Scott at 15 (!)

Yesterday was Scott’s birthday, incredibly placing him halfway through his teen years.

He picked out an acoustic guitar that looks and sounds terrific and better yet gives him one to play other than mine. Or so I thought: now he’s got mine to play downstairs and his upstairs. Altogether that makes an acoustic and two electrics (with two amps) in his arsenal, with my acoustic in reserve and somewhere around the house an old folk guitar (though an admittedly lame one). Plus Grandma gave him a mandolin and Granny and Grandaddy gave him a 17-key Kalimba Marimba (with an electric pickup so he can plug it into his amps!). Already in his collection were an electronic keyboard, a melodica and the Reuter family accordion on loan from a cousin. And our upright piano, where it all started.

In case you couldn’t tell, he’s kind of into music. Sometimes I confess I take it for granted that there’s always music in the house and I just tune it out, but I know the day will come when it’s quiet again and I’ll be wishing I still heard those snippets of Pink Floyd, Bowie, Metallica and Rage Against The Machine. If only I could talk him into playing more Beatles. I’ve made the mistake of expressing my distaste for certain tunes, like Wham’s “Last Christmas” (or pretty much Wham’s anything) and the Eagle’s “Hotel California,” which plays so often on Richmond radio that I feel like I’m stuck in a remake of “Groundhog Day.” So whenever Scott sees or hears me coming, he’s sure to stop whatever he’s playing to regale me with one of those songs I hate most. He thinks I don’t know he’s doing it on purpose.

Once in the car I mused aloud how it was interesting that certain chords made the human brain feel good and others were unsettling or jarring, and wondered why. Scott piped up and explained it had to do with frequency ratios and went into which ones worked best. I thought I was asking a rhetorical question. Another time we were raking leaves in the back yard and he stopped under a set of wind chimes. I figured he was just shirking, but then he said, “These are on the pentatonic scale, so whatever random order they strike in, it still sounds good. Otherwise it’d be awful half the time.” Musical mind on that one, for sure.

Scott’s a sweet kid who’s always eager to help out where he can, and it’s joy to have him around. In fact, we hit the jackpot three times in the “kid lottery,” and being a dad is still the coolest job I’ve ever had.

Happy birthday, Scott. Keep on rockin’ in the new year.

The Kids Are Alright

Well, better than alright, really, but this way I get to invoke a catchy song title.

Scott just celebrated his 13th (!) birthday and he kept it a pretty low key affair, hanging around the house with Grandma (visiting from Ohio) and not asking for much in the way of presents.  This despite the fact that before the holidays it looked like he wanted an electric guitar, electric base, amplifier and a keyboard, all at once.  He ended up going for the keyboard for Christmas and has really been enjoying it, but he cooled on the other items, or maybe he’s just eyeing some particularly high-end versions he knows he’ll have to wait for.  Anyway he continues to dazzle us with his piano skills and amassed quite a pile of sheet music to master, from Chopin to Billy Joel to Scott Joplin to Queen.

Grace got to ride a horse recently at a birthday party and had a blast, even if it was only 25 degrees outside at the time.  I had to loan her my gloves because she forgot hers, which was fine until she fed a horse a carrot and got knuckle-deep in slobber.  She also has a decided flair for the dramatic, and a healthy imagination.  I heard her playing with her Barbie dolls when Barbie gave Ken a mighty slap, yelling, “Get out!  Just GET OUT! Nobody proposes to me when I’m already married!!!”  Recently I was driving somewhere or other and heard her making up a song in the back seat.  I don’t remember it all, but these lyrics were a highlight:

“I always knew I’d love you someday,

But not ’til I got to the bottom of my Boy List.

Jason’s impossibly tall now; taller than me, I think.  He’s been making money at his various chess jobs, teaching at local schools and doing some private tutoring on weekends.  It all goes back into chess again to cover tournament entry fees and hotel stays, but he seems to enjoy it.  He’s already making plans for what to do with his time after he completes his Eagle Project, but so far as I know he still hasn’t even picked a project to do.  Details, details.

