Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saying Goodbye

This Christmas season has been a tough one. A week before Christmas, my Grandpa lost his three-year battle with cancer. I've spent the past several weeks sorting through thoughts and emotions, trying to decide the best way to pay tribute to an extraordinary man whom I admired greatly.

My Grandpa was a man of uncompromised honesty and integrity. People loved him and wanted to be around him because he made everyone feel valued and important. He was a tireless innovator and was relentless in his pursuit to see his dreams come true. At his visitation and funeral, I was amazed to see and meet so many people whose lives he impacted. It made me immensely proud to be a part of his legacy. It also inspires me to be a better man: to embrace hard work; to value family and people above everything; to never give up on my dreams.

I had the opportunity to see him shortly before he passed away, to say my goodbyes, to tell him that I loved him, and to hear him say that he loved me. It was hard to see him in the condition he was in, but I will treasure that moment for the rest of my life. In that moment, it was just him and me saying the words that matter most.

For now, it's goodbye. Grandpa, you will not soon or easily be forgotten.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It Pays to Be Nice

I almost didn't stop. I was running a little late and the Sunday drivers were out a day early slowing the flow of traffic. I decided that I would pull in and see how the drivethrough looked; if it wasn't packed, then I would stop. But it's a Saturday afternoon and I've never seen fewer than three cars on a Saturday afternoon. I'm a Starbuck's junkie and I need my almost daily fix, especially before a 12-hour, no-break workday. The thought of a Starbuck's drivethrough drive-by gave me cold sweats, and I was delighted and amazed to see it empty.

I normally order a drip coffee, venti-sized, please, but on the special occasion of an empty drivethrough, I decided to splurge: venti vanilla latte. I pulled around to the window, grabbed my wallet, and selected the $5 bill I stole from Diane yesterday (hee hee hee). Two of the baristas greeted me as I drove up to the window. "We took a vote, and because you are so nice and in such a good mood every day when we see you, we decided to buy your drink for you today!"

Several thoughts crowded my mind, the first being, EXCELLENT!!, which was immediately followed by, "Wait, 'good mood'...are they sure they have the right guy?" which was closely followed by, "Who cares...FREE LATTE!!" Apparently they had served such an endless series of foul-mooded people, that my neutral moodiness was a breath of fresh air. Either way, I got a free latte and it made my day. And to think I almost didn't stop...and I still have Diane's $5!

Friday, December 08, 2006

I Got One Hand in My Pocket...

OK, first off, get your minds out of the gutter. It's not like that...not this time, anyway.

Today has been an interesting day of "pocket-finds". Why is it that everyone gets so happy about finding money in their pockets? I guess it's the closest we come to finding lost or buried treasure. Well, this morning I was putting away some clothes when I found a $5 bill in the front pocket of Diane's slacks. I was giddy with excitement. Not only had I found lost treasure, but I also knew I was going to STEAL it! And so I did. It was a rush. Finders keepers, losers weepers. I think I even did a happy dance as I carefully placed it into my wallet. So, Hon, if you're wondering what happened to that $5, it's in my wallet. Just try to take it back, if you dare!

Next, in the same session, I found a long-lost stick of Chap Stick in the front pocket of my jeans. OK, it wasn't lost that long; just long enough for me to have to buy another one. If there is one thing I absolutely NEED to get through winters here in the Southwest, it is Chap Stick. It's really wierd. It seems that as long as I have a stick of Chap Stick in my pocket, I don't really need it. But the second that I leave the house without my Chap Stick, my lips immediately dry up and I go into withdrawal, licking my lips like a raging psychopath. And now that I'm writing about Chap Stick, I'm having to apply it every thirty seconds. I'm totally mental. Anyway, I swear that I previously checked all of my pockets in my quest for my Chap Stick, so I was amazed when I found it. And I'm now strangely excited to have TWO Chap Sticks. Envy me if you must.

My third and final pocket-discovery of the day came when I pulled out my "winter" coat. It's been freakishly cold and windy here in the Southwest, and by freakishly cold, I mean in the 30's at night and in the 60's during the day. I've become a desert wuss. My "winter" coat is actually more of a fall coat, and I don't get to wear it very often. This was made evident when I pulled four theater tickets to the production of Peter Pan out of the front inside pocket. They were dated November of 2004. We went to the show on Kyra's 4th birthday and saw Cathy Rigby in her farewell performance. The girls wore their pajamas to the show and we had a great time. It's a good memory.

So five bucks, backup for a Chap Stick addiction, and a fond memory...not a bad haul. What's in your pocket?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Why Can't Christmas Decorating Ever Be Easy?

I would enjoy the Christmas holiday so much more if someone ELSE did most of the decorating.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas decorations. They make our home feel more cozy and comforting during the Holidays. And I'm OK once we get the Christmas tree up. But it's the process of getting the tree up that is so damn frustrating I could just scream! Add to that the frustration of hanging ANY type of Christmas light ANYWHERE, be it on the tree, on the house, around the house, on the lawn, on a tree outside, on a bush, on a shrub, on any frickin' type of plant life, or just randomly dangling inside the house...something will always go wrong. Just guess what my two main Christmas decorating jobs are. DING, DING, DING!!!

My first job was hanging Christmas lights on the eaves outside our house. I tackled that one last week, but it was a two-day job and it nearly cost me my life...again. There's very little traction on a ceramic mission tile roof, something I get reminded of on an annual basis. Add to that several awkward ladder positions, one of which has me dangling roughly twenty feet over our cement driveway, and Christmas-light-hanging becomes a death-defying experience. Anyway, the only reason it was a two-day job this year was because of the light bulbs. One fricking bulb on a 1,000 bulb strand of lights will cause 50 lights to go out, and it's my job to go through each bulb one-by-one to figure out which light it is. Well, this year I said SCREW IT. I am not playing Find-the-Naughty-Light-Bulb this year. This year, I am going to Target and buying NEW LIGHTS so SCREW YOU!! And that's what I did. I even bought an extra set so I don't have to play Find-the-Naughty-Light-Bulb next year either.

