Sometimes, you gotta be Dad first

As the kids get older, it’s been fun to take them to various events to “expand their cultural horizons”.

I remember when I was a kid, my parents taking me to things like plays, musicals, orchestral concerts. True “high culture” stuff.

Me? I went with Daughter to see Orange Goblin and Holy Grail. 🙂  Oh sure, we’ll do some of the “high culture” stuff too, but I’m still going to do the things I enjoy, and that tends to be a little rough around the edges.

So, speaking of “high culture”….

I’ve wanted to see Gov’t Mule for some time. I’d call myself a casual fan overall, but I really love the passion and soul Warren Haynes puts into his singing, playing, and songwriting. I know they’re a band that you have to see live to truly appreciate, and finally I got the chance.

As a side note, I had never heard of opening act Vintage Trouble before buying tickets for this show. When I saw the bill, checked VT out, and Daughter and I became instant fans. Really good stuff. And their live show? Huge energy. Singer Ty Taylor knows how to command the stage and the audience. Do yourself a favor and check these guys out. Here are 3 tracks to check out: “Nobody Told Me” (the first song I heard, and it sold me), “Blues Hand Me Down“, and “Pelvis Pusher” (if this song doesn’t make you want to get up and boogie, I don’t know how to help you).


We figured it would be fun to take the whole family to see Gov’t Mule. I wanted to go, Daughter did, Wife did, and the boys… well, let’s just say they were good sports. 😉

We piled in the car, went downtown, had a great dinner, then into the show. Vintage Trouble tore it up, and being a live show in Austin… everyone around us was sparking up.

Then Gov’t Mule took the stage, and suddenly I found myself transported to Amsterdam.

I swear I’ve not seen and smelled so much pot smoke in my life.  I think even the trees were toking. 🙂

It was evident this wasn’t sitting well with the family. They’re just not around smoke at all (neither Wife nor I smoke, and with Austin’s indoor smoking ban, you just don’t get exposed much to any smoke). Plus, marijuana smoke is a lot more harsh than tobacco smoke, so young lungs just couldn’t take it. It was even a little much for me, but I deal with it because I’m wanting to see the show.

After a little bit, the kids were feeling bad, so we tried moving back to a more open spot. It was better (and tho further from the stage, it was elevated so you could see better), but still not great. I mean, we were near the entrance so no one was going to smoke pot there, but enough cigarettes against already irritated child airways and well….

Sometimes you gotta be Dad.

We left the show about half-way through.


Yeah I was disappointed, but the kids are of course more important. I’ll check the rest of the show out on muletracks later.

But there was some fun and good that came out of it.

The kids are now well-aware of what marijuana smells like. “Mom? I smell skunk…” Yes,  Youngest; that’s marijuana.

And I think they’ve all been cured of any desire to smoke pot. 🙂  It’s good when you don’t have to struggle later to pull up the weeds (pun intended), when the seeds don’t get sown in the first place.

More stuff for learning to program

A few days ago I wrote about Scratch, a nifty way to help my kids learn how to program.

I forgot a couple other things I found.

Stencyl. This looks neat. It I haven’t used it, but from what I read it looks like it follows the same sort of drag and drop “block” programming structure and logic that Scratch does. But it can be used to actually make iOS and Android products that you can actually ship and sell. So maybe after Scratch, this would be something to try. It would take the knowledge they had before, but now they have to actually make something polished and ship. A good “bridge” between the two worlds, so to speak.

There’s also GameSalad, which is made right here in Austin.

I still would want them to learn “real” languages (e.g. Objective-C, C++, Python, Ruby, Java, JavaScript, and maybe even new funky languages like Scala). Who knows. I think tho it needs to start with a desire to do it, and to really gain a love for it. If things like Scratch or Stencyl take off for them, then we’ll go there.

Who knows. 🙂


Learning to program

Youngest walks up to me about a month ago and asks how you program (write software for computers).

