Tag Archives: kids

There Are No Stranger Things Than Kids

I am planning to re-watch all eight hours of Netflix’s Stranger Things.  I can’t help it.  I really seriously love that show.  And the reason is the kids in the series.  Yes, it was set in the 80’s, a decade I long to return to, but I wasn’t a kid myself in the 80’s.  That was my first decade as a teacher.  The thing is… I taught each and every one of the kids in that series.  I admit, they had different names and lived in different bodies, but they were the same faces, the same personalities.

And it is not so much the characters the kids inhabit in the show, though they were obviously cast as themselves.  It is the real-life screwiness that Jimmy Fallon brings out with the silly string that I recognize.


Finn Wolfhard’s character, Michael, is basically me.  The dreamer determined to make the fantastic become true.  And when they played Dungeons and Dragons in the basement, he was the Dungeon Master.  That was me.  The teller of the stories, the maker of the meaning.  He’s the one that creates the Demogorgon adventure that eerily comes to life.  He is also the one that finds and befriends the mysterious Eleven.  He is the driving that leads them all to the inevitable conclusion of the adventure.


And while I never met anyone quite like the mysterious Eleven, Millie Bobby Brown is definitely no stranger to me.  She is bubbly, outgoing, and utterly charming.  She can channel Nikki Minaj.  I must’ve taught at least five different versions of Millie in three different schools when I was a teacher.


She makes the weird and otherworldly character of Eleven become believable through the sheer force of a natural talent for empathy and understanding.  She is a highly intelligent girl with a knack for making things work.


I have also taught about four different incarnations of the Dustin character’s actor, Gaten Matarazzo.  The goofy but courageous kid with a broad sense of humor and a focus on food is a very common type of junior high kid.  And while he isn’t usually a leader in the classroom, he’s the one you turn to when you need help getting the group to choose the right path.


I swear to you, I know all these kids, even though I have never met them.  You see, when you are a teacher for long enough, everyone in the world comes in through your door.  You have to get to know them and learn to at least like them if not love them.  You do the thing for long enough, and you learn that there are a limited number of different faces and personalities that God distributes over time and circumstance to many different people.  It is possible to get to know nearly all of them.  And there are no Stranger Things than kids.



Filed under Dungeons and Dragons, horror movie, humor, kids, review of television, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Trudging Towards Tomorrow


My three kids used to be cute, even with goblin grins.

I spent a lot of time yesterday looking at old photos.  The journey seems a lot longer looking back than looking at the trail ahead.  But there are good things beside every signpost on the road behind us.  I am proud of where we’ve been.

The Three Faces of the Princess at the Kingdom Hall;

  1. “We’re going to MacDonald’s afterwards, right?”
  2. “What do you mean REAL FOOD?”
  3. “Yes, that was me that farted.”

We are basically right with God.  Oh, I know I haven’t been a very good Jehovah’s Witness the last three or four years.  Being an atheist might have something to do with it.  But I actually  believe in God.  It is just that my God is a bit bigger than theirs.  My God is not some old man with a white beard on a golden chair in some invisible dimension.  He is everything there is.  And he doesn’t have to promise me eternal life and goodies for a lifetime of doing what I believe is good and right and benefits the lives of others.  I don’t do it for theological dog treats.  I do it because I know in my heart it is right.  And I live for the here and now.  Because that is the only part of existence that is relevant to me here and now.  “I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, I have a right to be here.” (from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann)


We used to do a lot of camping and traveling.  We have seen some amazing things in amazing places.


The Grand Canyon is improved by having my middle son posed in front of it.

At the Grand Canyon Railway Station;

In a land where dinosaurs once roamed;


You can find dinosaurs for tourists without spending big bucks to visit Jurassic World.


Don’t worry.  The Princess is the scariest dino running with this pack.  That goofasaurus rex is going to regret that nose-bump to the back of the head.


In the end, she ate every last one.


But my kiddos hatched a replacement, so they are not personally responsible for the re-extinction of the dinosaurs.

Appreciating nature;


Posing with dead nature.

