Bedtime Books

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Today’s blog comes from a “Daily Writing Prompt”. The prompt reads: “Do you remember your favorite book from your childhood?” This prompt comes after I stumbled on a set of books that I had as a kid in a used book store.

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The Charlie Brown Dictionary was a set of 8 books that had definitions of words. I remember my parents ordered these from somewhere and every month a new volume would arrive. I loved when a new volume would arrive. They had the entire set at this book store for the bargain price of $2! How can I pass that up?!

The writing prompt also comes a week or so after the baby shower. One of the things we want for our baby is a good library of books to read. We did receive some books at the shower, some of which I recognized, and some that I didn’t. Some of the books we received were books that I had read to my boys, and I am excited to share them with our daughter, too!

As I thought about the prompt, I don’t know that I can actually recall my “favorite” book as a kid. There are, however, many that I do remember vividly. I thought it might be fun to sit and off the top of my head, write about some of the ones I remember. I am sitting down to write this blog knowing that it will be incomplete. It will be incomplete, because I know I am going to probably miss a lot of them. Here goes:

The Poky Little Puppy

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When I was growing up I think I had every one of the “Little Golden Books”. Of all of them, this is the one that immediately comes to mind when I think about my childhood. I remember buying it when my oldest was a baby and reading it to him. I really didn’t remember the story up until that point, but for me to remember it for so long, I am just guessing it was a favorite. I remember there being many Disney stories that were in the Little Golden Book collection.

Another Little Golden Book that I had, and eventually shared with my sons was a Sesame Street book.

The Monster at the End of This Book

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As a child of the 70’s, I watched a lot of PBS. Sesame Street was a show I watched faithfully. Mr. Hooper was still alive when I was watching Sesame Street! The adventures of Ernie and Bert, The Count, Big Bird, Grover, and Kermit helped me learn letters and numbers. I mentioned in a previous blog that I had an Ernie hand puppet. I also had a stuffed Grover. I liked him cause he was always so silly. Grover is the star of this book. It is such a fun book to read and I am sure that it made me laugh as a kid, as much as it made my boys laugh! I can’t wait to share this one with Ella.

Dr. Seuss Books

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I probably had every single Dr. Seuss book ever written! They were very popular with my generation. I have found that people either love or hate his books. I had a friend who just loathed when her son would pick Green Eggs and Ham to read. I could never figure out why.

I remember I was doing mornings on B95 and it was Dr. Seuss’ birthday. We had one of the contestants from American Idol (Phil Stacey) in town to do a show for us. We were talking about Dr. Seuss books with our newsman, Hal Maas earlier in the show, and he couldn’t remember half of them (which we razzed him about often). We actually had Phil Stacey read “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?” on the air! The book has all kinds of silly noises, and Phil played it up on the air! It was so silly to hear him reading this, but he told us how much fun it was!

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I am sure I will be reading Ella many of his books.

Three Little Kittens

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This was one of Dante’s favorite books. I think he loved it because of the cat noises I used to make while reading it to him. I am almost positive that this was another book my mom read to me. This is a must for me to read to Ella, especially since we have two cats at home.

Like I said, I KNOW I am forgetting others that were probably read to me as a child. I am hoping that those of you who are close to my age will offer us some of YOUR favorites. By doing that, maybe you’ll refresh my memory about other books from my childhood.

Books I Read to the Boys

The books above were books I loved growing up, and read to my boys. The following books are some of my favorites that I remember reading to them at bedtime. These will all be in Ella’s library, because I love them all!

Goodnight Moon

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This book is so simple. I loved saying goodnight to all of the objects and having the kids point to them. Dante’ would always make a “Squeak” noise when we said good night to the mouse.

Rainbow-Fish

This book came in very handy when trying to teach about sharing and being selfish. The moral of the story and showing how sharing with others can make everyone happy is a great lesson that even adults need to remember.

