Tuesday, December 31, 2013

White Trucks

Cash & Dad's Fifth Year and a Half

Hey Cash, this is Gramps!

Your dad asked me to write this blog about Harry D. Weller, Jr., my father, your Dad’s Grandfather and hence your Great Grandfather. He was a remarkable man in many ways and your Dad thought you should know about him—and a bit about his wife, my mother.

My Dad was born in Lancaster, PA in 1913.  Lancaster is Pennsylvania Dutch Country, i.e. a lot of Amish and Mennonite folks. His mother’s mother was Mennonite. He was a great athlete and was very smart (like your Dad). His parents were high school teachers and his father was a legendary football coach—even when I was in high school (1957-59)!

He went to Franklin & Marshall College on an athletic scholarship (first in his family to go to college). He is listed as one of their most famous alumni. He wanted to be an archeologist because of his interest in history but did not think he could make a living—remember this was during the Depression. His first job was to manage a Firestone Tire store in Cleveland—that still exists. He moved the family to Hartford, Connecticut where we lived for 5 years. Then we moved to Buffalo, NY for 3 years. Following which we moved to Cleveland for 1 year when he joined the White Motor Company. At this time I was in 6th grade. After 1 year we moved to Bronxville, NY, a suburb of New York City. He was made District Manager of White for the Northeast Region. (BTW, Bronxville was the 7th school I attended by that time.) White made heavy duty trucks, the “tractor” part of Semis. They competed directly with Mack Trucks which you may know. Also they sold Freightliner trucks which White did not own and were even more expensive and customized. Ford, International Harvester and GM made less expensive and less customized trucks. It is important to note that in the 50’s and 60’s President Eisenhower started building the Interstate Highway System. This major infrastructure investment resulted in many things but an important one that it made the trucking industry highly competitive with the railroad industry, in fact more competitive for freight hauling.

After a few years he was promoted to Regional Manager for the Eastern half of the country. And between my Junior and Senior years in Bronxville High, he was promoted to be Vice President of Sales for the entire company and the family moved to Cleveland. I stayed in Bronxville for my Senior Year with a friend’s family. My friend, Bruce Beebe, is your father’s Godfather! (We are still in touch.) I was Co-Captain of the Bronxville Football Team so my moving where I did not know anyone would have been painful. My brother, Chuck and Sister Judy did move. He was in 9th grade and Judy 7th. Following high school I went to Denison in Ohio and following that went in the Navy, getting commissioned as an officer at Navy OCS. (Your Dad was commissioned as a Naval Officer upon graduating from Duke and their ROTC program.)

As VP of Sales for White Motor White increased their share of the heavy duty truck market from 18% to 23%. Dad was eventually promoted to President of the White Motor Company and was a pretty important guy in Cleveland’s business community. An important element in Dad’s approach to sales was that he insisted that he find what trucking companies needed as distinct from many manufacturer’s approach at the time was that the sales operation should sell what the company made—period. As a side note, he became a member of the Pepper Pike Country Club, and exclusive club for top executives. I mention this because after a round of golf with my Dad and your Dad at the club I took a picture of both of them on the 18th green which turned out to have significant consequences because Reggie included in your Dad’s application to Duke and when your Dad attended a party for the new Duke freshman class the Admissions Director noted your Dad and said “so you are the golfer!” I’m certain that picture helped the Acceptance Committee remember your Dad and helped with his acceptance!

I think what your Dad wanted you guys to know is what happened to White Motor and my Dad. In 1966 President Kennedy moved to settle a major steel industry strike by making major industries to accept industry wide collective bargaining where unions would bargain with one of the companies and their contract would be what all other companies in that industry would have to accept. This applied to the automotive industry as it turned out. This created a problem for White because White was a much smaller company that the big automakers. The big three automakers could absorb the costs of the wage levels and importantly the work rules, whereas White could not and still make a profit. So the top management of the White Motor company sought a way to return to profitability and decided to get in the Agricultural Equipment business by buying small Ag companies that made certain devices, (tractors, combines, etc.) that when combined would make them a major Ag Equipment force to compete with Deere and others. Additionally, they started building an engine plant in Massillon, Ohio to make engines for both White and the Ag manufacturers. White Motor used Cummins Engines and were vulnerable should the Cummins Engines lose their competitive edge against other diesel engine manufactures. All these acquisitions and the engine plant caused two major problems. The least was that despite White buying a company that made diesel engines for ships, they never developed a competitive engine for trucks. The major, and eventually fatal issue was that to acquire those companies and build the plant, they took on a substantial amount of debt! When I was in Business School at Columbia White had no debt! But their buying spree and debt accumulation occurred after I got out of Columbia in 1968. A related problem to the debt which to this day I do not know how was overlooked was that unlike truck dealers, Ag dealers took their equipment on consignment, meaning they did not pay White until the equipment was sold. Truck dealers pay when they receive their trucks! This meant that White had to absorb the cost of the Ag dealer’s inventory which created a severe cash crunch for the White Motor Corporation. Recall, my father was the President of the White Truck Division. Because of this during a recession in the early 70’s White Motor Corporation was facing bankruptcy!