The lights had the last laugh, though. The other night as I drove into our driveway, I noticed a section of lights out on the side of the house. They weren't out when I put them up. Looks like I'll be playing Find-the-Naughty-Light-Bulb after all.

This morning began our annual Christmas tree fiasco. Today was the only day Diane and I could pick out the tree together, so we headed out first thing this morning. We got our tree at Home Depot. That's so depressing. When I was a kid, we used to go to Talbot's Tree Farm, grab a hacksaw and trek for hours looking for the perfect tree. There never was a perfect tree, so we'd settle for second-best while freezing our butts off. On second thought, Home Depot isn't so bad.

This morning was not a normal tree shopping day. We picked the first tree we saw: an eight foot noble. I've never picked the first tree. Today was going to be different. Today we were going to break the curse of the Christmas tree.

We took the tree home where I unloaded it from the top of our van and took it to the backyard. I had some other errands to run, so tree setup needed to wait. The plan for this afternoon was: 1.) prep the tree and get it in the stand; 2.) get lights on the tree while Diane takes the girls to gymnastics; 3.) eat dinner and then decorate the tree as a nice family evening. Why do we even bother making plans?

Everything was going smoothly. I returned after running my errands and immediately went to work on the tree. I trimmed off the lower branches. I cut off the recommended two inches of the trunk so the tree can take in water. I shook the crap out of the tree to get rid of loose needles. I had the tree stand cleaned and prepped and when Diane was ready to go, I carried the tree in and placed it in the stand. Diane held it in place and when I had determined that the tree was straight, I went to work on fastening the screws that would hold it in place. Wham! Bam! Bam! Done!

I grabbed a pitcher from the cabinet, filled it with water, mixed in the preservative that came with the tree, and returned to give it its first drink in its new home. I emptied the pitcher and refilled it to top off the stand. I can't believe this went so smoothly! No sooner had this thought gone through my head than I noticed a puddle of water growing on the tile next to the tree. Our stand had a leak. Diane was minutes away from taking the girls to gymnastics. Plan aborted.

We freed the tree from its stupid leaky stand, and I took it back outside where I placed the trunk in a bucket of water and leaned the tree up against the house. Diane and the girls left and I hauled my butt to the store to look for a new stand. Of course I couldn't find one right away, and it was only as I was leaving the store that I noticed the tree stands OUTSIDE. So I bought the stand, went back home, and waited for the girls to get back so we could put the tree in its new stand. I should have gotten to work on checking the lights, but I didn't. I started writing this blog instead. Yes, I am stupid.

We got the tree in the new stand without a hitch, ordered Thai food to go (Gaeng PaNang is a festive holiday dish), and then I went to work on the lights. Only one strand out of the six I had in storage worked. I already bought two new boxes of lights, but I was counting on at least two of my old strands to work. So guess what I did for the rest of the evening? That's right, I played our favorite Holiday festivity, Find-the-Naughty-Light-Bulb.

So now the tree sits in our family room, unlit and undecorated while I nurse a margarita and put the finishing touches on this blog. Family decorating night has been postponed until tomorrow.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Day Rainbow Died

I learned something new yesterday: fish don't necessarily float when they die.

I should have known something was up. A couple of days ago, the girls were freaking out because they thought Rainbow, their blue and red male Beta, was spending a little too much time at the bottom of the bowl. This is not unusual behavior for Betas. They lead pretty uneventful lives (unless you put two males together) and their little fins must get tired from hovering in one spot, so they take a little rest on the rocks. Kailey watched Rainbow as he "rested" and grew concerned that he wasn't just "resting", so she shook the bowl. To her relief, he zipped to the cover of the fake green plant suckered to the bottom of the bowl. She told me she was concerned about Rainbow's health and I told her not to worry. "You'll know when Rainbow dies, because fish float when they die." Little did I know that my words would later serve to save my butt.

Well, Kailey must have taken those words to heart, but they still didn't completely alleviate her fears about Rainbow. As Diane tucked her into bed last night, Kailey asked her to go check on him. I was in Kyra's room telling her a story when Diane walked in, usually the cue for us to switch rooms. She grabbed me and gave me a hug as I headed into Kailey's room. " likey," I thought as she whispered in my ear. But what she whispered in my ear puzzled me. If she's trying to get me into bed, this clearly was not working. I pulled away from her and shared my puzzled look. "What?" I muttered. She pulled me close and whispered again.

"Rainbow's dead."

I sighed and headed to the family room to see for myself. I saw the bowl across the room and immediately scanned the surface for Rainbow's body. I didn't see it. As I drew closer, I could see his little body resting on the rocks. I shook the bowl and he tipped over on his side. He wasn't looking so good. Crap. What are we going to tell the girls?

I returned to Kailey's room and tucked her in, then Diane and I put our heads together to figure out what to do. Problem #1: school. We didn't want to inform the girls of the death of their first pet before bedtime or before Kailey went to school in the morning. We didn't want her to be blubbering at school all day long. Problem #2: we would both be at work after the girls finished school, so we couldn't tell them then, either. Furthermore, we didn't want to tell them and then have to pass any post-mortem grief counseling on to Diane's parents, who would be watching them.

OK, maybe we're horrible parents, but this is the best we could come up with. And if there was ever any doubt about where I'll be heading upon my earthly demise, this may serve to clear things up a bit. We left Rainbow in the bowl. If the girls happened to notice his rotting carcass on the bottom of the bowl, then we would deal with the aftermath. If they didn't notice him, then Diane would drop Kyra off at school and make a beeline to the pet store to get another Rainbow. I know, I lane to hell.

Well, the girls must not have been all that concerned about Rainbow because neither of them bothered to check on him. So we executed plan B, full speed ahead. Diane picked out a new fish and I disposed of the evidence. As I cleaned out his bowl I couldn't help but think of all the good times we had: the Pavlovian way he would come to the surface for food whenever I opened the lid to the bowl; the way he liked to lay in the blue rocks lining the bottom; the way he, um, well, that's pretty much it. There wasn't too much more to his life. I'd like to think that he's now in a better place, but I know better, since I wrapped his body in a paper towel and flushed him down the toilet. I can only hope that all pipes really do lead to the sea. Sorry buddy.