The Kissing Hand

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This one was voted one of the Teacher’s Top 100 Picture Books for Children. I read this to both boys especially as it got closer to when they were going to preschool. It’s really a great book to help children deal with the “separation” issue of going to school. Our book came with all these little red heart stickers and I think Dante’ used to put them on his backpack or pencil box.

The Going To Bed Book

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Sandra Boynton has so many great books for kids! I loved reading this one every night. It was so fun and her characters are just so cute! This is just one of MANY of her books that I loved.

I’m Thankful Each Day

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Probably one of my top 5 books to read! One of my favorite bible verses is I Thessalonians 5:18 which reads: “In every thing give thanks”. Raising children, we want them to be thankful! We tell them to say “please” and “thank you”. What I love about this book is that you see this little boy who is full of gratitude. He is thankful for big things in his life, as well as the small things. He is so grateful – and happy! It is a must for Ella’s bookshelf!

Snowmen At Night

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I love this book for so many reasons. Remember when you were a kid and you’d make your snowman? Then the next day you’d come out and he’d look a little different? It always made me wonder what he’s been up to! That’s exactly what this book is about. What do snowmen do at night?! This book is just so much fun to read and the illustrations are a hoot, too!

This book was a favorite of both my sons! Caralyn Buehner wrote a few sequels to this too (Snowmen At Christmas, Snowmen At Play, Snowmen At Work, Snowmen All Year)! My goal is to have all of these in Ella’s library.

Reading Dads Rock!

Reading is SO important! The great stories that are found in books will fuel a child’s imagination for years and years! A parent reading to their child is one of the greatest things in the world. It is quality time together. It is bonding time. It is something that I cannot wait to do with our daughter. Bring on the bedtime stories!!

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Missing Muppets – Do You Remember Them?

November 10, 1969 – a wonderful little show debuted on PBS for kids called Sesame Street.  It helped children learn letters, numbers, and over the years has tackled subjects like death, divorce, hurricanes, and autism.  With human and Muppet residents, and many guest stars, the show has been an incredible educational program.

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I grew up with Sesame Street.  I remember the songs “The Ladybug Picnic”, “The Alligator King”, “The Pinball Number Count”, “Sing (Sing a Song)”, “The People in Your Neighborhood”, “Rubber Duckie”, “C is for Cookie”, and, of course, “Ma Nah Ma Nah”.  I remember when Hooper’s Store was still run by Mr. Hooper!

When my boys were growing up, I sat down with them and watched the show of my youth.  Elmo had pretty much become the face of the show, as the last 20 minutes of it was dedicated to Elmo’s World.  Some of my favorites were still around, though.  Ernie and Bert were still talking about pigeons, bottle caps, and Rubber Duckie.  Oscar was still grouchy.  Big Bird and Snuffy were still best friends (I remember when nobody but Big Bird could see Snuffy!).  Cookie Monster was still crazy for cookies.  Count Von Count still told you the number of the day, and Grover was still Super Grover (and still occasionally drove that one blue Muppet guy crazy in the restaurant).

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Some new Muppets have surfaced over the years and some have gone away.  I read an article about Sesame Street that estimates that there were over 1000 characters on the show in 50 years.  Here are some characters that were on when I watched, but are no longer.  Some you may remember, some you may not.

Kermit the Frog

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Kermit, of course, went on to great success as the host of The Muppet Show, but he was your on the street reporter on Sesame Street.  He often drew numbers and letters and taught us about them.  He also would often be found interviewing another “missing” Muppet….

Don Music

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Don Music was voiced by the late Richard Hunt. Don was a musician, lyricist, and pianist who would write songs.  These songs were often close to real songs, and Kermit would often steer Don to the real lyric.  Up until Kermit, Mary didn’t have a little lamb, she had a bicycle!

Don would struggle to write his songs and would often get frustrated and band his head on the piano (or wall, or whatever) and yell, “I’ll never get it!”  The word is that kids at home laughed at this and would often imitate Don’s actions.  I’m guessing banging your head on a piano in real life probably hurts more than it hurt Don.  Sadly, his character was retired.