Posing with living nature, including wild and feral cousins, is also fun.


Filipino nature and wild and feral Filipino cousins.

And we have allowed ourselves to have fun along the way.

But children grow up and begin to have their own lives.  They get jobs.  They learn to drive.  And we have to fearfully accept the consequences of the monsters we have probably created.

As I continue trudging down the road of life, I am somewhat weary because I am old.  My bones have a lot of walking-around mileage on them.  My heart has a limited number of beats remaining.  But my biggest regret is… you can only go back and walk the path again through memory and old pictures.  Time and I march onward.



Filed under autobiography, commentary, compassion, daughters, family, feeling sorry for myself, goofiness, humor, kids, photos

School’s Out…


“School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes”

-Alice Cooper

Once again it is that day that every kid prays for… The last day of school.

My daughter doesn’t really get it, though.  She doesn’t really understand the sentiment of the poor misguided school girl named Alice Cooper.  Kids are supposed to hate school.  Their teachers are supposed to be witches and warlocks who live for creating misery in the lives of their students.  My daughter should know that already, since her mother and I are both teachers.  (I am retired now, actually… and I do miss making kids’ lives total misery.)  She is actually going to miss her middle school and all her middle school teachers.


She was up late last night using air-dried clay to make dragon sculptures to give to each of her teachers.  Her art teacher was recently telling me about how wonderful she is at art and how wonderful she is as a student during a recent scholastic awards dinner.  In fact, most of her teachers only have good things to say about her work in middle school.  And teachers are supposed to hate kids and hate teaching, right?  They are supposed to only be in teaching for the paycheck, marking time until they retire, living lives full of bitterness and revengeful interactions with children.

O, I am guessing that I am actually the problem here.   I never felt the way teachers are supposed to feel about kids.  In fact, I… like kids.  Oh, no!  The secret is out.  I miss being a teacher.  I miss the kind of devotion you get from the kind of students who stay up late making clay dragons for you as a goodbye gift.

While I was a teacher, we were not allowed to be Facebook friends with students.  Society frowns on teachers getting too close to students.  But now that I will never teach again, or be in the same room with any of them again, I have been saying yes to students’ friend requests.  So, I am now going to share with you pictures of former students that they have shared with me.  Of course, I won’t tell you their names.  I don’t want to embarrass them by revealing that they don’t hate all of their teachers the way they should.

So, there’s photographic proof that once I actually was a teacher.  And I know that it probably also proves I didn’t do a very good job of making their lives miserable and making them hate me the way I should have done.  But I miss it terribly.  And I would work harder at being bitter and crabby if only I could go back and do it some more.

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Filed under autobiography, education, high school, humor, kids, teaching

The Uncritical Critic Watches Another Quirky Movie


Yesterday was a weird day.  If you looked carefully at the mental map I made of Mickey’s head the other day, you realize that Uncle Slappy’s Big Box of Weirdness occupies a key position in the top center.  I had a traffic accident in the parking lot of Long Middle School yesterday morning, banging bumpers with a lady named Vilma.  The sun was in my eyes, and she started to go, then suddenly stopped for no reason I could see.  No damage was done to anything but my pride.  My wife put her parents, Tatang and Inang, on an airplane yesterday bound for the Philippine Islands, going home for a visit.  Afterwards, my wife was feeling mortal, betting me that she was going to die before me even though I have the head start of six incurable diseases and surviving cancer once already.  There are no symptoms for her impending heart attack, so I will probably win that bet.  But the point is, it was a weird time yesterday to stumble weirdly over a weird and wacky movie on Netflix called Moonrise Kingdom.  It is a Romeo and Juliet sort of story about two twelve-year-olds who fall in love at first sight, and though their families try to keep them apart, they end up together.  Thankfully it is not a Shakespearian Tragedy where everybody dies at the end, though Sam is struck by lightning and the big storm nearly drowns all the boy scouts.  It is more like a Shakespearian Comedy where everybody gets married at the end, though the twelve-year-olds don’t get married at the end… rather, they are married by the middle.