Diane returned home with Rainbow II (Electric Boogaloo) and we introduced him to his new home. He's much more active than Rainbow was, and that's not just because he happens to be alive. Like I've said earlier, Rainbow liked to lie around a lot.

Diane later discovered that at some point before bedtime on that fateful evening, Kailey apparently shook the bowl and got no response from Rainbow, which prompted her to ask Diane to check on him. Now I don't know this for sure, but I think that since Kailey saw Rainbow on the bottom of the bowl, not floating, she didn't believe he was dead. So, in essence, my ignorance bought enough time for us to perpetuate a lie to our children. Merry Christmas. The girls are SO going to need therapy. That's OK. They can join me. Maybe we'll get a group rate.

Monday, November 27, 2006

How to Keep Your Kids in Bed

Kidding...please don't call DCFS. I went through my nightly bedtime routine last night, step one being to check in on the girls. I'll rearrange covers, locate and replace stray blankies and stuffed animals, and situate dangling appendages so the monsters don't snack on them. (I think I spent a year of my life breathing through an airhole arranged from my covers to keep from being eaten by monsters...I was always worried about my exposed lips.) Diane and I usually do this together, but last night I beat her to it.

I walked into Kailey's room to find her scarf tied to the top of the headboard. It was dark, so I couldn't see everything that was going on there. I thought, "Well, I'd better move that scarf. We can't have it wrapping around her neck and strangling her in her sleep." That's what all good dad's would think. So I grabbed the scarf to untie it and Kailey flinched. I jumped back to keep from waking her, and it wasn't until I took hold of the scarf again that I realized she tied it to her wrist. Why? I have absolutely no idea. You know, every parent wants to believe their children are brilliant, but there are some things that cause those beliefs to come crashing down.

I jumped back again, this time to stifle the laughter that came bursting forth as I scurried from the room to get Diane. "What in the world?" she laughed as she walked into the room. "Go get the camera!"

"The flash will wake her up," I protested.

"I don't's too stinkin' funny! Besides, I'll probably wake her up when I untie her."

Kailey didn't wake up either time; didn't even stir. I showed her the picture this morning and asked her why she did it and she just shrugged her shoulders. Great. That's one more thing I have to worry about: my seven year-old developing a bondage fetish. Oh Dear Lord, help me.

Friday, November 24, 2006

'Tis the Season...

I'm not in a very Christmas-y mood this year. Perhaps that will change here in the next couple of weeks, but for now I'm just urked.

In the past couple of weeks we've all seen the news footage of people camping out in front of stores, sprinting en masse across open parking lots, jostling with police, and fighting each other over VIDEO GAMES. Most of these people look like the $400-$500 price tag of a game system might be better spent on something more useful, like, say...FOOD. But no, we have to get our priorities straight. Here in Tucson, our station ran a story about how a local Circuit City received a shipment of TWELVE Sony Playstation 3's, yet 30 buyers spent the night there in the hope that Circuit City was lying. They weren't, and lucky buyer #13 had the gall to bellyache to our reporters over how devastated he was to not get the game system. I fear there is much more inbreeding going on in our great nation than we're aware of.

This morning Diane had to go into work early for "Black Friday". She was at work at 5:00 am and the doors of her store opened at 6:00. The parking lots to Sears and Best Buy were packed with cars and people waiting for the doors to open. Why? Are we such stupid people that the thirty-one days between Thanksgiving and Christmas simply do not allow us enough time to get our shopping done? "Well, stores have such great specials!" people might explain. Well la-dee-frickin'-da is what I say. Retailers dangle a carrot in front of our noses and we come a-running. I guess that makes us nothing but a bunch of asses.

Do you know who's really going to suffer? The "sane" people like me. I'm probably going to have a hard time finding the gifts I really want to buy my loved ones because all the good stuff is gone. So I'll just smile and take it, move on to the Christmas "B" list, because I refuse to chase the carrot. But I still retain the right to be urked.

And it's sad. This is supposed to be the time of year where we reflect on the blessings in our life, celebrate our loved ones, and exhibit a little selflessness for a change. I'm probably starting off on the wrong foot, but I don't think my being urked is wrong. It may be affecting my attitude right now, but I'll get through it. I'm going to use my irritation as motivation to get Christmas right this year. But not right now...I've got Christmas lights to hang.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

You Can't Shelter Them Forever

"Someone wrote a word in the girls bathroom," Kailey nonchalantly offered between bites of pizza.

It was dinner-time. Diane was working late (which she doesn't really do that just seems that way in my writings) and we were on the tail-end of one of our hectic Mondays. Fortunately for me, my sister-in-law, Debbie, is in town for Thanksgiving and was there to help take up the slack.

We turned our full attention toward Kailey, our curiosity suddenly aroused by her statement. A pregnant silence filled room around us. Something deep inside me did not want to know what was written on the wall of the girls bathroom of CW elementary school. I fought the question inside me that begged to be asked. Debbie asked it for me.

"What word did they write, Sweetie?"

I don't think I will ever forget the image of my oldest daughter in that moment: sitting perfectly erect in her chair, head slightly cocked, eyes sparkling with confidence as though she was the only one in the world who knew the right answer. She looked completely innocent, though much older and more mature than her seven years. I've noticed recently that those glimpses of maturity are coming with greater regularity. My little girl is growing up more quickly than I would like. I braced myself.

"Fuck you."

Her delivery was quick, clear, and crisp. Her manner, matter-of-fact. She didn't move. She didn't giggle or laugh like she delivered the punch line to a great joke. She didn't scan our faces to try to gauge whether or not it was wrong for her to say those words. She simply told us what was written on the wall of the girls bathroom. Then she sat there.

So did we. A small smirk emerged on my face as I slowly turned my gaze from my precious little girl to Aunt Debbie. The look on her face was an odd mix of amusement and horror. YOU NEVER ASK WHAT IS WRITTEN ON THE WALL OF THE GIRLS BATHROOM! It's like the U.S. Military...don't ask, don't tell, and all will be fine. I took a deep breath and turned back to Kailey. We're venturing out into uncharted territory here.

"Do you know that that's a bad word?" I asked.