Roosevelt Franklin

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I guess Roosevelt Franklin is probably the most famous of the “retired” Muppets.  Matt Robinson, who also was the first Gordon on Sesame Street, provided the voice for him.  He has his own school – Roosevelt Franklin Elementary School.  Why was he retired?  One article I read said this:

“Parents wrote to the Children’s Television Workshop to complain that Roosevelt was a negative stereotype of African-American children, citing his rowdy nature and the fact that his classes closely resembled after-school detention. Roosevelt only lasted from 1970-1975, but he has appeared in many Sesame Street books.”

It’s been a long time since I have seen a clip of him, so it’s hard for me to remember just how “stereotypical” he was.

Professor Hastings

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This guy was a professor.  In high school (and in college), there is nothing worse than a teacher or professor who is just plain boring.  What was funny about him was that he was SO boring, he’d put himself to sleep while lecturing on letters or numbers.  He wasn’t on the show too long.  Guess he was REALLY boring!

Herbert Birdsfoot

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Seen here with Grover (who was often his assistant), Herbert stepped in when Kermit the Frog was phased out.  He began to teach numbers and letters with Grover’s help.  Kermit, however, did return to Sesame Street on occasion over the years, and Herbert was eventually retired by the sixth season of the show.

Bruno, the Trashman

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Bruno was created by Caroll Spinney (the voice of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch).  During the first few years of the show, Oscar couldn’t really move around.  If he wanted to move, a cast member had to carry his trash can somewhere, or they showed the can moving with two feet under it.  Spinney saw a puppeteer on the Gong Show and it inspired Bruno.  With Bruno, he could walk with Oscar’s trash can, and operate him while doing so thanks to a hole in the stomach.  Bruno never spoke.   He appeared in the Sesame Street movie Follow That Bird and then spent many years in storage. While in storage, Bruno deteriorated and the decision was made to not rebuild him.

Sherlock Hemlock

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I always loved this guy!  He was voiced by the great Jerry Nelson.  He was “the world’s greatest detective”, and obviously a rip off of Sherlock Holmes. I remember him yelling, “Egads!” anytime he “discovered something.  He was a very prominent character in the 70’s and 80’s, but was phased out as newer characters were introduced.  He is still a very popular character in the German version of Sesame Street.

The Amazing Mumford

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Mumford is another Muppet voiced by Jerry Nelson.  Remember his magic words?  “Ala Peanut Butter sandwiches!”  I believe the picture above is from a show where he cannot make the cookie (with the letter of the day) disappear.  Cookie Monster, of course, finds a way to make it disappear – he eats it.

Guy Smiley

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Guy Smiley was the “perfect host”.  He hosted quiz shows, contests, and other things that needed “a host”.  I always loved his name!  When I was a kid, Guy was on almost every show, but you’re lucky if he shows up today.  That’s a shame.  His name alone should make you smile!

Happy 50th Birthday!

It is just amazing that this show continues to be a wonderful source of learning for children.  Television is not such a friendly place for kids today.  Even some of the cartoons made for kids, tend to cross a line.  The songs and characters of Sesame Street will continue to help kids learn the alphabet and numbers for years to come, as well as tackle some tough life issues.

Thanks for the memories!  Happy Birthday, Sesame Street!

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Voices of the Past

This weekend, I DJ’d homecoming dance.  For high schools, all my new music is on a hard drive and I play it from the computer.  When I do weddings or parties, I still bring some CDs.  Recently, I have been going through boxes of CDs in hopes of putting what I don’t have on my hard drive, on the drive.

While most of my CDs are professional ones containing albums and music, I have some homemade CDs of things that I have burned to CD from various places I have worked.  I found 2 CDs marked “B95 Stuff” and “More B95 Stuff” in a box and took them with me to listen to in the car.  I was unsure if these CDs were data or audio CDs.  When I popped them in the CD player, I was happy to find they contained audio clips.