There was another company in Cleveland named White Consolidate. At that time an entirely different company that was what was called a “conglomerate,” that is they owned companies in many different industries. They made and imported White Sewing Machines, appliances that Sears put their name on, etc. The man who had built White Consolidated, Ed Reddig, wanted to buy White Motor and could afford to pay down their debt and restructure the company. He traveled with Dad around the company closing inefficient plans. And he wanted to reorganize the Ag operation---it turned out there was equipment still sitting on Ag dealers’ lots that could be over 3 years old! Unfortunately, a Federal Judge ruled in 1970 that White would be monopolistic if White Consolidated bought White Motor and thus killed the merger! Had that gone through my father would have been quite wealthy as most of his assets were in White stock. (The same judge, Batiste, ruled that students in Cleveland schools needed to be bussed to integrate the schools---and that destroyed the Cleveland School System which is still trying to recover.) White and their financiers then brought in “Bunkie” Knudson, son of a very famous man who mobilized US industry for WWII. “Bunkie” was a car guy who had been at GM and Ford. Dad and “Bunkie” clashed on several fronts, most important being that Dad was focused on selling highly customized fleets of trucks to operators and “Bunkie” had more of a “car dealer” mindset.” “Bunkie” fired Dad. Amusingly, when “Bunkie” joined White Motor he was proclaimed Cleveland’s “man of the year.” One year later he moved White Motor out of Cleveland to Greensboro, NC.

Ed Reddig then hired Dad to run the Hupp Company, which originally was an electric car company around 1910. When Dad became President of Hupp it was a mini conglomerate itself and he spent a good bit of his time weeding out non profitable elements. Reddig died before the terms that Reddig had offered Dad were completed and the new President of White did not honor all of Reddig’s commitments. After two or three years Dad retired. He did not handle retirement well unfortunately. After being extremely active and important, he told my sister that “Well, I guess now I’m just an old fart!” He suffered a stroke about 6 months later. He lived for about 3 or 4 years but his speech and walking were impaired, he was an invalid. That’s when I left Atlanta and came up to help my mother take care of him.

Couple other things I’ll mention. The year I was born (1941) he was club champion at the Canterbury Country Club in Cleveland. In the 80”s he was President of the Mayfield Country Club. He played Professional Football for one year in the 30’s. However Pro Football in the 30’s was infinitely different than now, he got $200 per game! Another thing to be aware of—Dad traveled all the time. The airplanes he traveled in were prop planes—jets had not been introduced yet. White’s corporate plane was a Beechcraft G18, a twin radial engine prop. Point here is that prop planes could not fly up over storms like jets—they had to fly in the clouds and in turbulence.



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fall 2013 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Rachel joined the board of River School!
2) Daddy went to Burning Man.
3) Thanksgiving Grand Junction visit.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Pearl Necklace, ZZ Top, El Loco (Released 1981)
2) Default, Django Django, Django Django (Released 2012)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Orchid Mantis

Luke & Dad's Seventh Year and a Half

The fly infestation is my fault. Hoping to encourage your blooming interest in nature, I showed you a picture of the beautiful Orchid Mantis. The creature evolved alongside the pink orchid in Malaysia achieving stunning mimicry. Even its legs resemble flower petals.

I should’ve realized the image would lead beyond appreciation to an inevitable question: “Can we buy an orchid mantis?" With a sly wink to myself I said, “if they sell them!” believing no one sold such things.