"OK. Well, it is. You're not in trouble and I'm not mad at you. That's a bad word and I don't want you to ever say it again, OK?"

"OK," she replied. "But what does it mean?"

Kailey obviously witnessed a great ruckus in the girls bathroom over those two little words, and she didn't get it. Curiosity fueled our dinner-time chat. But a full explanation would open about ten more cans of worms. And I'm not opening one of those cans without Diane. In fact, I might let Diane handle ALL of those cans. She's definitely in charge of the can opener. I told Kailey that I couldn't fully explain what it meant, but that it was just a very mean thing to say to someone. Thank goodness she seemed to accept that.

For now...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tanner, the Defecating Dog

OK, so all dogs defecate. But how many TOY dogs defecate? After reviewing my last entry, I was bummed that I couldn't show and help you fully appreciate Mattel's latest Barbie release, Barbie and her faithful companion, Tanner. I searched several websites for visual images of this amazing mutt's full range of potential, but to no avail. So I climbed up into the attic, fetched our girls' latest and greatest Christmas present from its hiding place, and put my faithful scanner to use. Those of you who are faint at heart may want to leave now.

Behold...Tanner, the Defecating Dog:

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Here she is...what a good doggy! So you start out by giving her a treat. I love the caption..."YUM!" The problem is that what goes in looks amazingly similar to what comes out. A little while later, Tanner needs to go outside. Here's the money shot:

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"Oh-oh" is right! Looks like Tanner had a little bit of a poopy. That looks like more than a couple of treats. Looks like Tanner might have gotten hold of a small animal. But never fear, Barbie is here to make things right with her super-duper-pooper-scooper!

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Barbie IS the best! She scoops the poop with a smile. She doesn't even have to plug her nose, and, hey, no gagging! Why train your kids to clean up real dog feces when they can PRETEND to do it first? See, kids, it's not so bad. Now get out in that backyard and give your dad a hand!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday is No Funday

Mondays suck.

They suck not in the traditional sense...end of the weekend, beginning of the school/work week, etc....but in what they have become specifically to our household. Mondays should be great. I have Mondays off. I should be lovin' Monday. But I don't. There's just too much going on.

Monday is traditional in that I have to get up at the butt-crack of dawn in order to get Kailey to school, always an adventure. Getting her out of The Spanish Inquisition was easier than getting a breakfast order out of her. Trying to get her to eat big time. Getting her dressed in an outfit she doesn't freak out over...el sucko. This morning, I'll admit, wasn't that bad. It was a better morning.

I'll usually get Kailey off to school in the morning and then work out. This morning I didn't. Big mistake. Lately I've been giving in to the temptation to NOT work out, and I need to NOT listen to that voice. I feel better when I work out. I actually have more energy when I work out. Bad things happen when I don't work out.

Instead, I snoozed in my big chair with Kyra while she watched TV. I'm an awesome dad. I can see the girls confronting me thirty years from now about how they're in counseling because I wasn't there for them...that I was too busy snoozing in my big comfy chair and "forcing" them to watch TV. Yeah, well, get over it. I was beaten with a stick as a child, and I turned out OK. (Sorry, Mom. Actually, I was only beaten with a yard stick one time, that I can's all so fuzzy now.)

Kyra's birthday party is Sunday, so Diane and I decided to go shopping for Kyra's present after we dropped her off at school and before Diane went into work. I thought while we were at it, we should knock off some Christmas shopping as well. So we did. No sense in going to Toys 'R' Us multiple times. I hate shopping at Toys 'R' Us. To me it's a waste of time. My girls have closets FULL of crap that they NEVER PLAY WITH. Every few months I'll go in there to clean things out and straighten things up, and it's like frickin' Christmas in July. The girls are like, "OHHH, I remember this!" Well maybe if you dug around in your closet more, you'd find something to play with!

For her birthday, the ONLY thing that Kyra wants is a big freakin' Black 'n' Decker electronic workbench. If I had a boy and he wanted to play with Barbies, I probably wouldn't let him. But I have no problem letting my girls play with fake power tools. I'm a total hypocrite. I know it. Get over it. Kyra made it abundantly clear to both Diane and me that that was the ONLY thing she wanted for her birthday. Anything less would be total devastation. She will play with this thing for exactly one week and it will take up space in our home (space that we do not have) for the next ten years. Well, the joke's on her because we bought her the Home Depot electronic work bench which was cooler, had better fake tools, and is something that at least I would play with when she gets bored with it.

Highlight of the day: we bought Kyra a Barbie with a dog that takes a crap...I sh... er, kid you not. I thought I was going to crap right there in Toys 'R' Us. It was awesome. You feed the dog these pellets and when you push its tail down, it takes a dump! There's a picture of it right on the back of the box! Merry Christmas! I was going to put a link to it here so you could see for yourself, but apparently Toys 'R' Us thought that showing a steaming pile of canine feces on its website would not be good for business. I beg to differ.

So, we got most of our Christmas shopping done for the girls. That's cool. Diane went to work and I had a forty-five minutes to kill before picking up Kyra from school, so I went guitar shopping. That was highlight #2 of the day. I worked with a guy named Isaiah at Guitar Center, and he was great. He recommended and showed me a couple of other guitars that I'm now considering. I'm leaning toward Gibson.

I hurried from Guitar Center and picked Kyra up from school. Why not Kailey? Because last week she started tutoring on Mondays and Tuesdays. She's been having a little trouble in reading and math, and apparently they want to give her help early, which is good, but could again come back to haunt me in thirty years: "WHO PUTS THEIR SEVEN YEAR-OLD CHILD IN TUTORING!!!" I do. No child left behind. Get over it. She's in tutoring until 3:15. I take Kyra home and feed her. We go back to the school and pick up Kailey. We return home, get Kailey a snack, and get both girls changed for their 4:00 gymnastics lesson.

I take a book and read during the girls' gymnastics lesson. I used to watch them, but about fifteen minutes into the lesson, the older advanced classes begin and there are thirty pre-pubescent (and a handful of pubescent) girls running and tumbling and performing amazing acrobatic feats right in front of me, usually blocking my view of my girls' classes. So now I read, primarily to keep from looking like a dirty old man. I did notice, however, that Kyra was quite pouty during her lesson.