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Most of the audio was phone calls from listeners.  I used to do an “impossible question” every day for prizes and there were many phoners of listeners guessing the answer.  One of my favorite calls was on the first disc.  A woman caller simply asked, “Yes, is the answer poop?  Going poop!?”  Like the word poop wasn’t enough … she had to explain “going poop”!  There were also many requests, as I did a request lunch show.

I also found some interviews with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tim Rushlow from Little Texas, and Terri Clark.  Some of the phoners were just silly things, I used to have listeners say things like “Keith Allen?  They let him out on parole?” or “I love every thing about this station, but Keith Allen!” or “Keith Allen?  Turn that radio off!”  There were a couple calls that took me by surprise.

Call #1

The first one was hearing a call with my friend, Marie.  If you read my previous blog, Marie was my friend who just passed away last week.

That blog is here: https://nostalgicitalian.com/2019/09/21/time-life-death-ripples/

There were actually 2 calls from her on that disc.  One of them she wins a contest I was doing, and another she called to talk about watching Trace Adkins rear end when he was in concert.  (There were other females who called to talk about his butt, as well.)

She was one of those friends who would do anything for you.  When my oldest son was born, she had this beautiful blanket made with his name on it and also had a small photo album made with an engraved nameplate.  When my youngest was born, she bought him one of my favorite outfits.  I spoke with her just a few days before she passed and she was asking what we needed for the baby.  She was always doing things for her friends.  While it was nice to hear us joking around about Trace’s butt on the CD, it was sad to remember that she has just passed away.  Her funeral is Wednesday.

Call #2

The second call was one from my friend Pat.  I always called her Pat, but I think most people called her Trish.  I also met Pat while at B95.  She was forever trying to win prizes.  She always came up to our remote broadcasts and talked with us.  She was a HUGE fan of the band Alabama.  She used to call up and say that she was lead singer, Randy Owen’s wife.  I used to kid her and ask is his wife knew about that!  She and I had a lot in common, and became good friends.  She was a huge Elvis fan and we often talked about him and his music.  I remember how excited she was when she told me she was going to Graceland.  I had been there while in Memphis for a St. Jude visit, and I told her how much she was going to love it.

The first time Pat won a prize from me she was SO excited.  “I won?!  OH MY GOD!!  WE DID IT!  WE WON!!!  THIS IS AMAZING!!!  (Laughter) I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!!”  It was such a great response that I used to use that call as my “stunt winner”.  If we ever had someone win a prize who was not excited about it, I’d say “Bring in the stunt winner” and play Pat’s call!  The call on the CD was when she won some hockey tickets and she kept saying how much her boys were going to love it.  She passed away suddenly in 2014, leaving behind her four boys and a granddaughter who she spoke of so often.    She was such a wonderful person and we shared many laughs together.

Call #3

The third call that got me was a call I made to my grandma.  Phone calls from my grandma were a staple on the show.  I used to call her every Christmas Eve (if I worked on the holiday) or the day before.  Christmas Eve was ALWAYS at her house – I wrote a blog about it here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/12/24/the-ghost-of-christmas-eve-past-and-yet-to-come/

The phone call would consist of me asking grandma what was for dinner.  She would go on to talk about homemade ravioli, breaded steak and ammoglio (pronounced moy-gyoo) sauce, the many varieties of cookies, cakes, and cannoli, and the other items featured in the Christmas Eve Feast.  This call, however, was NOT about Christmas Eve, which is what made it even more special.

This call actually helps me date the CDs.  This call was made July 24, 2001.  How do I know this?  I was calling grandma to wish her Happy Birthday.  During the call she offers up without hesitation that she is 77.  She goes on to talk about how my dad was razzing her about something and then asks when I am coming over.  She then went on to tell me how I needed to come see her “while my eyes are still open” because “I’m not going to be around much longer” as she often said.

It was emotional to hear her voice.  She was sharp as a tack for so long.  She was your stereotypical strong willed Italian woman.  Knowing that shortly after that call, she would develop dementia was sad.  She passed away in 2007, at age 83.  Hearing her say “I love you” one more time on the phone – was priceless.

