue about respect for the rules and respect for her teacher.

I think walking her to her classroom every day helps as well. When she’s had a good day, I get to hear it from her teacher on the following morning. When she’s had a rough day, I get to hear about that too. It’s one the reasons I take advantage of the opportunity to escort her to class every morning.

Tuesday December 13, 2011

MIA Coat

A day after Aidan’s behavior calendar vanished, she lost another item. I picked her up at her after school program and she didn’t have her school jacket. It wasn’t in her backpack or her locker. It didn’t get left on the bus. Unfortunately, her name isn’t on the tag either, so if it’s not in her classroom at school. it’s either gone or ended up in the Lost & Found area.

I’ll take responsibility for this loss. I need to make sure her name gets put on anything she can take off in class or during recess. At the same time, I also don’t like having her name on her clothing for a couple reasons. One reason is for her own safety. Another reason is due to the possibility that an item may be donated once she outgrows it.

Since she will be on break for a couple weeks, I’ll wait to get her another school coat. Instead of her name, I could put my phone number on the coat. But I also need to have a chat with her about being responsible for everything she takes to school.

Wednesday December 14, 2011

The Collision

Okay, today marks three days in a row of missing items. The rain coat sent to Aidan by her grandparents was not in her locker or backpack at her after school program. She says it was left in a blue chair in her classroom and I trust that she knows what she’s talking about.

The bigger news of the day came by phone. She collided with another student on the playground after school and it left her with a prominent bruise on her face. Even though I knew about it when I picked her up, it was still startling to see. She had been holding ice to her left cheek. The bruise, under her left eye, will likely give her a black eye tomorrow.

She seemed to be in good spirits when I took her home, but she was still in a bit of pain. She was very curious about the pending black eye, but she was also very wise about the experience. She said, “everybody needs to have at least one injury in their lives to learn how to be safe.”

Thursday December 15, 2011

Change of Pace

With an action-packed day ahead of me, I took Aidan to school this morning and felt a bit different knowing that our routine of spending the evening chatting, playing and eating would be missed. I had an audition in Austin, a shoot in Houston and a live gig as a “Bad Santa” at El Tiempo on Washington Avenue. But my absence today gave Aid a chance to enjoy a change of pace.

Her mom wasn’t feeling well due to a strong allergic reaction so she took the day off from work. Then she and her friend Scott were able to pick up Aidan by six pm. If Bonnie had been working, Aidan would’ve enjoyed her first visit to her mom’s radio station during working hours. But Aid still got to enjoy time with her mom, who typically works until at least 8 pm every weekday.

Friday December 16, 2011

Holiday Party

As a freelance writer and actor, there are many times when my lack of steady or sufficient work is an issue. Then there are times when my flexible schedule is an advantage. Today was one of the advantage days as Aidan and her classmates enjoyed a holiday party.

Several parents showed up thanks to a terrific parent/organizer who sent out emails letting us know what supplies were needed and reminding us about the time of the party. The kids seemed to have a blast, from making a reindeer bag puppet to decorating cookies to playing holiday bingo. Plenty of pics were taken which will get uploaded to Shutterfly for parents who couldn’t attend to enjoy.

It warmed my heart to see Aidan’s teacher so emotionally moved by the turnout of the parents and our ongoing support of our children. I chatted briefly with several parents today and I hope to get more time in the coming months to get better acquainted. I also got a bit more familiar with Aidan’s classmates, although I’m sure I will learn all of their names when I return to read to her class after the holiday break.

After the party, rather than letting Aidan take the bus to her after school program, I brought her home. We both needed the rest at the end of a long week. Plus, her bruise and black eye are still healing so I didn’t want to take her out and about.

Saturday December 17, 2011

Aidan’s Road Trip

After Aidan and I picked up her mom at work last evening, Bonnie mentioned that she and Aid were invited by Scott to go to Brenham for the weekend. My first reaction was brief but unpleasant. Friday morning, I had talked to Bonnie about the weekend and she had been thinking she would rest much of the day due to her allergies. So I was thinking about making plans to go to the Houston Zoo perhaps and use the free tickets to a Rice basketball game for tonight.