Took the girls to McDonald's after gymnastics. I hardly ever buy them fast food anymore, but I was tired and didn't feel like cooking anything (I knew I should have worked out). Kyra complained all throughout dinner about not being hungry. I made her eat anyway. Kailey has a ton of homework this week. Why do 2nd graders have homework? I never had homework until probably 5th grade. But I guess we can't leave any kids behind now, can we? So instead of allowing them to go outside and play, I had to be a hardass and make them do homework. I've learned that if we don't get a good jump on it on Mondays then it's hard to get through it all during the rest of the week, which contributes to the joys of Monday.

While Kailey finished up her homework, I herded Kyra into the bathtub. On the way there she commented on how cold she felt. I told her she'd feel better once she got into the warm water. I got her into the tub and returned to help Kailey with her homework and load the dishwasher. Then I went to wash Kyra and noticed she was shivering. Light bulb. I washed her up, dried her off, dressed her in the warmest PJ's I could find, and put her under a blanket in front of the TV while I got Kailey in the tub and fetched the thermometer...100.5.

From the bathroom I heard singing. Loud singing. I walked into the bathroom to find Kailey standing naked in the tub singing at the top of her lungs:

"Can you feel it?"
Can you feel the love?
Nothin' feels better than feelin' the love."

That's my girl, and highlight #3 of the day. I guess Monday wasn't as bad as I thought, just much busier than I like it to be. And I had to fly solo since Diane is working late. Both girls went to bed without a fuss, for which I am eternally thankful. But I put a bucket next to Kyra's bed because I have a feeling this day ain't over.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Guitar Quest

My guitar is dying and I'm sad. Well, it's not really's just very sick. My Takamine G-334 was a birthday present from my family nearly fifteen years ago, and though it's probably considered a mid to low-end guitar, it has considerable sentimental value to me. It was my first real guitar and is my baby.

For about the past year there's been a noticeable string buzz when I play. I could see that a couple of the frets were worn and figured it would need a partial re-fret job. Since I haven't performed publicly in several years, I just ignored the buzz as I dinked around at home. I would just reposition my fingers so that the buzz would disappear. This past summer I recognized a definate itch to write and perform again, so I called around to different music stores for quotes on a partial re-fret.

After finding an acceptable quote, I took my baby in for surgery only to find out the damage was much more extensive. Upon inspection, the luthier discovered a bow in the neck of my guitar near the headstock. He told me he could repair it, but that it would be nearly three times the original price. I was speechless. The repair price was not much less than the original price of the guitar. I told him I'd think about it.

Well, I've thought about it, and I think it's time to step up to the next level. My Tak has served me well, but I think I'd rather use the money toward a new guitar. Please don't hate me, baby! I'm not getting rid of you...I'm just adding to the family! I've been going to a couple of music stores in the area and playing different guitars to get an idea of what I want. So far here are the finalists.

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This is the Breedlove AD25/SR Plus. It is the dark-horse surprise of the finalists. I picked this little beauty up at Guitar Center and was amazed by its deep full tone and beautiful low-end. I love the sleek look of it as well, except for the gold hardware (even though my Tak has gold hardware). It is the least expensive of the finalists.

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Next up is the Taylor 310ce. I've been eyeing Taylor guitars for years now and this is my nostalgic pick. It is beautifully crafted, sounds great (although a little thin on the low-end for my taste...I love a big, deep, rich low-end), and I know it will sound fantastic when plugged in. This is the frontrunner.

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And finally, the Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Cutaway. It's fricking expensive. It costs twice as much as the Breedlove. It's busy. There's a lot going on with this guitar with the fancy pick guard, the curled saddle, the gold hardware, and the pearl inlays on the frets. But when I see artists playing this guitar, it looks pretty freakin' cool. Also, it sounds amazing with great low-end.

Hopefully, I'll be able to make a purchase in the next couple of months. I'm still a little bummed about the current condition of my Takamine, but excited about the prospect of buying a new high-end guitar. And who knows, maybe someday I'll restore my baby.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Profile Pic

Last night while at (looks to the left, then to the right) updated some of the things on this blog, and my co-worker saw my profile pic. "IS THAT YOU? That can't be you. I mean it looks like you, but it doesn't LOOK like know what I mean?"

I knew what he meant. My profile pic DOESN'T look like me, while still looking like me. I love this picture for many reasons: first, and most of all, because Kyra, my 5 year-old, took it. Not too shabby. We were at my in-laws celebrating a birthday when she popped up in front of me and yelled, "Say cheese!" Instead, I hammed it up for the camera. I gave her a goofy, annoyed look and the rest is history.

Look more closely. My eyes look tired. There's a hint of a five o'clock shadow above my lip and on my chin. The hair that continues to recede rapidly from my forehead now grows in my eyebrows, ears, nose...and back. Sick? Tell me about it! The bangs on my forehead are the last refuge. They are my last vain attempt to cover the ever-expanding desert frontier that is my forehead. It is not a comb-over. My bangs fall freely across my forehead, and the day that they fail to provide adequate coverage, I will shave it all off. Just like my dad. Just like my YOUNGER brother. Sorry bro.

My bushy right eyebrow is raised in its increasingly familiar "What do you think you're doing?" position, which, by the way, is not limited to my time at home. It makes frequent appearances at (looks to the right, then to the left) My mouth is shaped in more of a grimace. That definitely happens more at work where this look becomes my "What the hell do you think are you doing?" face.

I love this picture because I know I'm being silly, but I look a little worn and annoyed. I'm posing for this picture, but it's different from my normal smiley-happy pose. It accurately reflects how I feel more and more often, even though I don't allow those feelings to reign supreme in my life. It is the perfect picture for this blog.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tourette's and the CMA's

Diane was having some issues last night. To give her the benefit of the doubt, let me just say that she's spent a lot of time at work over the past couple of days and she's tired.