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A Recovered Memory

I must have been doing a phone topic about teddy bears.  There was probably a story about people sleeping with Teddy Bears or something, which led me to ask “Who still sleeps with a Teddy Bear?” or “Who still has their Teddy Bear from their childhood?”.  The calls were about bears and toys that they had growing up.  I don’t remember what the caller is talking about, but I respond about something I had growing up that I had totally forgotten about.  This has a tie-in to my grandma, who I just mentioned.

It is funny how you can forget about things.  I will forever remember a Teddy Bear that I had when I was little.  I had it with me in the hospital when I had my tonsils out at 3 years old.  The thing I had forgotten about is something I probably had around 5-7 years old.  It was a hand puppet of Ernie from Sesame Street.  Today, PBS has tons of kid shows.  As I remember, Sesame Street, The Electric Company and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood were pretty much it on PBS.  On CBC there was Mr. Dress-up and The Friendly Giant, but that was it. Sesame Street was my “go to” show.  I think somewhere there is a picture of me with Ernie and Bert slippers!

What do I remember most about this Ernie puppet?  First, the head was not felt like the real Muppet.  It was a hard rubber/plastic.  This helped when you went to make him talk.  I guess I took him everywhere.  I remember I’d bring him over to my grandma’s house and she would tease me.  She’d put a lit cigarette in Ernie’s mouth and make him smoke.  I hated that!  “Ernie doesn’t smoke, grandma!  That’s bad for you!”  Grandma never said his name right.  She always called him “Arnie”.  I remember her telling me when I was older that when my brother and I stayed overnight there I used to make her kiss Ernie goodnight!  “I had to kiss that dirty old Arnie!”  I literally just chuckled out loud as I wrote that because I can hear her saying it!

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In Conclusion

I have CDs of my Honey Radio shows with my partner, Rob (https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/04/26/get-a-load-of-this-guy/), which I listen to often.  I still laugh along with them.  He always made me laugh.  While I am sad that he has passed away, I think he’d be happy to know that I still listen to those shows and they are still funny 25 years later!

I’m glad that I decided to pop those CDs in and give them a listen.  Much like the CDs of Rob and me, these also made me chuckle, but also made me sad.  At the same time, they are a reminder of good friends and family, who continue to make ripples (see previous blog) long after they have gone.

 

 

 

Emotional Day

It is still a year away, but it is becoming very real, very quickly.

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Last month, on the last day of school, my oldest called me and proudly announced, “I’m a senior, dad!”  It’s not like I didn’t think this time was coming, I knew it was.  I knew when I held him as a newborn baby that time was going to go quickly.  Life already moves quickly, and they say that when you have children, it moves a whole lot faster!  I would definitely agree!

First steps.  First words.  First day of pre-school.  First day of kindergarten.  First holiday program.  First day riding the bus.  First day of middle school.  First day of high school.  First band concert.  First awards ceremony.  How quickly these firsts fly by.  Next year, we begin to see the Last first day of school, the last final exams, and eventually, the last last day of school.

Today, we took my son, Dante’ out to have some senior pictures taken.  Times have certainly changed from when I had mine done. 31 years ago, they had the photographer set up in one of rooms in the school.  You made an appointment.  You got dressed up in a suit and tie and they put you in some ridiculous poses.  For those in sports, they may have posed with a football or basketball.  I had my trumpet with me in one pose.  They allowed you (for a fee) to pose with a friend.  I know that I have pictures with my friend Steve and Margaret.  You had to pose for one generic head shot (which would ultimately be your yearbook picture).  Most of the other poses were just awkward.  I have this one of me with the suit coat in my hand and over my shoulder – it looks so stupid!!

Our friend Amy came out and shot his pictures.  Prior to the shoot she was clear that the way we would get authentic pictures was to make sure he was dressed comfortably.  In other words, if he was not a suit and tie guy, then don’t force him to wear it.  She wanted to know his interests so we could get some shots of him being natural and relaxed.  We sort of mapped out a tentative plan and did as much as we could (knowing that he would probably get to a point where he’d be burned out).