Then I stopped and realized that I was being selfish in those thoughts. Aidan would be with me all next week and away from Houston the following week. This weekend with her mom would actually be a fun, new experience with a couple old friends and the chance to meet a lot of new people.

Thanks to her mom’s posting of pics on Facebook, I got to see Aidan and her friend Alex playing on giant hay bales in the afternoon. It made me smile. Even though my baby lives in Houston, the 4th largest city in America, she definitely has strong country roots. She’ll be getting in touch with those roots again this month as we spent a week in the small country home in which I was raised.

Sunday December 18, 2011

The Disaster Room

Aidan and Bonnie returned home early in the evening and I immediately took Aidan into her room to keep me company as I started to clean. This girl has so much stuff. Too much stuff! I explained to her the need to give away whatever she’s outgrown and throw away a lot more.

One of the issues here is that she owns a lot of things that she probably could have done without in the first place. Anything with lots of little pieces should have been avoided in the past. There are numerous boxes filled with assorted toys that still haven’t been unpacked since the move in October. There are clothes that haven’t been hung in the closet or placed in a dresser drawer.

Even spending 45 minutes this evening made little difference in how the room looks. I recall the same issue in her room in Lewisville. That issue never got fully addressed. Any time I would start it, I would work on it alone and no one else made it a priority. I see the same thing happening here. So I try to encourage Aidan to start taking responsibility for her own possessions and her own space. I realize that she’s old enough to do a lot more than she does but she needs a process and she needs consistency. I certainly can’t expect her to clean her room, but once I get it done, she will be getting daily reminders from me to take care of it.

With only one week left until Christmas, I really want to get it done in the next few days. Since she’ll be home, I can have her help me decide what to keep and what to throw or give away. If we spend 90 minutes on it at least 3 days this week, I’m sure we’ll open up so much more space for the gifts she’ll be getting next weekend.

Monday December 19, 2011

Vacation Day #1

There’s a lot of ground to cover during this vacation so we started it in low gear. We didn’t do much today, although we did walk the dog twice and Aidan stepped up in that responsibility. She and I also did some grocery shopping. But most of the day was spent relaxing.

Due to her hit and miss behavior at school in the last few weeks, she’s not watched TV consistently. So today was pretty much a make-up day with the TV on for hours. In the midst of watching some of her favorite shows, she also watched a Judy Moody movie. It helped that she had entertainment to keep her occupied, especially since I had writing to do.

I have much more writing to do for my clients this week, but we won’t be repeating the TV marathon the rest of the week. I want us to get her room cleaned and organized, and we will need to do some Christmas shopping too. I can take her out tomorrow or Wednesday once she and I take the time to discuss what she wants to get as a Christmas gift for her mother.

Tuesday December 20, 2011

The Big Clean-Up

Day 2 of Aidan’s vacation consisted of plenty of time relaxing at home. For her. I spent a couple hours cleaning and organizing her room in the afternoon. She kindly kept me company and helped in little ways. Her bedroom needed the attention. With Christmas fast approaching, there is a need for more space and she still has several boxes that haven’t been emptied since the move in October.

I managed to throw out 4 bags of trash during my cleaning efforts, and I know I could easily throw out 8 more if I was going to finish the job today. But I felt good about what was accomplished and the chance to show Aidan that reducing clutter in her room isn’t an insurmountable task. One of the discarded items is a little wooden kitchen set which I assumed she would resist throwing out. Instead, she acknowledged that she has outgrown it and can cook in a real kitchen these days.

Wednesday December 21, 2011

What’s in Storage?

After moving out of Brinkman St. last Spring, I got a storage unit at a facility along I-10. The unit is packed with most of my earthly belongings, including a great deal of clothes. It also holds many of Aidan’s items, such as toys and oversized stuffed animals.