Of course they frikken sell them. They sell everything online. What was I thinking? And, god knows, we can't just get one.

I am raising two baby Orchid Mantids, one in each of your rooms. They are each named after an Orc of the Tolkien kind (get it, Orc-id), but I don't like the joke so I never remember their names.

I now have a non-paying full-time job keeping the Orcs alive because you kids, shockingly, aren’t helping. It turns out, unlike puppies, the mantises themselves aren’t hard to raise when young. Its their food that's the problem.

I'm not a doctor because biology, in my mind, is the study of the phlegmy, fleshy, sticky stuff of life. Blood, saliva, puss, put a bullet in me. I'll take the logical cleanliness of a physical law, no matter how imaginary, above the wet, messy study of carbon-based lifeforms. Even being a businessman is cleaner.

But now I’m an expert at conjuring swarms of blue bottle flies, the bugs the mantis eat, out of homemade cultures of squirming, slimy larvae I mix in jars. Disgusting. Even worse is the logistics of getting flies to go where you want them to go. Coaxing the flies out of the culture jars and into the Mantis’ Hexadrome home has been a monumental disaster. You see, flies fly everywhere. Even they don't know where the are going. Everywhere but into the Hexadrome.

Now we have a fly infestation in our house. I spend a good part of everyday murdering piles of flies with a fly swatter. I regret, everyday, getting twelve foot ceilings. At night-time, the flies that escaped my scourge congregate around our bedroom reading lights as we settle down for the evening. Nothing is more irritating than random buzzing when trying to sleep. Imagine the withering looks I get.

I've developed wicked tricks to subdue the creatures to transport them more easily. Tossing the culture jar into the freezer is the most nefarious but efficacious. By chilling them, I effectively cast an Immobilize Spell by slowing their metabolic rate to, well, cold. I pour them into the Hexadrome before they reanimate.

This would be great if I didn’t pathologically forget about the jars once ensconced in the freezer. Chilling them slows them; freezing them kills them.

When I go to hell, I’m going to be attacked by legions of very frosty and flattened flies.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Winging It

Cash & Dad's Fifth Year and a Quarter

With your mom out for the morning, I was having trouble preparing lunch for school. I was running out of time. I'm not a veteran lunch man. I couldn't remember all the ingredients and my augmented memory, Evernote, failed me.

I was peppering you with tense questions with ziplock baggies flying when your hands went to your hips. You peered at me suspiciously. Then came a question that sent me spiraling.

"Dad, do you really know how to be a dad?"

What can I say? I'm forty-four and I'm still winging it. I haven't grown up at all in my expert opinion. In fact, most adults I know haven't grown up. We all see each other the same way we did in third grade: everyone winging it ... perhaps with more grace.

The grace we have probably rises from the proximity of death. When you are young, death is over the horizon. You are immortal as far as the eye can see. You have bigger problems like being popular or not so much! The trouble with immortality is people's opinions matter more if they stick to you for eternity. No wonder Zeus and teens have such a hard time socially.

Being a "grown up" is suddenly seeing the black ship and a lot closer than you expected. Death has a funny way of making you care a lot less about what people think. Suddenly you have nothing to lose. You can wing it without baggage and who cares if you make mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the more gracefully you deal with them and the fewer you will make.

So, I know little about being a dad mostly from said mistakes. The nice thing is, you know even less about being a son! So, we're both surfing the churning uncertainty as best we can.

But I admit you do have a certain style, a panache that I admire. The first time a woman asked me to marry, I panicked and said yes! That move made for five years of hard lessons and a future weird conversation with you that I dread. "You were married to someone else before mom?!" Ugh.

Your first marriage proposal came much earlier from Sophia in your kindergarten Cardinal class. Your response plays homage to the Golden Fleece task list Pelias imposed on Jason and his Argonauts.

You said you'd marry Sophia if she completed one hundred steps. I've documented the first five below:

1) Watch every episode of Dragon Riders of Berk, all three seasons.
2) Name the four teenagers who were originally trained by Sensei Wu in Ninjago.
3) Discover who the father of the Green Ninja is (hint: episode 10).
4) Beat my brother in Stratego.
5) Build me an awesome two-level house complete with cool weapons in MineCraft.