Oh joy! 🙂

Now I’ve talked about learning to program before and even a second time. I always come back to Karel the Robot as a great way to learn how to program. Why? Because you get to learn the constructs of programming without being burden by the constructs of programming. You can learn about loops and conditionals and variables and logic and flow, but you don’t have to spend 3 hours debugging a problem to find out it was because you misplaced a comma. And it doesn’t matter if you really do anything useful or not at this stage, in terms of gaining some employable skill (no job listings for Karel knowledge); once you learn how to program, then languages are just languages and toolsets are just toolsets.

Back when I looked at the LEGO Heavy Weapons book, No Starch Press offered other books to me to review. I asked about the Python for Kids book because it looked like it might be a great way to start the kids into programming. They sent me a copy, but I have yet to go through it. Mostly inertia on my part. Daughter asked me about it, but just a passing interest. And I must admit, while I think the book is well done for what it is, I still think it’s not a perfect start because there’s issues of language that get in the way. You have to get bogged down by syntax of Python. It’s not horrible of course, but I know things can be simpler. I think this book would make a good “phase 2”.

When Youngest asked me again, I went looking around. I found Scratch from MIT.

I think I’ve found what I’ve been looking for.

Youngest and I played around with this for a bit, doing the tutorial. I saw how Scratch gave you all the language, all the logic, even some advanced things like variables, lists, and inter-object messaging. It’s actually pretty cool. I liked the way you just drag and drop to make logic go. It also is able to give you direct feedback, which I think is good for capturing a child’s interest in the topic. I encouraged Youngest to “just try it”. What would happen if? Just try it and see! The environment is very forgiving, but even still, you can make mistakes and have to learn to debug.

I also really dig that all Scratch projects are “open source”. You can look at what others have done, and then you can look at the “source code” to see how they did it. I was able to find a simple game on the site, then show everyone how they made it happen and how neat that was.

So I’m working on this with Youngest. I told him a simple project he could start with would be reinventing comics. We all love Pearls Before Swine and I told him he could start by taking a simple Pearls comic (maybe just Pig and Rat talking to each other) and recreating it in Scratch. It’s a simple project, simple goals, but challenging enough to get your feet wet with.

And we joke… with Youngest programming… Daughter creating artwork and music… Oldest creating artwork, music, and overall design work… they all like to make movies, do voice work. Oh geez… I’ve got an in-house dev shop now!

Man, I wonder how far this ball will roll. 🙂

See the positive, understand the gain

I do not live my life in a typical way. Of course, what is “typical”, but here it tends to mean that those around me whose lives intersect with mine in some meaningful way… my life doesn’t follow their same patterns.

I get a lot of grief and backlash because of it.

Overall I don’t mind because I am generally fine with the choices I make for myself and my family. But I cannot deny that it gets old constantly dealing with it.

People cannot accept me as I am (and disagree), they must agree with me (meaning what I do must intersect with their choices, outlook, morals, ethics, etc.)… else somehow I’m the one that’s fucked up.

I do understand this mentality and approach, it’s very human. It’s how we tend to deal with that which is “different”.

I guess what gets really old is where people focus their attention: they focus on what they see as wrong, instead of what they could see is right.

For example, our choice to homeschool our kids. People focus on the “S” word… socialization. Won’t your kids miss out? Won’t they have friends? What about as they get older, prom? Oh, I feel so bad for all the things your kids won’t get to do.

And that’s what so many people focus on, and the only thing they see: what they won’t do. Or rather, what they perceive they won’t do.

They don’t see the wonderful education. They don’t see the options in teachers and curriculum. They don’t see our kids are actually learning, not just learning how to take a test. They are developing, not just trying to pad their achievement list to compete for college entry. They don’t see the lessons they learn in how to interact with people of all ages. They don’t see the leadership taken on by the older children as they help the younger children. They don’t see how instead of spending all day locked in a classroom, eyes front, stop being creative, conform, do as you are told… that they can have freedom, they can efficiently complete their work then spend the remainder of their day exploring other avenues (how else did Daughter get to be such a great artist?). The list can go on.