I decided to visit the storage unit for one main reason. I knew I had an old copy of my driver’s license from Houston and needed to get it because I lost my current license. Since the old one still has not expired, it will be necessary to have for our trip to New York next week.

So I took Aidan to the storage unit for the first time. She was fascinated by it. As I looked through boxes for my license, she started looking around at what was in sight near the door. She discovered toys of hers and wanted to bring some of them with her. I said we would be back soon to get some items but she could bring a few things with her for now. Her choices were all dolls or action figures, including a little Family Guy doll of Brian. That reminded me of when she was 2 and called the series “Daddy’s show”, thinking Peter Griffin was me.

Thursday December 22, 2011

Multi-Talented Babysitter

Last year’s Christmas shopping was a challenge. Bonnie and I brought Aidan with us and took turns taking her to other parts of stores so we could get presents without her seeing them. This year would get no repeat of that experience. As Bonnie worked, my brother and I shopped at Target, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Cavender’s and Academy Sports & Outdoors. While we had a shopping adventure, Aidan got to spend the afternoon with a babysitter. She met the young woman on Thanksgiving at a friend’s home so they were already acquainted. This was Megan’s first time babysitting Aidan, and the two apparently had a wonderful time together.

Luckily we got a lot more than stories out of the experience. Megan is a photographer and she brought her camera to take Aidan on a “photo walk” around the apartment complex. Aidan has routinely expressed an interest in photography  skills so the pairing of these two was perfect. Megan took some wonderful photos of Aidan, who happily posed and smiled. When Megan asked her to recommend a beautiful place on the property as a background, Aidan replied, “everything here is beautiful.”

Friday December 23, 2011

Daddy-Daughter Shopping Trip

When the day started, it appeared that Aidan and I would spend it at home. Bonnie’s car wouldn’t start so she got a ride to work, leaving us at the apartment to spend Aidan’s 5th day of vacation occupying our time with TV and other assorted activities. The battery in her vehicle has needed to be replaced for weeks and we’ve run into this issue numerous times. Often we get someone to jump it or call Geico for roadside service. Since I needed to do that when shopping yesterday, there would be a charge to get someone to jump it today. So Aid and I settled in for the day.

Around 4 pm, while she was in one of her “princess” dresses, I went outside and tried starting the car. It started right away so I decided we needed to go shopping immediately. I took her to The Galleria, and it was so amusing to see kids and adults smile as they noticed her in her princess dress. But, I realized the dress is a bit tattered so we changed plans and made shopping for her our first priority. After visiting several kids’ clothing stores, we ended up at Macy’s where she tried on 5 dresses. She loved the first one and that ended up being the one she chose.

Once in her new outfit, she and I explored The Galleria and found gifts for Uncle Will, an autographed mini Texans helmet and a print of the the game-winning catch that put the Texans in the play-offs for the first time in their history. Shopping for Bonnie was a bit more challenging. As we roamed store to store, we didn’t see anything that caught our attention until we got back to Macy’s. That’s when Aidan saw a lovely necklace by Betsey Johnson that she picked out for her mom.

I suspect this Daddy-Daughter trip to The Galleria will become a tradition for us, with me buying her a new outfit before shopping for others commences. But judging by how fast my address has changed in the last few years, the trip to the mall may take place in some other large American city within a year or two. But she and I will remember when it began right here.

Saturday December 24, 2011

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

It’s game time: the last day of Christmas shopping followed by present wrapping. But first, we needed a new player on the field. Actually, we needed a new battery. No shopping would get done without the car starting. So I walked over to Will’s apartment and the two of us got a replacement battery for Bonnie’s vehicle. That alone would make a Christmas merry.

The shopping adventure began in the early afternoon and took us to numerous stores in and around The Galleria. I believe Bonnie did ALL of her shopping today, and she was shopping for Aidan, Will, me, her boyfriend Scott and his two kids. We even made time for a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant on Post Oak.