It was a little after 9:00 and I settled into our comfy chair to watch Monday Night Football. We used to live in Seattle and I became a Seahawks fan while there. I hoped that they would break out of their funk and lower the boom on the Raiders. During the commercial breaks I switched over to the Country Music Awards to see if there were any good acts performing. Diane has converted into a pretty big country music fan in her "old age", and I'll admit that there are a couple of country artists that I enjoy listening to. Diane came home during one of my CMA switch-overs and her eyes lit up. "Oooo...what's this?!"

She quickly changed her clothes and snuggled in beside me (it's a big comfy chair), and since the Seahawks seemed to have the game well in hand, coupled with the fact that I'm an amazingly wonderfully caring and giving husband, we focused our attention on the CMA's. Sara Evans was introduced and seemed to be doing well despite the turmoil in her life. "She's wearing a corset. Those are very 'in' these days." Diane commentated, as if I needed a play-by-play on the CMA's, but I engaged her nonetheless.

"I knew that vests were 'in', but not corsets." I'm such the renaissance man. "I saw someone wearing a vest like yours on Ugly Betty last week."

"Did she wear it buttoned or unbuttoned?"

"Buttoned. It definately looks better buttoned." Has anyone seen my balls? I seem to have left them somewhere.

Sara evans started her performance and she sounded pretty good. She has a tendency to sing flat, but last night she was right on. We were enjoying her performance when Diane blurted out, "Big red belt!" I shot her a funny look. "What? That backup singer is wearing a big red belt. We sell those."

I looked her right in the eye and mocked her, with a touch of rapid-fire Tourette's syndrome added in for flavor, "BIG RED BELT!!" She cracked up with a big belly laugh. For those of you who have never heard Diane explode with laughter, you're missing something. It is, hands down, my favorite sound in the world, and I strive to hear it often.

Not two minutes later, Montgomery Gentry came onstage and Diane, to my delight, blurted out, "That guy shot a bear!" No sooner had the words left her mouth before she knew what was coming.



Peals of laughter. We laughed so hard I thought we would wake up the girls. We didn't, and for the rest of the night I would bark out either "BIG RED BELT!" or "THAT GUY SHOT A BEAR!" at irregular intervals. It kept us laughing all night long.

I guess you had to be there.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I've coined a new phrase recently (a new phrase in our house, anyway), and it is, yes, you guessed it, "shoozerboots". It is most often used in the morning when I am getting the girls ready for school. Allow me to demonstrate its usage: "So, what's it going to be today, Kailey/Kyra, shoozerboots?"

I never used to have to ask this question, but since the whole Halloween boot-buying craze, I have to ask it on a daily basis. And then I wait patiently for an answer as each girl carefully thinks it through. This process usually entails pursed lips and eyes slightly turned upwards. Kailey mutters as she makes her decision, which is based solely on what "special" class she has that day. "Let's see...yesterday we had art, which means that today is music and tommorrow is PE, so...BOOTS!"

Kyra's process is a little more subjective and based upon whether or not she feels like playing in the sand during recess (we've told her that she can't wear her nice boots in the sand, but have since softened on the matter). "Well, yesterday Arianna was mad at me for not playing in the sand, so (big pouty voice)" It's amazing the level of drama that can be drummed up in kindergarten.

Whatever their decision is does not matter to me, just as long as I get to ask the question, say it with me, "SHOOZERBOOTS?"

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Oh, how humiliating it is when you get duped by a 5 and 7 year-old. I'm so proud of my girls!

This is the time of year when the weather turns colder and the critters and creepy-crawlies seek refuge in the warmth of our home. I've gotten used to hearing the melodic, sing-song summons of "Hon-ey" or "Da-ad" over the past month, and I've become quite adept at deciphering their meaning..."we need you to come kill something"...usually a spider.

I don't really like spiders. I've gotten better about spiders over the years, but the bigger ones still freak me out a little bit. Don't get me wrong, I'll still dispatch the little suckers, but the big ones require me to collect myself before going in for the kill. At this point, all the PETA-people out there are letting out a collective gasp and imploring me to at least do a catch-and-release. No friggin' way. A catch leaves open the possibilty of escape which leaves open the possibility of me running through the house screaming like a schoolgirl. I'm sorry. If it ventures into my home, it's dead. End of story. Since moving to Arizona, I've had to take care of two tarantula-like spiders IN MY HOUSE. They were small for tarantulas (3 1/2 inches each, respectively), but big freakin' spiders to have in your home.

This morning I was in our bathroom shaving when I heard the call from my girls, "Da-ad". Great. They were in Kailey's room.

"I'll be there in a minute!" I groaned. I finished shaving and could hear them shrieking and giggling and carrying on as I steeled myself and headed to Kailey's room. I expected to find one of those medium-sized, lightning quick wolf spiders, as they have been my prime prey over the past couple of weeks. I walked into Kailey's room to find both girls on Kailey's bed.

"Where is it?" I asked. Kailey pointed to her bookshelf, about waist-high, right next to where I stood. I turned and saw a huge black spider sprawled out on the edge of the bookshelf about a foot away from me.

I jumped.

The girls cracked up laughing.

The spider was not real.

"WE GOT YOU! WE GOT YOU!" they sang at the top of their lungs. Indeed, they had. Kailey had clipped one of those plastic spider rings to the edge of her bookshelf and I didn't expect it. At least I didn't scream...I don't think.

I spanked both of them, sat them in the corner, told them there was no Halloween candy or Disney Channel for a month, told them they were both adopted and that their real parents loathed them, and then spanked them again. OK, I really didn't do any of that. I just laughed and told them they were rotten kids. They got me good and I knew it. And I'm man enough to admit it, even though I'm barely man enough to handle a little spider.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Making Friends

When I was growing up, I had no fewer than thirty kids in my neighborhood that I could play with. I would come home from school, throw my bag down and be out the door to see what everyone was up to, that is unless I was in the mood for Gilligan's Island. We did everything: bike riding, baseball, basketball, football, home run derby, tag, war (in the woods), trading baseball cards, and, when the sun went down, ghost in the graveyard. We knew our neighbors and our neighbors knew us, and everyone seemed to look out for each other. We had the run of the neighborhood.

My, how times have changed. We've lived in our home for almost three years now and we barely know any of our neighbors. It seems that everyone is content to keep to themselves. I rarely see any kids out playing as most of the kids on our street are older, junior highers or high schoolers.