So many people are concerned about what we miss out on, they don’t realize themselves what they are missing out on in their perceptions. It doesn’t matter who you are and what you do in life, you cannot have it all. You will not experience everything, and there’s going to be far more things you will miss out on than you will experience. Instead of focusing on what you miss out on, why not focus on what you are gaining?

We don’t make the choices in our life because we want to miss out on things. No, we make choices because we see an overall gain. Oh sure, there may be some downsides to the choice, but we only choose to do things if in the end it’s a net gain. Why is this constantly overlooked? Why are we looked at for what we’re losing, instead of what we’re gaining?

We should not overlook loss, negatives, downsides, etc.; these are important aspects of the evaluation process. What needs to be remembered is they are not the only things to look at; you must look at the gains and upsides too. You must remember that if someone makes a choice, they likely did it because they see the most benefit from that choice over all other possible choices. Seek to understand and see their (potential) gains, instead of merely dwelling on your own cognitive dissonance.

Training young shooters

I’m sure some people get the vapors at the mere thought of teaching children how to shoot a gun.

Well, would you rather children have education and knowledge? or ignorance?

Tim sent me this video over a year ago. Yeah, I’ve got a backlog….

First and foremost, when teaching anyone (kids or adults) how to use firearms, safety is the most important thing. It isn’t directly shown in the video, but you can see from the captions and the way the father and son are working, safety has certainly been discussed and remains emphasized.

Here’s some things I like about this man’s approach

Focus on one topic; no overload

Watch the first segment where he’s talking about grip. He focuses on talking about grip and what to do. He doesn’t use small words, he doesn’t talk down to his son, but he does keep it simple, straightforward, and presents in an appropriate manner.

Most of all, when introducing the new concept, he remains focused on talking about grip. Notice when the son tries out what Dad’s teaching? notice son’s finger’s end up inside the trigger guard? Dad doesn’t stop everything and correct the finger mistake. While that’s certainly a problem, to stop everything, change gears, correct the mistake, then switch back, it would be instructional overload. Focus is good.

Teach IN safety

Not just teaching about safety, but in safety too. Dad’s using a SIRT Pistol, which is basically a fancy laser pointer. There’s no chance of harm or risk of danger in using it. Another advantage is, there’s feedback. Yes, you really shouldn’t stare at the red dot, but again the kiddo is learning. He’ll learn well enough to focus on the front sight, but for now to see that dot down there while he initially practices, that’s good and positive feedback he’s doing right and well.

When they go live fire, the gun is essentially a single-shot. There’s no chance of excitement or nervousness leading to an unintentional discharge. Dad seems to be a reloader because he mentions the loads are so light they aren’t cycling the slide, but you can replicate this easily by loading only 1 round into the gun at a time or using a very light round/caliber like a .22LR.

Also notice that Dad is completely focused on son? He’s always right there, always watching, always being aware of what’s going on. I know you cannot see it, but I can tell from subtle cues that Dad’s paying a great deal of attention and is at the ready to ensure the session remains safe for everyone. No distractions. One-on-one.

What to do

Dad’s phrasing tends to be expressed in terms of what to do, not what not to do.

When you want someone to do something, you need to tell them what to do. If you say “don’t run” when you mean “walk”, well, don’t get upset if the person responds by skipping, because they did do what you said, which was to stop running. If you want them to walk say “walk”. This shouldn’t be confused with “positive” or “negative” wording, because saying “don’t touch the hot stove!” is the right and desired effect — it is what you want them to do.

Yes, sometimes you have to say “don’t do this”, but it should generally then be followed up by “do this”.


Redundancy fosters learning.

Dad uses the same phrasing and approaches every time. The whole “starfish and clam” thing works well to make the point, and he tests this every time son takes a grip on the pistol. I’m sure years from now when son is teaching his own kids how to shoot, he’ll be checking if the starfish can get into the clam.