Dante’ and his friends from school love old cars.  He has always amazed me as we drive around town.  He can point to a classic and give me the year, make and model of the car.  He loves them.  He’d been asking to go to a classic car show this summer and today, they had one in Flushing.  It was going on while I was on the air, so Sam met Amy and they took some shots near some of the cars of his choosing.  They also got some good pictures in the park where the car show was held.

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He also loves video games and arcades.  There was one in the mall near us, so that was the next stop.  Sadly, it was much different from the one that we had been at before.  Perhaps there were new owners, I don’t know, but it was more geared toward younger children.  I met the group at the mall after work and we looked at the rest of the agenda.  It was extremely hot and humid and we could see he was getting tired.

There is a park near us that has a creek, a bridge, and a trail.  We decided to go there and see what kind of pictures we could get there.  Dimitri had been out in the sun all day on Thursday and was still nursing a bad sunburn, so Sam took him home and I continued with Dante’.  We took quite a few shots there and I am excited to see them.

We walked down one of the trails and were looking for more opportunities for pictures.  Dante’ was walking ahead of me and I had a flashback.  One day the entire family was walking the trail by our old house.  He and Dimitri were walking in front of me holding hands (the picture is probably on my Facebook somewhere).  It was autumn, and the leaves were changing.  I told Dante’ that the trail reminded me of that.  Without hesitation, Amy told me and Dante’ to walk ahead of her and just talk.  For 5 minutes, I just walked and talked with my son.  Welling up with emotion, I put my arm around him and he did the same to me.  Amy snapped some pictures of us, and I am pretty excited to see them.  It was a very special moment.

There was talk of going to Crossroads Village and Downtown Flint, but it was obvious that he was getting close to being done.  Crossroads is a very special place for him because of his love for trains, and the fact that when he was 4, my mom spent the day with him at the Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine.  Downtown Flint would have been cool because there are so many cool photo opportunities.  Knowing that he was running on empty, we came back to the house.

At the house, Amy wanted to get some shots of him playing video games.  This was important to him.  He loves gaming and his senior pictures should show that.  Amy’s daughter, Skyler, made a very cool sign that was in the shots with his video games that read:  “High School – Game Over!” The sign sat next to a stack of his favorite games.

Dimitri wanted a picture of the two of them back to back playing games, so she made sure to get that one for him.  She then had the boys sit on the side porch in the rocking chairs and just talk to each other.  Nothing forced.  Just casual conversation between two brothers.  I am sure that these pictures will be awesome!

Finally, we had Dante’ standing on the front porch and we hoped to get some shots there.  I think we got one.  In a very bizarre weather change, in a matter of seconds, the wind picked up, there was a clap of thunder, and the clouds opened up and the rain came pouring down.  Dante’ went in the house and Sam and I stood on the porch chatting with Amy.  That was the end of the shoot and it went better than I expected.

Dante’ thanked Sam and gave her a hug thanking her for a fun day.  He had been so worked up about getting the pictures done.  I am guessing he probably thought it would mean him sitting and posing like they did for me.  His photo shoot, however, was a fun day looking at classic cars, going to the park, and gaming on camera.  He thanked me too, and every bit of the emotions hit me.  My voice cracked as I told him that I still couldn’t believe he was a senior.  He looked me in the eye and said, “Are you crying, dad?!”  Yes.  Yes, I was.

I went in the house and stood in the window looking at my senior with tears in my eyes.  There was the little boy who I sang to sleep each night with Dean Martin songs.  There was the boy who waved to me from the bus window on one of many first days of school.  There was the boy who was nonverbal and pointed at pictures to tell us what he wanted to eat.  There was the boy who stood close to the TV mesmerized by the “Blue Shadows” scene in The Three Amigos.  There was the boy who sang “Elmo’s World” with grandma as they watched Sesame Street.  There was the boy I coached with his baseball team.  There was the boy who played my trumpet in his first band concert.  There was the boy who I rushed to the hospital after his tonsillectomy because his stitches broke.  There was the boy who I cheered for when he learned to ride his bike without training wheels.  Each of those things brought dad to tears.  Now here is dad, crying again.  Where that boy stood – now stands a young man who towers over his dad.  That young man is about to experience the fastest school year of his life.