Wes Anderson is the genius director behind movies like;


None of which I have seen, but now have to watch ALL of them sooner or later.  Kinda like the mad quest to see every Tim Burton movie ever made.  I am one of the few idiots out there who think Dark Shadows was a truly wonderful movie, and along with Edward Scissor-hands, one of the finest things Johnny Depp has ever done.

In Moonrise Kingdom Anderson uses tracking shots at the beginning that shift quickly from one room to the next in a way that invokes an old-time slide show.  The story is set in 1965 in Maine, and is filled with all kinds of iconic references to things we 60’s kids all vividly recall.

The movie also tells the love story of Sam and Suzy with a painter’s sense of iconic pictures that focus you on important plot points and themes.



And there are numerous quotable bits that make the movie what we teachers refer to as a text-rich environment, complete with phony kids’ books and maps and notes.


The all-star cast is pretty good, too.


This is now one of my new favorite movies.  It is a happy-ending-type fairy tale with no fairies in it.  It is full of ineffectual and incompetent adults who have rules of behavior like grown-ups and motivations like goofy kids… just like real life.  The plot is driven by the notion that anything you do in life is a mistake, and mistakes have consequences, but you have to do them anyway because, well… that’s life.

Am I telling you that you should watch this movie too?  Well, you should… but, no.  I am simply gushing about this quirky movie because I like it, and yesterday was a very weird day.


Filed under goofiness, humor, movie review, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism


A new doll bought to combat depression.  Part of a collection of Tinkerbell fairy dolls.

A new doll bought to combat depression. Part of a collection of Tinkerbell fairy dolls.

I have basically written an awful awful lot about my toys.  (The awful is repeated on purpose because I have been having a really awful time this week for reasons I will post about if I survive them).  And there is a reason a retired old man who seems to be rotting away into a second childhood is so obsessed with toys.  Playing is my primary goal for every day right now because darkness is closing in and, while play for children is practice for life in the future, play for an old man can be the reanimation of all the good things in life.

A Lego steam engine and a 1000-piece puzzle that my wife bought me to cheer me up.

A Lego steam engine and a 1000-piece puzzle that my wife bought me to cheer me up.

I have been a toy-maker and a toy-restorer as a part of my over-all quest to be an artist.  I even made some money with an online e-Bay store where I sold collectibles and restored toys.  I bought toys from Goodwill and re-sale stores, repaired them and cleaned them, and sold them for twice the sum I bought them for.  I also made a few porcelain dolls in a kiln I bought in the 1990’s when my mother and I became porcelain doll-makers.  I would show you some of my babies, but the real live children have managed to break all the dolls except for a couple my mother made.  (Well, toys are made to be played with, right?)  But I do still have many of the repaired and cleaned toys that I either didn’t sell or couldn’t bring myself to part with.

Toys in every corner of the house, dang it!

Toys in every corner of the house, dang it!

I have also been a model railroader since childhood, spending countless hours building tunnels and repainting rolling stock, and making buildings and scenery from kits and plaster.  I haven’t rebuilt my layout since moving north away from South Texas, but maybe I will get to that too in my retirement and second childhood.

I do still have some trolley street scenes on the tops of book cases.



And toys serve as memory objects.  They can do magic with time and space.  I have saved many of my toys from childhood.  Toys were precious and mostly Christmas and birthday gifts.  I learned to save and salvage them because they treated me well, and… well, I owed them the same in return.  My own children were not like that.  They loved toys to pieces and even sometimes ate them, to a point where many of them were un-fixable junk.  But toys bring things back to life from the long-gone past.  Take for instance the toy in this next picture;


No, I don’t mean the baby doll.  He grew up and joined the Marine Corps.  I mean the stuffed white tiger in the background. That was the first toy I ever bought for baby Dorin.  And it is still with us, though not as fluffy and pretty as it was in the picture.  My daughter, the Princess, inherited it and christened it “Baby Tiger”.  That is, of course, still its name to this very day.  I look at it and see all three of them… my super-destructo toy-flinging and clockwork-wrecking children.  And it is the toys that we have all played with that still link us all together even though they are almost grown.





