Archive for the ‘Parenthood’ Category


SJZC #3: “Exaggeration”

June 22, 2017



SJZC #2: “Anticipation”

June 20, 2017

SJC #2


Father-son project: “SJZC”

June 18, 2017

Phil and I are starting a comic about a family with a new baby. Here’s the first installment.

SJZC, episode 1


Early-morning poetry

May 26, 2017

Rise Up Screaming
(Advice to an Infant … or a President)

The sky is dark, but dawn is near,
And though you’re safe within your crib,
The land outside holds much to fear.
It’s time to be alarmed, not glib!

Rise up! Rise up, and sound the call —
A call to arms; a call for milk.
Unleash a nice full-throated bawl
To rouse your parents and their ilk.

The early bird will get the worm;
The early child will get the toy.
Do not give in; stay loud, hold firm!
They must attend you, darling boy.

Rise up! Rise up, and yell, YOUR way,
In any garbled form you spew.
Despite what bleeding hearts may say,
Our world begins and ends with you.

Sam, 5am

[Inspired in part by Slate’s My First Big-Boy Trip.]


My odd son

November 12, 2016

Obviously, there is no single gene “for” math aptitude or punctuality or interest in rainforests. But if Mom and Dad both exhibit a certain trait, shouldn’t the apple fall relatively close to the tree?

That’s what I used to think. Then I became a father.

Two of my defining interests throughout my life, evident from an early age, have been creative writing and competitive sports. My son Phil, now 10, is almost completely indifferent to both.

Here’s me at age 8 or 9, writing about baseball, my favorite sport at the time, while vacationing at my grandparents’ house in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Marathon base ball poem

C’mon, c’mon, c’mon enjoy the fun,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon and hit a home run.

C’mon, c’mon, c’mon and steal a base,
c’mon, c’mon, let me see that happy face.

C’mon, c’mon, c’mon and catch that ball,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon and catch ’em all.

C’mon, c’mon, even if your average is low,
c’mon, work hard, and you can be a pro.

C’mon, c’mon, c’mon and hit that ball,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon and hit it over the wall.

C’mon, c’mon, c’mon leap high in the air,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon ‘n catch that ball, it’s fair.

C’mon, c’mon, throw the ball up high,
c’mon, c’mon, throw it way up in the sky.

C’mon, c’mon, throw it right into his glove,
C’mon, baseball, I’m in love!

C’mon, c’mon, c’mon enjoy the game,
c’mon, c’mon, c’mon and be elected to the Hall Of Fame.

While it’s not the work of a young Tennyson, some craftsmanship is evident, for example, in the commitment to the “c’mon, c’mon” cadence and the clean end rhymes. I proudly shared the poem with Grandma Nancy and relished her rave review.

In contrast, here is Phil writing about a summer camping trip that he basically enjoyed:

First we drove to the place. Then we ate lunch. Then we hiked. Then we set up camp. Then we ate dinner. Then we slept. Then we ate breakfast. Then we hiked. Then we drove to lunch. Then we drove home.

When asked to provide more detail about some part of the trip, Phil offered this:

After we set up the camp Leila set up the stove named the dragon fly. Then Leila made macaroni. And we ate it. Then she made a rice dish we ate it. finally we had roasted marshmallows for dessert.

Notice the apparent lack of interest in telling the story with any humor, any intrigue, or any flair whatsoever. Which is fine — LOTS of people find writing more tedious than enjoyable. And Phil is creative in other ways (especially with Legos). Still, I would have expected him to inherit some smidgen of my wordsmithing tendencies.

Likewise, we differ greatly in our attitude toward sports, as encapsulated in this photo from last Sunday’s PNTF cross-country meet (courtesy of Win Van Pelt):

PNTF 2016

Dad kicks fiercely toward the finish while Sonny Boy (in hat) looks away, uninterested.

Again, it’s fine that he is not (currently) a jock — just surprising to me.

Of course, we do have a few things in common: a love of soft blankets and sweat pants, for example. And similar views on Donald Trump.

That’s right — the man who has fractured the country into bitter factions has brought my son and me closer together.

Here’s Phil reacting to Donald Trump during the first presidential debate: “It seems like the only thing that he cares about is money.”

Weeks later, here he is, trying to explain Trump’s plan to make America great again: “It seems like Trump wants to repair America … by bombing it.” (I’m not sure exactly what Phil meant by that, but I took it to mean that “draining the swamp,” Trump-style, might do more harm than good.)

And here’s his response to a classmate’s claim that Trump will do some good things, like lowering taxes: “His tax cuts are for rich people. What about an African family working the entire day for 20 dollars?”