Shopping continued after dinner with a stop at Target on San Felipe near 610. We even picked up lots of food items and beverages for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations. Due to Bonnie’s fast and furious shopping, Will and I kept Aidan with us during this stop and we made the time go by quickly with some playful running around.

Once we got home, we unpacked everything and settled in for a fun evening. Aidan opened one gift, which is a tradition in our little family and the rest of us opened one gift as well. Eventually, Aidan’s Uncle Brian and Aunt Amanda arrived for the night. Christmas Eve would be an extra special time as Aidan got to spend it with two uncles and one aunt as well as her parents. Last year it was just the three of us in Lewisville. This year felt more like a celebration with this group gathered.

Aidan stayed up until late evening but went to bed with very little prompting at that point. Then the wrapping commenced. I took a pic of what appeared to be Santa coming down the chimney head first. The hat is the only thing visible. That reminds me, this is the first time that Aidan has celebrated a Christmas with a chimney since 2006, I believe. In 2007 and 2008, we celebrated at her mom’s apartment near The Galleria. In 2009 and 2020, we celebrated at her mom’s apartment in Lewisville. After Bonnie and I separated in July 2007, I don’t think I’ve put my own tree up anywhere I’ve been living.

It’s wonderful to see Aidan surrounded by family members. For much of 2011, she’s seen relatives so rarely. She did make a trip to upstate New York in July and that week of seeing relatives in both Northern and Western New York was such a blessing. But once a year is not enough. So I feel like being back in Houston and knowing Aidan can spend time with uncles and an aunt means so much to me. It’s perhaps one of the best gifts during the holidays or any time.

Sunday December 25, 2011

A Merry Christmas

How did we all get to sleep in so long? Unlike my younger siblings waking me up at 5 am when I was a teenager, Aidan slept until almost 10 am. That meant all the grown-ups actually got some rest.

Aid was thrilled to see all the presents under the tree. But she’s not one to tear open all the presents rapidly. She takes her time and enjoys each one.

Although the bulk of the gifts were for her, of course, she graciously handed gifts to her mom, aunt, uncles and me throughout the process. I think it took her more than an hour to open everything. I would have been happy if it took her all day. I love seeing her eager to find out what’s inside and then look amazed at what she got.

She got a lot of terrific presents, but none may compare in her mind to the Kindle Fire she got from Santa. She spent a great deal of the day getting acquainted with it after Brian and Amanda left in the early afternoon. It’s loaded with books, music and games, including Angry Birds. I’ve never played Angry Birds, but Aidan is developing an interest in it quickly. She also enjoys the Mamma Mia soundtrack, judging by how many times she plays the songs.

One of the presents I enjoyed seeing her open was from her Uncle Matt in the Boston area. He knitted her a scarf, which will get lots of use during our trip home in the coming week. He also knitted her a little purse. Rhonda and Eric sent numerous gifts from North Carolina. Among them, an arts and crafts set called Owl Pals. Aidan likes this sticky mosaic activity very much, it seems.

My gift to Aid this year is a pair of black cowboy boots from Cavender’s. She wanted a new pair and they had to be black with little or no design on them. The pair I got is a size larger than she normally wears now they should keep her covered for most of this year. Will got her another kind of footwear that she’s been wanting for awhile: Heely’s. The shoes with the wheels had been on her Wish List for months.

One especially touching moment of the day came when Bonnie opened her gift from Aidan. It was truly special to see her discover the beautiful necklace, the kind of jewelry she said she would have picked out for herself. My baby knows her mom well.

Going to bed early would have made sense tonight, but it didn’t happen. All of us were up far too late, with a 6 am flight out of Houston’s Hobby Airport quickly approaching. But we couldn’t let the holiday get away without watching LOVE ACTUALLY.

Monday December 26, 2011

Houston, TX to Watertown, NY

Before releasing him on Christmas Eve, Scrooge instructs Bob Cratchit to come to work even earlier than normal on the 26th. Unfortunately, because he was “making rather merry last night”, Cratchit comes in late. I thought about that scene after sleeping only a few winks due to an early flight out of Hobby Airport. A 6 am departure meant getting there at 4:30 am.