Filed under humor, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

A Silly Side-Note and Picture Paffooney

pink n blue22

I was trying to figure out a way to cheat today and post something that didn’t take a lot of time and effort, but appealed to an audience looking for humor, art, poop jokes, cute kids, or inspiration, or whatever the heck else people make the mistake of looking at my blog for.  I came up with this amalgam.  Amalgam is a good word.  It means different things all mashed up together to make something new.  You will note I took several old things I have already done and mushed them together into a single bizarre Paffooney picture of mostly pink and blue.  I promise that I will work harder tomorrow to do whatever it is that I actually do… and for today… well, it isn’t totally bad.  I usually do very similar stuff, but with way more words.

Here is a close-up of the prose-poem in case you don’t want to make the effort it takes to click on the picture and blow it up a bit;

pink n blue212

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Filed under humor, kids, Paffooney

My Children’s Art

My own three kids have taken up the artist’s pScan0011encil tracks.  It is probably true that no one ever had a bad habit that didn’t get passed on to their children.  Drawing too much is my back-clinging monkey.  I ignore other things I am supposed to do, have to do, even will die if I don’t do in order to keep on drawing.  My two arthritic claw hands have been worked into pretzel knots by the incessant urge to draw.  But not everything they got from me in the drawing habit is totally bad.

The Princess actually uses colored pencil to do her art.

Oldest son Dorin (his name in my fiction) has caught the dungeon and dragony bug from me and likes to conjure imaginary monsters.

I was not able to secure a Henry picture for this post, but he does it too.  He has won school art class awards for his work and one of his pieces still hangs in his former middle school.

So, there you have it.  I have passed on the gene that causes this craziness.  And there is no cure but to draw endlessly.



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June 15, 2014 · 3:59 pm

Space Ninjas and other Bright Ideas from a Dim Bulb



As cartoonists go, I am rather a failure and a flop.  I have not made a single dollar on my cartoon art.  Instead it has all gone into lessons at school, charity programs, and various role-playing games with geeky boys.  Still, I have brilliant insights into what would make good adventure fiction, especially for geeky boys.  You take outer-space teenage travelers, turn them into ninjas with ninjitsu powers, and then give them special mutant mind powers like telekinesis, pyrokinesis, telepathy, and clairvoyance.  Little Mutant Space Ninjas I call them.  And, yes, I know how lame and goofy that all is, but I love it.  I think others will love it too.


These are a few of my Aeroquest mutant space ninjas.  (Left to right; Taffy King, Billy Iowa, Gyro the Nebulon, Sara Smith, Sensei Ged Aero, Ham Aero Junior (an adopted Nebulon), Shu Kwai, Jadalaqstbr, and Alec Songh.)

Kids identify with child heroes.  They also like action, adventure, and wild Sci-Fi special effects.


This it Tiki Astro, the artificial boy.  He’s an ultra high tech metaloid (robot) who is made to be practically indistinguishable from a real boy.  He was built by his “father”, a metaloid nanny-bot that was infected with Ancient technology and adopted the pseudonym Happy Jack.



Space ninjas have to be really cool and really really destructive to capture the interests and imagination of today’s young boys.  This ninja boy is Sejii Killer, the son of the space pirate King Killer.  He can single-handedly mow down whole armies of minions and deadly Nathir plant men.  He can seriously alter the populations of whole worlds.  That’s the kind of killer kid I need to put into space ninja cartoons.


So look out, World!  My cartoon ninja kids from outer space are on their way to invade your sci-fi dreams and adolescent fantasies.


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Many, Many Murphys

In both the books Snow Babies and The Bicycle-Wheel Genius I used the characters of the Magnificent Murphy Clan to weave actual people from my past into my stories.  The Murphys; Mary and Warren, Warren’s father Sean “Cudgel” Murphy, Mary’s and Warren’s kids, Danny, Dilsey, Mike, Little Sean, Daisy, Sarah, Thomas “Pumpkin” Murphy, and Baby Jane all live together in a small, four- bedroom house dubbed “Murphy Mansion”.