Preach on, Brother Phil!


Student of the week

February 24, 2016

Phil, Fall 2015
[Phil’s school photo, Fall 2015.]

I vaguely remember being “Student of the Day” once or twice in elementary school. This did not signify superior achievement in eraser-cleaning or anything like that; every student in the class got a turn. But it was nice to be in the spotlight for a little while.

These days — in my son’s 3rd-grade class, anyway — “Student of the Day” has been replaced by “Student of the Week.” Although that may seem a bit over-the-top, having the spotlight for a whole week allows time for experiences that Tiny Greg never had. For example, on Wednesday of a given student’s week, he/she brings in sealed letters from his/her parents/guardians, which are read later in the day. A nice idea in general — and in my case it was a good excuse to write up a (true) story about Phil that he is fond of, but that I had not previously shared on this blog.


December 2, 2015

This is a letter from Phil’s dad, Greg Crowther.

Ever since he was born (on October 20, 2006), Phil has surprised me over and over again.

I suppose I expected Phil to turn out mostly like me and his mom. After all, he has our DNA. But your DNA is not your destiny; it’s more like a personal map that helps you reach some places more easily than others. And Phil often winds up in places that I would never have considered visiting!

For example, there was the day where Phil saved our lives.

(Maybe he didn’t really save our lives, but, at the time, it seemed like he did.)

This was in the middle of the winter four years ago. It was a stressful time for us, as Phil’s mom and I had just separated, and Phil was now living in two different homes. On an unusually cold and snowy day, I brought Phil to his babysitter, Pat, who lives in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle, and returned a few hours later. As darkness descended, I led Phil to Greenwood Avenue, where the #5 bus would pick us up. But the #5 didn’t come; I think it had been re-routed due to the snow. We got cold and wet as the snow kept falling.

I didn’t know what to do, but we needed to try something. I led us several blocks east, where I thought we could catch bus #358 [now bus E] along Aurora Avenue. Again, no bus appeared. As Phil and I got colder and grumpier, I started to panic a little bit. How were we going to get out of this mess?

Phil noticed the Jack In The Box restaurant a block away and had an idea: let’s go there!

We never eat at Jack In The Box; we don’t particularly like what it has to offer. But at that moment, Jack In The Box was exactly what we needed. We dried off, recharged ourselves with some hot food, and were able to wait patiently and comfortably for a bus that did eventually arrive and take us home.

Life with Phil is not usually this dramatic. We don’t usually get trapped in blizzards without adequate clothing or food, and Phil doesn’t usually need to save us by “thinking outside the box” (or thinking of The Box, as the case may be). Nevertheless, Phil is constantly pointing out options that I hadn’t thought of, and I am grateful for his unexpected ideas, large and small. I love you, Phil.



Crowther & Crowther (2015)

June 24, 2015

Two recently completed collaborations with my 8-year-old son:

1. Green revolution: salad spinning superseded. Bricolage 33: 110-112, 2015.

2. STEM songs: not just child’s play (display case installation, Discovery Hall, UW-Bothell)


Improvised sports, #3: Shooting Ballery

August 16, 2014

Most basketball-related games — Horse, Pig, and Around the World, for example — emphasize shooting. So how can a hoops-minded parent get his kid to practice the less glamorous but equally important skill of passing?

Here’s one approach: challenge the kid to hit strategically placed cones with his passes.

Shooting Ballery 1

Shooting Ballery 2

[Previous improvised sports: Sock-Drawer Basketball and Bomb-Pong.]


Descriptivism vs. prescriptivism: a debate with my 7-year-old

August 1, 2014

tire store

“What is that place?” asked my son, pointing to a tan building at the corner of North 80th Street and Aurora Avenue North.

“They sell tires,” I said.

“Are they good?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never bought tires there.”

“But you do THINK they’re good?”

“I really don’t know, Phil.”

“If you had to guess, what would your guess be?”

“Well, they spelled the word ‘tires’ wrong, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.”

“How did they spell it?”

“T-I-R-S. They left out the E.”

“But you could still read it, right?”

Yes, I could. It was a fair point.



Lego Kids Fest in Portland

October 13, 2013

Phil and I met up with my old college friends Ian and Heather and their two boys.

The temerity of youth, part 1: hiding in Vader’s cape.

The temerity of youth, part 2: picking a Wookiee’s pocket.

Why, yes — these ARE the droids we’re looking for.

Tutancrowther, the boy king.

New construction: a robot with a giant lobster claw.