I haven't seen an engagement letter so I'm thinking you put up a pretty good hurdle. I imagine she got tripped up on your ingenious one hundredth and final task:

100) Go back to step number 1.



Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer 2013 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Sam got married (to Sam)!
2) Family reunion at a ranch in Colorado.
3) Avid for Adventure camp in Boulder!

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Doing it right, Daft Punk, Random Access Memories (released 2013)
2) Secret Journey, The Police, Ghost in the Machine (1982)
3) Motherboard, Daft Punk, Random Access Memories (released 2013)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pirates & Knights

Luke & Dad's Sixth Year and Three Quarters

As a child peering through an airplane window, I saw the cars far below and perceived toys. I couldn't fathom the miniature cars real. Adulthood is looking down and seeing just plain cars, not being able to fathom having seen toys.

Childhood reality is colored vy imagination first and foremost, not greyed by the black and whites of adulthood. To you, the pine trees adjacent our house are a sure congregating place for local wood pixies, not a subspecies of XXX that must've cost thousands.

As a little boy, I too saw magic in trees. My mom took me to visit London and aside from taking an accidental plunge into a fish pond as Londoners were taking tea -- a story Grangie will never let me forget -- I visited St. Paul's Cathedral where a very old oak tree lived. Convinced the gnarled but grand tree was housing for a faery, I stayed glued to it as the tour group carried my mom away. I wasn't leaving until I caught a glimpse.

Playing with you summons back that kid staring at the oak. Together with Cash, the three of us often live in an imaginary world, reenacting battles from our favorite books or movies. We've created a game we call Pirates & Knights fashioned after the classic roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. Everything about Pirates & Knights is made up from the characters you role play to the environment you explore and monsters you face.

Well, one thing isn't imaginary: the infusion of probability. Every material action in the game is assigned a probabilistic hurdle to achieve it. The probabilities are calculated taking attributes of your character and matching those against your foe, a mathematical process that makes you adept at calculating figures in your head. Dice are rolled to establish the outcome. I hope an appreciation of math, probability and risk results.

Together, you and Cash have explored several worlds as the characters Aragon and Firechain respectively. Aragon's name isn't the most original; his image is: a formidable mage elf shrouded in shimmering black, armed with a dark staff topped with an ice-blue sapphire of power. Firechain is a reflection of his puppeteer: dashing, brave and a taste for flashy things. He is an elf like Aragon but there the similarities end. Firechain is a fighter through and through with a touch of pirate in his smirk. He sports shiny red armor and flaming swords, two of them, that have been attributed the team's most famous kill blows.

As a duo, you've conquered mystical beasts, solved challenging riddles and plundered treasure. You've saved a few maidens (though the maidens themselves were hardly incentive enough without treasure). Even the vilest of emerald dragons, Dexet, could not stop you. Aragon entrapped the beast in an inventive sphere of lightening and FireChain the plunged his searing sword into the beast, smiting him.

The reward of Pirates & Knights is watching your imagination animate you. You both jump up and down, wildly gesticulating, screaming as you engage invisible combatants. Furthermore, the activity has ignited an outpouring of creativity untethered by a published story or movie. Original drawings of your adventures have multiplied throughout our household. Unsatisfied with my monsters, you guys have taken to creating all manner of creatures that we've consolidated into a monster compendium.

Needless to say, fostering the imagination is important to me. Seeing your ability to harness it and forge creative work is awesome. These abilities have shown up at River School where your teachers, commenting on your progress in the Otter class, said you are the most creative kid in class!

That's not the only thing they commented on. At our final parent teacher conference of the yeare, Mrs. XXX was gushing a bit on how likable you are saying,

"I want to have a beer with Luke when he is 21 years old."



Sunday, June 30, 2013


Cash & Dad's Fifth Year

Being your parent is entering every conversation in the middle. You are a ticker-tape talker. No audience is necessary. You are perfectly happy talking to yourself.

Dialog with you means leaping between Cashy diatribes into a fleeting gasp of breath. Missing is being struck by your train of thought. You've even reflected on the problem yourself:

"Dad, why won't my mouth stop talking?"

Good Question. Unfortunately, your brother is also a monologian. In our house, competing confabulation trains run in opposite directions but on the same track. Collision is inevitable. So, we dread the following five words:

"Its my turn to talk!"