One afternoon last week after school, the girls wanted to ride their scooters out on the sidewalk. I complied, as I had a little yard work that needed to be done. I like to be out there with them since I don't really know our neighbors that aren't immediately surrounding our home. As they rode their scooters, they encountered several other kids walking home from school. They were all older, but every time one of the girls saw one, they'd scream, "KID!" and peel out on their scooters to go meet them. It was like watching lions in a feeding frenzy on a fresh kill.

"What's your name?"
"How old are you?"
"Where do you go to school?"
"What grade are you in?"
"Where do you live?"
"Do you have a scooter?"
"Do you have a dog?"
"Do you want to play?"

In almost every instance (this happened three or four times), the accosted child was merely passing through our street to get to their home on another street. Witnessing this made me realize for the first time just how different my childhood was from my girls'. It made me sad.

Finally, a little while later, the girls noticed a little boy out riding his scooter. POW! They were off like a shot to administer the inquisition:

His name is Shawn.
He is six years old.
He goes to the same school as them...duh.
He's in first grade.
He lives five houses down from us on the opposite side of the street.
He has a scooter (they didn't have to ask that question...he was standing on it).
He doesn't have a dog.
And, most importantly, he DID want to play.

Phew! They spent most of the rest of the afternoon riding their scooters until Shawn's mom called him inside. She probably feels the same way I do: she has no idea who I am and is not exactly sure if she wants her son down at my house. I don't take it personally. I was just glad the girls were able to make a friend on our street.

We've seen quite a bit of Shawn this past week. He's a rambunctious little guy, but he's nice and the girls like playing with him. He did tell us, however, that his dad is in the military and that his family is moving in December. So in a couple of months, the girls will be back out on the street looking for new neighborhood friends.

This time I'll beat the streets with them because I want them to enjoy the same kind of childhood that I remember.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Perfect Gift

My dad's birthday was this week, and I finally got him what I believe to be the perfect gift. He's not the easiest person in the world to buy for (whose father is?), but this year I nailed it.

A little background: I was born nearly 38 years ago on January 12, 1969. Any sports nut worth his or her weight will know that one of the greatest upsets in American sports history happened on this date. On January 12, 1969, Joe Namath delivered on his guarantee of victory as he and his upstart New York Jets defeated the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, 16-7, in Super Bowl III. The victory gave much-needed credibility to the AFL, whose teams had been blown out by the "superior" teams of the NFL in the previous two Super Bowls. My dad never saw a minute of the game. Not a huddle. Not a snap. Instead, he waited for his precious baby boy, his first child, to be born. And nearly every year of my 37 years, he has reminded me of this.

Until now.

The idea came to me last year as I looked for my dad's birthday present, "I wonder if there's a DVD of Super Bowl III?" So I jumped on the internet and searched. I came up empty in my DVD search of Super Bowl III, but I did find something in a format called's a video tape played through a V-C-R. They seem vaguely familiar. Anyway, I stumbled across a video series called "The NFL's Greatest Games", one of which was Super Bowl III. SCORE!! IN YOUR FACE! IN YOUR FACE!! Except the series had gone out of print (or whatever videos "go out" of) and retailers wanted $1 million for the tape. Abort. Abort. I bought him a hat. I'm not cruel...he collects them.

This year in my quest for a birthday present I returned to my search for the NFL's greatest game to see if it had come down to a respectable price. It had. SCORE!! IN YOUR FACE!! IN YOUR FACE!! So I purchased it along with a couple of hats, Jets and Colts, of course, and sent them along to my dear ol' dad.

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I talked to him a couple of days ago and he told me he just laughed as he opened up his gift. "Guess I can't tell you that I've never seen the game anymore, can I?" he said.

Nope, I reckon not. But I'm looking forward to the day when we can watch it together.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Halloween: What To Do With A Wig Unused

You wear it, of course! Kyra absolutely refused to don her Princess Leia wig due to the fact that, in her words, "I hate wigs!" So we had a perfectly good wig hanging around, which we promptly put to good use. Then we passed out treats to the kids while they snickered at us. Check it out...Diane, her sister Debbie, and I took turns:

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Yes, that's a sword Kailey's holding up to my throat...cute, huh? How precious!

The Halloween highlight of the night: the girls approached a house that was broadcasting a loud "haunted house" soundtrack which was freaking them out a little bit. They were more than a little afraid of what awaited them on the other side of the door and hesitated to ring the doorbell. So Diane went up to the door with them. We all cracked up when we saw who answered the door:

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All of us expected the boogeyman and got a sweet little ol' lady instead. Gotta love Halloween.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Giving Equal Time

Kyra walked in as I was putting the finishing touches on my last blog and asked me what I was doing. "Writing a story," I told her and she hopped up into my lap and asked me to read it to her. I did, and every time I read Kailey's name, Kyra slumped a little further down in my lap.

"You always write about Kailey," she pouted. I told her that she was in the story and that she needed to be patient. I finished reading my blog entry and she was still in a huff. "You only wrote my name ONE TIME." Oh dear Lord in heaven, help me.

So my entry today is merely an attempt to level the playing field and restore harmony in my humble abode...I almost wrote that with a straight face, as if there was EVER harmony in my home!

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This year, Kyra will be dressing up as Princess Leia minus the wig (she apparently doesn't like wigs), and in the spirit of giving my girls equal blog-time, here is a funny Kyra Halloween story:

A couple of mornings ago, Kyra wandered into our bedroom in the wee hours of the morning and shook Diane awake. Both of us were fast asleep and totally out of it. In fact, I was so out of it that I never heard this exchange take place. This is Diane's recollection. So Kyra shook Diane awake, "Mommy, Mommy...when is Halloween." Like it's frickin' Christmas or something. Diane, aroused from a deep sleep, thought Kyra was asking about Disney World and groggily replied, "It's over, Sweetie."

"WE MISSED IT! NOOOOOO..." Kyra wailed and ran from our room bawling. Diane had to chase after her and console her. How I didn't hear all of this commotion, I do not know. But I'm glad.