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I am sure that there are many more tears that will flow in the coming months.  I can’t help it. I will cry when I see the pictures that were taken today. I will cry at awards ceremonies.  I will cry at his commencement ceremony.  I will cry at his graduation party.  Those tears are mixed with sadness, joy, and pride.  This is a transition for him.  It signifies the end of school and childhood, and the beginning of adulthood.  After graduation, he plans to go to college and maybe do something with logistics, although he still occasionally talks about working with trains.  His future is bright and I will be cheering him on until I breathe my last breath.

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I will do the same for his brother.  He’s got 6 more years before he is a senior, but rest assured, I will shed tears of joy for him in the coming years, too!  I can only imagine the wonderful things he will be doing in the years ahead, and I look forward to praising him for all of his accomplishments!  He will continue to grow up quickly, just like his brother.  In 6 years, I am guessing I will be looking out a window through tears at him, too, recounting his milestones and memories.  It’s what dad’s do.

Pass the Kleenex – it’s gonna be a long year!

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Some of my childhood friends…

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I’m sure if I asked you about your childhood friends, you could easily spout off many of them by name.  Me too!  As a matter of fact, I am lucky enough to still see and talk regularly with my best friend from elementary school.  Yesterday’s blog about Mr. Rogers got me to thinking on my way home from work about some of the other friends I had growing up.  These aren’t friends that I met personally, mind you, these are the TV friends who helped me learn my letters, numbers, parts of speech, and right from wrong.  Some of them were there to take me on adventures against bad guys.  From various kid shows, there were plenty of friends to keep me company on days when we were snowed in, days it was raining, or on days when you were home sick from school.

Sesame Street

“Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street”?  I spent many mornings with the gang from Sesame Street!  There were so many characters on that show.  Many are still there, while some are long gone.  The first “muppet” to appear on the show is still there – Big Bird.  Early on, he would talk about his invisible friend “Snuffy” Snuffalupogus.  We could see him, Big Bird could see him, but none of the humans on the show could.  Now, everyone can see him.

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Kermit the Frog, long before he starred on and hosted The Muppet Show”, was a regular on Sesame Street.  He often showed up in a trenchcoat and reported the “news”.  He also popped in on music composer Don Music, who was often having trouble writing a song.  Word is Don was cut from the show cause he always banged his head on the piano.

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Remember Grover?  He was voiced by Frank Oz … who literally used the same voice for Yoda in the Star Wars films!  Grover would crack me up as the waiter who always seemed to annoy that one guy who was always trying to order something at the restaurant.

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Ernie and Bert were pals.  They were much like my friends and me.  They could annoy each other, and at they same time, they liked each other.  They fished together, they built snowmen together, they each had their own interests and yet, they still got along.  Ernie was the trickster and Bert was usually the target.

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Count Von Count was probably my favorite.  He was obsessed with numbers and counting.  He lived in a castle and his thoughts were often accented by thunder cracks and lightning! He loved counting so much, he often laughed afterward.  “Two knocks on the door…..ha ha ha (thunderclap)!”

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Speaking of counting, anyone who watched Sesame Street remembers the pinball count.  It was your typical jazzy, funky music where an animated pinball rolled around in the machine counting to 12.  You can sing it right now, right?  So many great other songs were on this show: I Don’t Want To Live On the Moon, The Alligator King, The Ladybug Picnic, Rubber Duckie, It Ain’t Easy Being Green, C is For Cookie, and of course, Mahna Mahna!