Here is a look at a Paffooney of the irrepressible Mary Murphy with daughter Dilsey, and Little Sean on her shoulders., 



And here is one of my anti-hero Pirates, Mike Murphy with his little girlfriend Blueberry Bates.


Mike has the distinction of being in all three of my Norwall Novels, a very rare character indeed.  And, NO, that doesn’t mean that he is me just because we have the same first name… Okay, maybe a little bit me, but that’s just the nature of writing silly novels about adventures through time and space and farm-town Iowa.  I’m hoping to make you curious enough to buy one of my books.  Catch a Falling Star is available as a hardback, paperback, or e-book from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and the link here to I-Universe.  But I know you are far too smart for me, and I can never hook you just on the strength of my nerdy humor or my implausible Paffoonies.  Here’s hoping a look at the Murphys will help.


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Because Naked is Funny



The nightmare is always about standing in front of class naked.  I had that nightmare as a kid.  I have it still as a teacher.  Why do I so fear having everyone see what I most don’t want them to see about me, and all of them really don’t want to see… especially if they have any ghost of an idea what that might actually look like in real life?  I would make an extremely poor nudist.  People would go blind.  Honestly.

And yet, I find myself writing about naked people far more often than is comfortable.  Why?  What’s the matter with me that the topic keeps coming up in my silly little fiction stories?  Why was it a part of my boyhood fixations that just won’t go away?  I am not a pornography writer, er, I mean erotic fiction writer, like some of the indie novelists I have met online.  I don’t actually even read that crap.  And yet, I seem to find the word “penis” used somewhere in every work of fiction that I have so far completed.  That doesn’t seem natural, does it?  Most of the instances in my fiction are not about adult people having sex.  They are instead about kid-people being caught au natural and deeply embarrassed.  They are about unwanted and unexpected revelations of what we most want to conceal about ourselves.  “No, Miss, I don’t have one of those.  And I never go to the bathroom, either.”

So why do I keep pulling the metaphorical privacy curtain away?  Because naked is funny.  Revealing the awkwardness and bare foolishness of our inner selves is what comedy is really all about.

Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man… naked people have little or no influence in society.”  This is a very wise saying that is probably entirely true, and is only mentioned here so that I can quote Mark Twain and pretend that, for a moment at least, I have grown suddenly and comically profound.  But I do think that clothes are the person we construct on the outside of ourselves to influence others and convince them of the lie that we are actually in control of anything at all in our goofy lives.  Under the clothes is more nearly the truth.  We do not choose what we look like.  Our birthday suit leaves no room to make any kind of impression other than, “what a silly-looking blob of naked pink fat that one is!”  And this is why I will at some point in a story strip my characters naked and reveal things about them that they would really rather hide.

Of course, you may have realized about the previous purple-faced paragraph that I am speaking at least partly metaphorically when I say I “strip my characters naked and reveal things about them that they would really rather hide.”   It is the person inside that you are trying to reveal, not necessarily the naked person.   It is probably inappropriate to dwell too much on nakedness when you write primarily for younger readers, even if you have pretensions of writing Mark-Twain-like literary quality kids’ lit the way I allegedly do.  Can you write a book like the Diaries of Adam and Eve in this day and age?  Probably not.  After all, it has naked people in it!

This topic comes up because of my first completed novel (not yet published) called Superchicken.  In that story, the main character, a seventh grader pictured in this week’s paffooney, is asked to be a guest on a camping trip by a pretty young girl who owes him a big favor.  But when she tells him it’s a naturist camp, he thinks that means they study nature and do back-to-nature stuff like making a fire with sticks.  Needless to say, he is surprised to learn that her very liberal parents are allowing her to invite him to a campground full of naked people.  Naked is funny.  But the book will invariably get me into trouble and called a pervert repeatedly.   But should I avoid trying to publish it because of that?  I think…  heck, I could make a lot of money with that kind of controversy.  


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