Don’t Overdo It

“that’s good enough for now”. Later on, there’s some work, some refinement… no, not quite right, let’s start over and do it again. And then… well, that’s good enough for now”. That’s key. You need to stress those key things, but you can’t overstress them, else you overstress the kid. They won’t pick it up in a day, it will take many trips to the range. Make sure they want to keep coming back to the range. Keep it fun.


All in all, a nice video with lots of good tips for how to help introduce and instruct kids in shooting. There’s still a lot more to it, and frankly if you find yourself teaching enough people how to shoot, consider getting an NRA Instructor Certification. It doesn’t mean you have to teach for a living, but there’s a lot about teaching, what to teach, how to teach, etc. that comes from these classes. The formal training can only serve you well.

I’ll also send you over to Kathy Jackon’s website for some of the best “Kids & Guns” resources you could ever hope to find.

Why are you choosing and promoting ignorance?

The best way to reduce gun accidents is for everyone, not just gun owners, to learn the basics of gun safety.  Yet those in favor of “reasonable gun laws” object to any discussion of including the topic of gun safety in K-12 education, because those most qualified to give that instruction are certified by the NRA, and are therefore The Devil.  Houston just pulled the plug on using the Eddie Eagle safety program in schools for political reasons, even though the Eddie Eagle program is lecture only, does not advocate gun ownership and includes no hands-on time with firearms of any kind.  Invariably those objecting to the teaching of gun safety in school are the same ones that insist that sex education and giving out free condoms is essential because “some of them are going to have sex even though we tell them not to, so they need that instruction”. By the same logic, kids should get gun safety training, since “some of them are going to handle guns even though we tell them not to”.

– Karl Rehn

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, saw one of those “your friend commented on a post” listings, it was Karl and some sort of “gun control” article, and the above is a copy/paste of one of the comments he made there.

It is very curious that guns are a topic people choose to be ignorant about, and promote willful ignorance of. Sure, you don’t have to be an encyclopedia like the TXGunGeek, and you can certainly hate guns and promote gun bans all you want. But just like abstinence-only education, you kinda have to know something about your topic if you wish to 1. talk about it with any authority (and be taken seriously), 2. to know what it is that you’re abstaining or avoiding. It’s why so many people cannot take priests seriously when they talk about sex or marriage… so you wonder why “pro gun folk” don’t take “anti gun folk” seriously when they talk about guns?

Some knowledge of basic “what to do if you find a gun?” is useful for everyone. Eddie Eagle teaches one simple thing:

  1. Stop
  2. Don’t Touch
  3. Leave the Area
  4. Tell an Adult

That’s it. The whole program is about impressing that mantra into a child’s head so when (if?) they run across a gun, they are going to know what to do: stop, don’t touch, leave the area, tell an adult.

If the child encounters a gun and doesn’t know what to do, what are they going to do? Who knows! That’s the problem. They might leave it alone, they might pick it up. If the child has no idea what to do, this is not a time for them to figure out how to fill in the blank. Or worse, should their idea of what to do with a gun be what they learned from TV? from movies? from YouTube videos? from your stupid redneck uncle? Can you honestly find fault with that 4-step mantra, and say you would not want your child — any child, every child — to know, practice, and enact it? Or are you too blinded by your hated of guns and the NRA?

They keep saying they want to save lives. That if it saves the life of just one child, then it’s worth it. Well, here’s your one:

A very well-informed fifth-grader at Oak Grove Elementary School reportedly followed procedure when he found a loaded gun on the playground at the school Friday.


Deputy Jay Lawson, the school’s Resource Officer teaches students throughout the year by using the “Eddie Eagle” safety program.


Just after 10 a.m. Friday, the fifth-grader found a loaded .22-magnum pistol laying near the swing set area on the playground at the school.


“He went straight down the line. The student identified the weapon, told others to get back away from it and yelled for a teacher,” Gault said. “One, two and three, just what he had learned.”