Aidan hasn’t been away from her mom for a week since last March during her Spring Break when I brought her to Houston. I know she’ll handle the trip well because she’ll have lots of family to see and she will get to play with her Kindle Fire frequently too.

Aid and I slept most of the first two legs of the trip: from Houston to Dallas and Dallas to Chicago. Chicago gave Aid, her uncle and me a chance to relax during a healthy layover. We also ate lunch at the O’Hare Bar and Grill. They don’t provide any kinds of snacks on the American Airlines/American Eagle flights so we were very hungry by midday.

After landing in Watertown, Aidan got to see her Grandma and Grandpa immediately as they waited inside the one terminal building there. Dinner would come soon after with a visit to Cracker Barrel, an old favorite. But before driving the hour or so to Lisbon, we stopped in Alexandria Bay to see Aidan’s Grandpa John at The Dockside. That was an important visit due to her grandfather’s questionable health. I haven’t seen him in more than 3 years and he looked distinctly different than he did at that time.

It was a super long day, and Aidan was in good spirits the entire way. It felt so good to be surrounded by family and to see Aidan’s grandparents get to hug and kiss her. These times are rare. The last time Will, Aidan and I were in the North Country together was July 2008, a time Aidan barely remembers.

By the time we got to my Mom and Dad’s house in Lisbon, Aidan was fast asleep. That’s good. She needs the rest before the rest of the vacation gets underway tomorrow.

Tuesday December 27, 2011

Visit From a Friend

Five months before Aidan was born, our family friend Dana gave birth to a baby girl she named Kathryn. Although only a few months older than Aidan, one might think she’s several years older due to her size. But she has tall parents.

The girls enjoy getting together every time Aidan is at her grandparents’ house, and this visit provided an opportunity for Kathryn to spend a few days with Aidan. Dana brought Kathryn out from Ogdensburg to Lisbon late in the morning, accompanied by a very impressive cookie platter.

They spent a lot of time on an arts and crafts project involving the decoration of butterfly mosaics, an activity that seems to require a lot of focus. It’s interesting to observe the girls interacting. Each one is an only child and the center of their respective universes. Both are natural leaders too, it seems, which can lead to occasional conflict.

More than friendship, they share something else: a grandmother figure. Kathryn calls my mom Grandma Peg, which prompted Aidan to use the same name. It’s a title of affection more than anything else for Kathryn, but in many ways, it’s so appropriate. My mom treats her like a grandchild and they have a very strong bond. Although much of the year Aidan doesn’t see their interaction, it’s visits like this one that allow her to understand their relationship. She may even better understand her own relationship with her grandmother by watching Kathryn.

Wednesday December 28, 2011

Frozen Marshmallow World

Last winter in North Texas, Aidan enjoyed snow on more than one occasion. Her “weather forecast” also ended up playing nationwide thanks to CNN’s iReport. But her snowy memories of last winter don’t compare to today’s experience of sledding in freezing temperatures.

The girls were joined outside by Mom, Will and me in the mid-afternoon when the temperature was a mere 17 degrees. Even bundled up, the girls’ cheeks turned rosy red rather quickly. But that didn’t stop them from the adventure of sledding down a small hill behind the house.

The grown-ups took turns pushing the kids down the hill, and then each girl would trudge back up with her sled in hand for the next little trip. When Will and I were young, that hill wasn’t open for sledding due to an old barn sitting on the site. The barn burned down when we were in our late teens and its absence made way for a little winter recreation today that we probably won’t experience again for a long time.

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2 Responses to “365 DAYS OF SIX”

  1. Mary Beth H-C July 25, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Mark, how FUN to find that you are such a good writer! I, too, have a 6 year old (whose birthday is May 14, but the way), so I resonate with many of your reflections on life with an almost 1st grader!

    • Marc Isaacs July 30, 2011 at 1:19 am #

      Thanks for joining us on the journey. It’s a pleasure to know you’re here.

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