Portending a crash, this steam whistle thrusts me into the role of traffic controller between two boys whose sole interests are Ninjago and Star Wars. Nonetheless, rationing out airtime slots on whether Sensi Blue or Skywalker is better with a saber is preferable to the violence these very shows condone. Parents tell me I'll miss this period when you are older … hmmm.

Now and then we have quiet in the house (usually during intense lego building exercises). I’ve learned, however, that a silent Cash isn’t a quiet minded one. You are always noodling on something. Engaging an otherwise quiet Cash is, again, entering a conversation in the middle.

Yesterday when I got home from work you were quietly building a lego race-car of your own design. I asked,

“How was school today? Any girls try and kiss you?”

 My line of inquiry was ignored altogether.

“Dad, are we Jewish?"

Clearly, I interrupted an internal powwow. Attaining the same plane as you is challenging, a puzzle. The pieces are disparate and I try sorting them out, usually with follow up questions.

“Cash, we aren’t Jewish but my friend Gregg Brown is, at least most of the time. Why do you ask?”

“What if God made everyone babies at once?”

Responding to a question with a question is a typical Cash move. Embedded is a breadcrumb of theme, in this case God and perhaps reproduction. Still, I usually remain pretty much lost. In this case, I engaged anyway.

“We’d all be very hungry. That reminds me, when are you going to help with breakfast? Anyway, why do you ask? Has someone told you about making babies? If so, who?"

“Dad, who are the people that celebrate St. Patrick's Day? Do they like God?”

The third round of questions always annoys me. I typically reply with a partially correct but somewhat misleading response because, hell, maybe its your turn to be disoriented.

“The people that celebrate St. Patrick’s Day are in Ireland and Savanna. I’ve seen the Savanna river dyed green to celebrate.”

“Dad, is God everywhere?”

Now this is a question I’ve heard before, from one Luke Moore Weller. So I have a tried and true answer, definitive enough to exit the conversation maze, albeit still lost.

“Yes. God is everywhere, even inside you and me.”

As I walked away from the exchange, you make a request.

“Dad, come here.”

I walked to you. You motioned that I should lean down. You grabbed my head, put your forehead to mine and looked directly into my eyes and exclaimed,

“Hello God!”



Friday, May 31, 2013

Spring 2013 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Moved to Potomac house!
2) Skiing in Aspen with the Magruders.
3) Memorial Day visit to Atlanta.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Lonesome Dreams, Lord Huron, Lonesome Dreams (released 2012)
2) The Unforgettable Fire, U2, Unforgettable Fire (released 1984)
3) Nostrand, Ratatat, Classics (released 2006)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Luke & Daddy's Sixth Year and Three Quarters

Outnumbered by girls two-to-one, the four boys of the 1st grade Otter Class are a tight crew. You call yourselves “The Gang.” On the playground, you play together, hard and fast, like boys play. But one afternoon, a game of chase got out of hand. Your friend Haddis, pursuing you but loosing ground, lunged and grabbed your shirt wheeling you around. You lost balance, flailed and whacked Haddis hard in the face. You bust his lip.

The Gang and a Special Someone

Any hint of blood at River School lands you in the principal’s office, or the equivalent anyway: Rachel XXX’s desk. By the way, you beat me to the principal's office by two years. In third grade, Gregg Brown and I landed in Principal McKenna's office for mock fighting in the lunch line. Fortunately, you treated the situation more seriously than me. Where I snickered uncontrollably infuriating the rather stiff principal at Sope Creek Elementary, you were remorseful, in tune with the severity of someone getting hurt. 

The day of the incident, Rachel and I got a phone call from the school. They said it was  an accident. We came and picked you up as a family to ensure you got the message: this wasn't acceptable, accident or no. As punishment, we took away a few privileges to reinforce the point, but we were careful not to overdo it.

Consequences are funny things though, rarely efficacious through parental means. Rather, they worm their way in organically and not always in proportion to the offense. In your case, the day after the playground incident, you discovered The Gang had evicted you -- they would no longer play with you.

You were hurt, and as parents, we were heartbroken. We fought the instinct to intervene because we wanted you to deal with the adversity yourself. Living in a protective bubble never breeds tolerance to germs.