The gun was on the playground. It was loaded. The article reports it was a .22 Magnum American Arms, which are little derringers without a trigger guard — that is, if the child picked it up, likely he would have fired it. If the child had to tell others to back away, that means there were lots of kids out there playing (recess, I suppose). Yeah… it’s well likely a child could have tragically died that day, but thankfully at least this one child wasn’t suffering from ignorance. Worth it.

If the kids are older, or even for your adults, then a short course like the NRA’s Home Firearm Safety is more appropriate. It’s a classroom-only, non-shooting course. You learn about gun safety, you learn about the primary causes for gun accidents (ignorance, carelessness), a little bit about guns themselves (parts, nomenclature), how to safely and securely store guns, and probably most important — how to safely unload a gun. Consider the teacher on that playground, wouldn’t this knowledge be useful for them?

Please. If you care about “saving the children” as much as you claim, if you want to reduce the number of “senseless gun deaths”, then don’t accept nor force the children to be ignorant. You can campaign for gun bans. You can hate guns and the NRA all you want. But by the very nature of your fight, you will come in contact with guns, and the best thing you can do to keep from being one of the very statistics you wield is to learn how to be safe with guns.

Admitting fault

We take a break from the typical topics of guns and weight lifting to talk about something else.

I’m not perfect.

I’m happy to admit it.

I don’t expect you to be perfect either.

And, I’ve worked to make that clear to my children.

I read this article and thought to share it. (h/t Cass and El).

I’m talking about kids who are well adjusted, high functioning, easy to talk to and seem to have nothing to prove.

Secretly (until now), I’ve noticed a common theme amongst well-adjusted kids. The theme seems to be this: Great kids come from families in which parents are real about their shortcomings. They come from families who live and believe in grace.

I’ve also noticed the opposite. Many of my friends who’ve confessed to me they’ve had problems in life come from families in which parents (and mostly the Dad, honestly) have a hard time admitting they’re wrong. Often they come from religious families in which the parents felt they had to play a role model of perfection.

I’m sure I’m not the best Dad in the world. My kids think to seem I’m OK, but I know my shortcomings. I know what I’m failing at, and I admit it to my kids. They forgive me, and we work on it together. I think about the things my own Dad did and didn’t do, and how I swore I’d be different. In fact, I was thinking about this very thing the other day, and then that Harry Chapin song came into my head. It was both me as the son, growing up to be just like the Dad I swore I wouldn’t be like, and me as the Dad both not wanting my sons to be like me but fearing they might. And if that’s going to be the case, what do I need to change about myself so that if in fact they will be like me, hopefully they’ll not have my same failings.

And so, sometimes that requires admitting my mistakes, my failings, my weaknesses to my kids.

Sorry to admit this Mom & Dad, but I don’t really recall them ever being so frank with me. Admitting when they made a mistake. Apologizing when they were wrong. I do remember having feelings of resentment because when it was quite evident they were in the wrong, they didn’t admit it, they didn’t own and fess up to it, they didn’t apologize for it. No, it’s not time for a pity party for me, but I guess that is something I swore I’d do differently, and have succeeded at.

I don’t like bullshit, I’m not one for bullshit, I won’t bullshit other people, and I don’t like people who bullshit me. That holds especially true for my kids. If I made a mistake and didn’t own it, that’d be bullshit; thus, I own it.

Trust is so important with kids. When they’re young you can rule them with an iron fist. But as they get older, they can and will make their own decisions. I know that eventually trust is the only thing we’ll have, and I have to trust they will obey and they have to trust that my judgment and guidance is right and best. And in part of that, I know that showing I’m not perfect and that yes sometimes I will make a mistake, that sometimes I might steer them wrong… well, that’s helpful for them to know. Because they can know I’m working truly in their best interest, and that I will make best effort for them. It allows them to have stronger faith in me. I too must also accept they will make mistakes, more likely than not since they are kids and learning. And that I must allow them to make mistakes, to learn from them, and to grow and move on. 