I also remember Sherlock Hemlock (who solved mysteries like Sherlock Holmes), Roosevelt Franklin (an African American Muppet who was cut from the show because they felt it was too stereotypical), The Twiddlebugs (who lived outside in Ernie’s window box), and Guy Smiley!  There’s a name!  Guy Smiley!

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The Electric Company

“Hey, you guys!” was often heard shouted by the great Rita Moreno in the opening theme.   This was just a “cool” way to learn!  While there are many different segments aimed at teaching kids things some of them stand out far more than others. For example, the Soft Shoe Sillhouette, as they were called, featured two people in silhouette pronouncing a word.  The first would say “Sh” and the other would say “ip”.  They would say it over and over until eventually, they would say “Ship”.  I remember how much that helped me learn to read by sounding out words.

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As far as my friends from the show, well I have to start off with Easy Reader.  He was played by none other than Morgan Freeman!  He was so cool and he thought reading was cool.  If reading was cool enough for Easy Reader – it was cool enough for me!

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Another character who helped me learn to read was Otto the Director, played by Rita Moreno.  She would try so hard to get the actors to remember their lines.  They would always forget the one word they had on the cue card.

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Then there was Spiderman!  Yes, Spiderman was on the Electric Company!   Spidey’s Super Stories featured Spidey on an adventure and he never spoke, well, audibly anyway.  He “spoke” in balloons, like in the comic books.  The audience had to read what he was saying.  Eventually a comic book called Spidey’s Super Stories was produced by Marvel comics.

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Captain Kangaroo

“Good Morning, Captain”.  The show would begin with a montage of celebrities and non-celebrities saying “Good Morning, Captain” and eventually, there he was – Captain Kangaroo – saying “Good morning” to you.  In an interview once, Bob Keeshan said the show was kind of like a “nice visit to your grandparents house”.

Some of the friends on this show included the farmer. “Mr. Green Jeans”, “Mr. Bunny Rabbit”, and “Mr. Moose”.  Mr. Moose was my favorite.  He always seemed to tell some kind of knock knock joke which led to a bunch of ping pong balls falling on the Captain.

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One thing I remember about this show was the cartoon Simon.  It was a British cartoon about a kid who had a magic piece of chalk.  With that chalk he could create all kinds of things for some sort of adventure.  What I remember about it was the theme:  “Well you know my name is Simon, and the things I draw come true…”  Mike Meyers did a sketch on SNL based on this with Danny DeVito…a must see if you remember Simon.

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So this show was one that I had kind of forgot about.  I was reminded of it after discussing some of the other shows with a friend.  I don’t recall what network it was on, but I seem to remember it being on before or after Land of the Lost.

Do you remember Dr. Shrinker?  Cheesy 70’s programming at it’s best!  Dr. Shrinker is some sort of mad scientist who shrinks a bunch of teenagers and they spend the entire episode running away from him and trying not to get caught by him or his henchman, Hugo.  Hugo was played wonderfully by the great Billy Barty!  What I remember most about this was how they had these huge oversized props behind the actors to show how “tiny” they were.

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You thought Batman 66 was cheesy??  This show introduced us to Electra Woman and Dyna Girl!  Electra Woman was played by Deidre Hall and Dyna Girl was Judy Strangis.  There were two crime fighters who posed as news reporters when not fighting crime.  They wore these huge things called ElectraComs on their wrists that allowed them to speak to each other and it also served as a gadget that got them out of pretty much any situation (just like Batman’s utility belt). Dyna Girl was basically a female Robin and instead of yelling “Holy (fill in the blank)”, she would yell “Electra Wow!” LOL!

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A highlight of this cheesy show was their scientist friend, Frank Heflin.  He helped them by staying at the Electra Base (like the Bat Cave) and operated the CrimeScope (like the Bat Computer).  He was played by the great character actor Norman Alden.  He was in many movies, and provided the voice for Aquaman and Green Arrow on the Super Friends cartoon.  He also was the café owner in the café where Marty McFly meets his father at in the 1950’s in the classic film Back to the Future.

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Next time … The Parts of Speech, History, and Musical Math …