Still, dealing with the twists and turns in friendships is tough. Self identity is partly a reflection off friends. So I was terribly impressed with your matter-of-fact approach to your banishment. Sure, you were disappointed, but you objectively contemplated ways of dealing with it. With input from your mom, you decided to seek out new playmates rather than pandering for readmission. You decided to be your own man.

Executing on that plan took discipline, and you had it. For the next couple weeks, you played with other kids and developed new friends, allowing time and space to heal wounds. Soon, The Gang invited you back into the brotherhood. I was impressed that you didn't get swept away by the hurt, but were able to put it aside and act on a plan.

I hope the experience reverberates because such enlightened behavior isn't a noted trait of our family. We have a particularly notorious event in our history, the story of Hannah Dustin, a story Grangie excitedly shares with you guys (to my embarrassment). I've asked Grangie to share that story here below:
Picture a beautiful woman looking wild, furious and dangerous holding a tomahawk across her chest. That is your 16ish times great grandmother, Hannah Dustin. You are direct descendants of this powerful, heroic and intrepid woman from Massachusetts. In 1697 her village was raided by Iroquois braves in search of whisky. Hannah had just given birth to Martha four days before. Her husband fled to safety with her 8 other children. She stood ground. Hannah witnessed the killing of her neighbors and fought with the baby in her arms. An enraged brave dismounted and seized the baby from Hannah and brutally killed it by striking it against a tree. 
Thus began a historic retaliation. She enlisted a companion and followed the Indians to to New Hampshire. She found them asleep by a fire in the moonlight. She killed and then scalped 12 of them and escaped. She was the first woman in the United States to have a statue erected in her honor for bravery in defending her village. The irony: some of her own family later married Iroquois and Mohawk Indians. 
Much controversy follows this story, since the Indians suffered greatly too. Scholars have studied this case for many generations and defend her case with stuff like self defense and emotional trauma. Hannah's later generations married into the Cheney family, creating the most famous and prominent family in New England.  Your great grandmother (my grandmother) was Mary Dustin Cheney and she married Andre Joubert ("Andrew"). I called her Molly. That's how I became a Joubert (before becoming a Weller).
Unfortunately, the story has captured your imagination. I caught you and Darius acting out the events, screaming, "Take that Indians!" Imagine the horror of your teachers when you turned in this comic strip:

Yep, that's the Hannah Dustin story, in living color, scalps and all! Two steps forward, one step back.



Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dragon Story

Cash & Daddy's Fourth Year and Three Quarters

A parent's popularity with his or her children ebbs and flows over time. A new "favorite" rises every week or two amongst mom, dad, dog or cartoon character as predictably and repeatedly as swells in the sea. However, I recently realized my Cashy tide had been out for a while. I hadn't achieved top status for a time so I started wondering if I was doing something wrong.

As I took inventory of my behavior, I realized two things. First was that our family flight pattern led to me missing time with you. Any time Rachel and I divided to conquer where Mommy goes one direction, say to the store, and Daddy the other, you went with Mom and Luke with me.

This entrenched behavior was a relic of your infant years. When you were little, Mommy taking the baby was a necessity as food was integrated with her body! Well, you are not the baby any longer, but we were unconsciously stuck in the grove. 

My overly efficient mindset was the second problem. When dressing, brushing teeth or eating breakfast, I expected the capabilities of an older child. I was pushing you too hard and too often you were facing impatience. That's no fun to be around.

Putting together the lack of together time and the impatience when we were finally together ... well, no wonder you were not jumping for joy! You probably inferred colors of preference and, no matter how incorrect, concluded you hadn't achieved favorite status yourself in a while! Run the path of cause and effect as a parent and you'll often land at your own back door.

Stricken by my poor self-awareness, I set out to rectify these issues. Divide and conquer scenarios turned into jump-balls balancing time allocation between sons. I relaxed my obsession with speed and put a smile on my face when I saw you. One secret to human connection: nothing sets the stage better than a smile. It opens people and, inexplicably, brightens your own mood.

My standing with you improved markedly, but I still hadn't achieved a 52 week high. My salvation came in the simple art of listening. As a young family, the roller coaster of each day leaves shockingly little time for full attention, for true listening. One night as I put you to bed, fortunately, I was present and listening as you asked a favor.

"Will you tell me a dragon story?"