I’ve also found telling stories of my own mistakes, my own failures, it’s helped the kids. It’s helped them realize that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. This was especially true for Oldest, who never took failure very well and sometimes it would keep him from wanting to ever try because he didn’t want to risk failing. To see successful and happy Dad, and that he made it here despite that… that Dad learned, what Dad learned, and how Dad overcame and did better? Who else should be that good role model in life, but Dad, right?

No, I’m not perfect.

But I try to be better every day.

And sharing my failings with my kids, hopefully helps make them better every day too.

Hooray for Government Schooling

They aren’t public schools, they are government schools.

And they are not places of learning.

If life was nothing but standardized testing, which the budget depended upon, then maybe we’d be accomplishing something useful. But alas, life isn’t that… so what exactly are children being prepared for? Other than learning to sit still, conform, suffer, deny yourself, that you’re stupid, creativity has no place, and the list goes on and on….

Fun Family Day

If you look down on “rednecks”, both the people and the things they do, then you should stop reading now because this post will probably offend you. 🙂

Had a wonderful day with the family today. Originally we were to do this during my Christmas vacation, but since I was down with the flu it didn’t happen. Fortunately the heavens saw fit to give us today, so the opportunity was taken.

The main thing? Going to the gun range and shooting. Some work, some recreation. Thank you, Karl, for letting us use the range.

It started off with me doing some live fire pistol skills work, because of my desire to start shooting IDPA. Details on this elsewhere. Meanwhile, Wife and Kiddos were inside the range house doing schoolwork (the joys of homeschooling).

When I finished my work, I took Wife out for a little work with the shotgun. She wants to improve her proficiency with the shotgun, so we did some work there. Alas, a 12 gauge, even with low-recoil rounds, just isn’t in the cards for her (Karl, if you find her shoulder, please let me know). She’s just fine with the 20 gauge. I just wish … oh wait! It looks like Federal now has a 20 gauge buckshot with FLITECONTROL wad (PD256). Holy crap! This is awesome. Of course, as I look around right now, everyone’s out of stock. But wow, this is great. I’m there and it’s pretty much removed my reserves about the 20 gauge. Sure it’d be nice to standardize on 12 gauge, but oh well. At least now I don’t have to put up with sub-optimal 20 gauge buckshot.

After that, Wife was done for the day. With the wet weather and the temps in the 40’s, it was just too cold for her to keep going. But the Kiddos were ready.

I recently purchased a new shotgun and needed to break it in and ensure function. I ran a bunch of 12 gauge target loads through it, then some full-power buckshot (of course, the Federal FLITECONTROL), and some slugs (Brenneke low-recoil slugs). The slugs didn’t want to go into the mag tube easily for some reason, looks like the brass was hanging up on the retainer clips, but no big deal really. Everything functioned great. I did put a 12″ Hogue Short Shot stock on it (shorter LOP makes for easier shouldering) and while 12″ LOP is a little too short for me, it worked out alright and I didn’t smack my thumb into my face as much as I expected I would. 🙂  I consider the shotgun functional and able to be pressed into service.

Oldest has never shot a 12 gauge before — he’s always been a bit recoil shy. But today he stepped right up to the plate and fired it like a champ. We’ll work on speeding up his shot recovery, but he really did a great job with it.

Youngest has never fired a “big gun” before, just .22’s. But he wanted to try the shotgun. 12 gauge was too much tho, so I pulled out the 20 gauge (a Mossberg 500 Bantam youth model) and let him try it with some light target loads (which are still kinda stout). He handled it well, tho was taken aback a bit because it was a big boom — again, it’s the most gun he’s ever fired. But he did come back for a second shot, but that was enough. 🙂

We put the shotguns away and took out an AR-15. I originally didn’t plan on bringing out an AR, but when packing up this morning, Oldest expressed interest in shooting it and I wasn’t going to say no. Again, he’s been very recoil shy in the past, only wanting to shoot .22’s. So for him to want to step up is great in my book. I mean, I know he can handle it, after having shot that 255# feral hog a couple years ago with a .308 bolt-action. Oldest got to learn what “giggle factor” is. 🙂  He was having WAY too much fun with that rifle — I should have brought more ammo. Daughter shot it for a bit, but she tweaked something in one of her arms the other day and so it was kinda painful to hold up the rifle. Youngest tried the AR as well, and was quite pleased that the recoil was far less than the shotgun — tho it was a heavier gun to hold up.