While storing all the Christmas decorations in the garage, I kept finding a large, collapsed cardboard box in my way, as it has been for what feels like forever.  I finally decided that whatever I was keeping it for, I didn’t need it any longer, so it was time to chuck it.  Halfway through slicing it up with a box cutter, my sense of satisfaction melted to sadness and shame when I spotted a word scrawled in ballpoint pen by a much younger Jason:

 

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It’s hard to make out in the image, but that’s “Transmogrifier,” as in the magical device used in “Calvin and Hobbes” to change little boys and their tigers into all sorts of amazing things.

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Now I feel like a heartless brute, but at least I held onto that one last piece.

It never gets dull with three young kids in the house; new adventures and challenges pop up with such speed and regularity that it’s easy to just concentrate on living in the moment.  Then comes the occasional sobering reminder of just how quickly time is slipping by, and how much things change.  The young Jason who climbed into his Transmogrifier seems as distant and ghostly now as the ancient Egyptians, and that messy inscription seems as precious as any archaeological find.  I’m imagining a third panel to the strip above, with an adult climbing out of the box.  Sometimes it feels that fast.

In the end, though, there’s nothing for it but to rededicate yourself to enjoying each moment while you have it.  The fun’s not over yet.

 

Chess Master Jason

Jason’s been on a tear this year with a series of successful performances in his chess tournaments.  This past weekend, he took first place in the Under 2200 section of the Cherry Blossom Classic in northern Virginia.  In the process, he boosted his USCF rating to 2203, marking a 123-point rise from the start of this calendar year and officially earning him his “master” status.

Jason had set himself a goal of reaching “master” by age 15, so this puts him almost a year ahead of schedule.  It’s especially impressive to me given what’s involved with chess; namely, maintaining the focus and discipline required to play 5, 7 or even 9 games per tournament, any or all of which can last up to five hours each.  That strikes me as a rare talent for a 14-year-old.  Certainly it would’ve been for me at 14.  It would be now.  What’s more, he’s done it all pretty much on his own, aside from helpful input from some kind mentors; he’s never had a coach per se and living here in Richmond, his access to tournaments has been very limited.

Anyway, I’m very proud of his ability to set long term goals for himself and keep at them until they’re achieved.  It bodes well for him in life.  Next up is that BSA Eagle rank he’s been shooting for since his first Tiger Cub meeting at age 6.  I have no doubt he’ll get there.

Summer Adventures

Late June/early July saw the Morefield clan on a loooong car trip to Missouri for Laura’s bi-annual family reunion.  To make it more manageable, we broke it up with stops along the way, notably in St Louis to see the famous Gateway Arch:

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Later we took Jason to visit the St Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center, which was really impressive compared to anything similar here in Richmond (which is, basically, zilch).  Lots of boards to play on downstairs and up, weekly classes and lectures, a nice chess-themed restaurant next door and just across the street is the World Chess Hall of Fame.  Jason was pretty excited to visit the very room he’d seen in the live stream of the US Championship back in April.

 

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Some friendly staffers agreed to sit down for a blitz game or two with Jason, then he got a real treat when Grandmaster and four-time US Champion Yasser Seriawan showed up to join them for a few rounds of bughouse.

While this was going on, Gracie and I took a walk around the block before settling down to a game of our own at one of the tables lining the sidewalk outside the Chess Club.

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From St Louis, it was on to Tan Tar-A Resorts at the Lake of the Ozarks, where apparently I was too busy relaxing to bother taking any pictures.  But anyway it was good catching up with family we hadn’t seen in quite a while, even if the temperatures were generally brutal.

On the way back, we broke up the ride again with a stopover in Louisville, KY and a trip to the Derby Museum.

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After all that time behind the wheel, I was ready to chill at home, but Laura and Jason had only a day to unwind before hopping a train to Philadelphia for five days at the World Open 2016. Jason managed to win 7 of 9 games for a fourth-place finish in the Under 2000 division, and pushed his rating up to 2015, placing him at “Expert” status.

At this writing, the boys and I are gearing up for a week at Boy Scout Summer Camp, so the fun’s not over yet.  I just checked the weather forecast to make sure we won’t be melting under a hot sun, and the good news is it looks like that won’t be a big concern.  The bad news is that’s because we’re supposed to get rain 6 out of 7 days we’re there, and most of that involves thunderstorms.  Yippee.