What?! Ok. I conjured a story about a little boy who followed a shooting star as it fell from the heavens. Locating the fallen star, he discovered cracked crystal, and inside, a baby silver dragon. The pair grew up together and eventually saved their village, repelling an attack by an evil jade dragon. You were delighted, and every night afterwards you requested another story.

Imagining a new tale every night stretched my creative limits, but somehow I managed and introduced creatures like a parrot-dragon, a water breathing serpent dragon, a moon dragon who couldn't stay awake, and a farting dragon whose gas was a more formidable weapon than the searing flames of Smaug. One night at the end of my story, you hugged me close and said,  "You are the best daddy ever!" You meant it. I felt like a dragon.

This quarter the family went to Aspen with the Magruders. Going into the the trip, you were incredibly fired up about skiing. We had no idea where the passion came from, but upon arrival you pointed those skis straight down the hill as if you'd been skiing a hundred years. Daredevil!

Charmingly, as you hurtled down the hills, you would sing to yourself. You do this often, singing to yourself, when engaged in favorite activities. Its very cool, even more so because you do it for yourself and only yourself.

However, that musical nature didn't quite prepare us for a scene at the Pine Creek Cookhouse after a nice dinner with a group of parents and kids. A band kicked up some tunes and, when some of the kids commenced dancing, you rushed the floor with a towel and starting swinging it above your head like a mad metal rock head. Like a daredevil.



Thursday, February 28, 2013

Winter 2013 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Sold the MacArthur house!
2) Rachel went to Barcelona.
3) Rachel's second River School Auction succeeded!

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Change, Churchill, EP (released 2012)
2) Safe and Sound, Capital Cities, EP (released 2012)
3) Where the Kids Are, Blondfire, EP (released 2011)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Heroes Attack

Luke & Dad's Fifth Year and a Half

A horde of alien robots has colonized your bedroom. They’re formed up in two neat rows on a wooden chest, waiting at attention for the commands of Mr. Makuru, the chief architect of Makuhero City where the machines originate, a leader that masquerades as an earthbound six-year-old.

The robotic heroes are pledged to uphold peace and prosperity for the universe, but they look menacing to me. The automatons stand watch over a mess of clothes and toys whose disorder stands in stark contrast to the robots’ orderly phalanx. But don’t be fooled, in chaos there is order; everything in that room has its place apparently. I pity the soul that dares move anything. 

That is, if you can make it in. Ever since the invasion, the entry to the robot sanctorum is a portal sealed. Wayward humans, particularly those greater or less than six years old, are restricted access. Mr. Makuru protects his minions. Enforcement of the “keep out” practice is a new phenomenon, one I’m not thrilled with since I paid for the hardwood within those bounds. But that hasn't been as bad as this:

"Dad, Lego Hero Factory is cooler than Lord of the Rings." 


Your Hero Factory robot "addiction" (your word, not mine) does have a wonderful side effect: igniting your entrepreneurial spirit. Early this fall, you decided to make some coin by writing and illustrating a book about these mechanical creatures. The inspiration to write, a task you normally adroitly avoid, says a lot about your passion for these characters.

You slapped on a 50¢ price, took over our color copier/scanner and turned into a salesman. You sold copies to my mom, the Kramers, a plumber and our painters among others. You learned that the first book is the most expensive to develop but that copies are near free -- the economic cornerstone of software economics too! 

I bought a copy. Here is the work:

Heros Attack by Luke Weller   50¢

When the Heros were in their hideout, the Heros saw the bad guys. The Heros fought and fought.

The Heros won. When the bad guys were in their hideout, they were plotting their next move.

The bad guys figured out their next move. They built a robot. When the Heros returned, the robot zapped them with its laser beam. The Heros destroyed the robot. Hurray for the Heros!

Since creating this piece, the quality of your writing has vastly improved. Rachel has been a big part of the reason, but I recently uncovered another source of motivation during a River School field trip.

I drove you and a little girl named Sophie XXXX to a DC aquarium specializing in indigenous fish species. I noticed immediately that you acted, well, older around Sophie. Evaporated were the antics you normally engage in with, say, Charlie McGruder where I am an target to harass. 

This time I was a source of infinite embarrassment. A Sherlockian observer would've put things together but your dense father only figured it out later when you asked one too many questions about girls. 

Luke, you have your first crush! And, surprise, Sophie is the best writer in the class.