We put the long-guns away, and pulled out everyone’s favorite: the Buck Mark Camper. All 3 kiddos shot at the steel targets with this, and it’s just fun to plink with such a low-recoil gun — tho Youngest did get bit by the slide. Daughter showed some good improvement on trigger control. She asked how you get to shoot faster, so I explained a bit and I guess something clicked because she was shooting a little faster by the time we wrapped up.

While a lot of today was about having fun, it also was with purpose. I want my kids to be self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves. Yes, that means being able to shoot a gun proficiently. You may not understand why that’s the case, and if you don’t understand I’d be happy to discuss it with you; even if you don’t agree with it, I hope you are willing to have an open mind and come to listen and understand. The guns shot, the things we did, all done with purpose, even if I was the only one that knew what the purpose was.

Alas, we had to wrap it up before everyone was tired of it, but that’s ok — always leave them wanting more.

We headed to the Elm Creek Cafe for a delicious lunch (everyone loves that place), then back home.

Oh… and the Buc-ee’s in Bastrop is finally open. Yes, we stopped in. Finally my family came to understand why I adore Buc-ee’s.

We had a great day. Smiles all around. Happy family. I can’t wait to do it again.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, 2012 Winter Tour Review

Yesterday afternoon the family went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This is our fourth time seeing them in concert, and it’s always an enjoyable experience.

But this time was a lot more enjoyable — especially for Youngest.

Like all TSO shows, it’s a giant rock concert with loads of class, music blending classical and rock (hey, all the guys behind TSO are heavy metal guys), lights, lasers, smoke, pyrotechnics… just a great time. This year was different from years past in that their 3rd album, The Lost Christmas Eve, was the focus of the first half of the show. It was a great choice and welcome change. Still, the storytelling was awesome, and overall production top-notch, as always.

We did notice some differences, like the show was tighter. A little less banter and talk, a little less improv, and the second half “rock concert” didn’t have any noticeable covers or jams. But that’s all good because again, it made for a nice change in the show. We stopped going to see them for a little bit because it was “the same thing” over and over, which was OK but you know… you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it again, and why spend all that money again? So we really liked the change. We do hope as they put out more non-Christmas albums to try to catch them on one of their non-winter tours.

I am a member of the TSO Fan Club, and because of that I’m able to get early tickets and good seats at the shows. This was no exception, and I chose some nice floor seats. Not too close, not too far back, but close enough to really see everything yet far enough back to be able to take in the whole of the show. Well… I think because we had such good placement, we got a treat.

Before the show started, while we were just sitting and waiting, a member of the road crew came up to us and pointed at Youngest and asked if he’d like to come on stage at the end of the show and receive a present from the band. Whoa! Of course we said yes. He asked a few questions (e.g. first time seeing the band? no, fourth), we discussed the logistics, and that was settled. He would come over to us during the last song to get us, then walk us over to the end/side of the stage where there are steps, and then Youngest would go on stage with the band and receive a gift.

And so it happened.

Youngest, taking a bow with Trans-Siberian Orchestra… with his autographed guitar!

He came up on stage, they gave him a guitar, autographed by the band. They gave him a chance to say something, but he didn’t — he told us later he was just in shock and giddy from it all, had no idea what to say being up there with them in front of 5000 people. 🙂

But he really enjoyed it and it was such a cool moment for him and our family. I know it’s a moment we’ll never forget.

If you’ve never seen TSO live, you’re missing out on a great experience. Go see them if you get the chance.