As long as I'm giving equal time, I may as well share the costume I picked out for Diane that she vehemently declined to wear:

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I still can't win.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

These Boots Are Made for Walkin'

It all started with a Halloween costume.

This year for Halloween, Kailey decided she wanted to be a pirate princess, whatever that is. I think she just wanted to be a pirate, but since she's been a princess of some kind (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) for the past several Halloweens, she thought it would sound better if she added "princess" to the end. Fine. Pirate princess it is.

I jumped online to look for a pirate princess costume, and, more importantly, to find out how much it was going to set us back. Mommy's don't think about those kinds of things. Daddy's do. I visited about 300 websites looking for pirate princess costumes. All of them had them, but most were sold out of Kailey's size. It seems that only "small" girls will be dressing up as pirate princesses this year. (I also found some pirate queen costumes for Diane, but she politely declined...after giving me a disgusted look.)

I finally found a costume in Kailey's size and was shocked to see that it cost nearly $60. Kailey loved it. Great. I didn't care that I had already scoured 300 websites. I would scour 300 more before I spent 60 bucks on a Halloween costume (again).

I continued my quest for a pirate princess costume, and, AH HA, found one that looked good for $22. I showed it to Kailey and she liked it! HALLELUJAH (you have to sing it like the song). I ordered the costume, all the while doing a happy dance in my head. The happy dance stopped when I was later informed by Diane that she and Kailey needed to go shopping for boots. You see, the girl in the pirate princess picture was wearing boots. But boots were not included in the costume. Crap.

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So, the costume arrived a few days later, and off went Diane and Kailey to go boot shopping. I was at work when Diane called to give me the play-by-play. The boots Kailey liked were $40. FORTY DOLLARS. But, the good news was that the store was having a two-for-one sale, so Diane bought a pair of boots, too, and got Kailey's boots for free. Women can rationalize their way through anything. And I'm freakin' surrounded by them, outnumbered three to one. I think they spent $65 on both pair, which isn't bad, but still...I could see my Halloween costume savings disappearing before my eyes.

You can probably see what's coming. Diane got a pair of boots. Kailey got a pair of boots. Kyra was at Grammy and Papa's house.

So guess where we went on Sunday? We spent another $25 on boots for Kyra and now all of my girls are happy as clams. What did I get out of the whole deal? The satisfaction of knowing my girls are happy as clams.

I can't win.

Old Friends

Last night I talked to an old friend, my best friend from high school, for the first time in about 13 years. After I hung up, I thought about what had kept us out of touch for so long. It's not like we had a fight or a falling out. I think that life just got too busy, coupled with the fact that I do a really lousy job of keeping in touch with friends from the past.

It seems that I get too wrapped up in the present, in the now, to take the time to reach out and keep the ones who have mattered most to me in the past involved in my present. Truth is, I haven't really kept in touch with anyone from my past, outside of an irregular Christmas card that we manage to send out every two years. That's pretty sad.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that may well be true. Lord knows that I have enough of them. I often entertain thoughts of "I should e-mail this person", but I seldom ever do (By the way, it's always "e-mail", never "call"...that would be far too scary. Last night, my friend called me. Good for him!). I need to carry through on those thoughts more often.

Oddly enough, my friend and I reconnected through MySpace, of all things. I joined "MyWaste", as I call it a few months ago at the badgering of a few of my younger colleagues at work. "I'm too old for this" I kept thinking, but I joined anyway. I did, however, set my profile to private in a vain attempt to preserve any last shred of dignity. He saw that I had an account, created an account of his own and contacted me. The rest is history. So I guess MySpace isn't that much of a waste after least not in this case.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Less Than PERFECT Dining Experience

Our Disney World vacation was really an in-law family reunion of sorts. All of Diane's immediate family and their families gathered for five days of non-stop, "Happiest Place on Earth", amuse-yourself-to-death, fun. The cast of characters included Diane's parents, affectionately known as Grammy & Papa; her brother David and his wife and two boys; her sister, Debbie; and of course the four in our family, bringing the grand total of our party to eleven.

OK, so on our first day at Disney World, my sister-in-law, Debbie, made dinner reservations at one of the resort restaurants. We were a larger party so they couldn't accomodate us until 8:00 pm. Fine. We spent the day at the Magic Kingdom and returned to our rooms in the early evening for a little R & R and to get cleaned up for dinner. We arrived at the restaurant early for our 8:00 pm "reservation" and were told that our table wasn't ready yet. That's when the wait for our "reservation" began.

At first the kids were pretty good, wandering around and checking out all of the cool decorations and knick-knacks adorning the hotel lobby. In the center of the lobby was a gigantic globe, and outside the restaurant was a replica (or actual...I'm not sure) of a ship's wheelhouse complete with buttons and switches and, of course the large wooden wheel. These captivated their attention for awhile, but when you're waiting for an unspecified amount of time with four kids under the age of 7, bad things can happen. Soon all of them were designated to their own chair with the threat of immanent bodily harm should they move.

At this point, our wait for our "reservation" stretched to twenty minutes, and all the while the hostess kept seating smaller parties of two, four, and even six people. Finally, Debbie ventured over and asked how much longer it would take to seat us. The details here are a little foggy, since I was busy threatening the children, but at some point in the conversation the hostess revealed that they didn't take "reservations" and that their "reservations" were actually more like "priority seating". Uncle Dave joined in the fray over what EXACTLY the difference was between a "reservation" and "priority seating", and, more importantly, why were still waiting even though we had arranged for what we thought was a "reservation" but in reality was just "priority seating".

The restaurant manager eventually got involved in the debate and solved it immediately. "No, this is a reservation," she explained to the hostess. Ah, a bright spot in this tale. We still had to wait another five minutes while they prepped our table, since our "priority seating reservation" clearly had not been a priority to them. The hostess finally led us to our table, and as I entered the restaurant, my jaw hit the floor. THE PLACE WAS HALF-EMPTY (or half-full, depending on your this point, I was in a half-empty kind of mood)!!! You would have thought that they were bursting at the seams, but they were actually too lazy to strategically seat the smaller parties and push a couple of tables together for us!

Now usually when a restaurant screws up enough to get the manager involved, the rest of the staff bend over backwards to make sure the rest of your meal/experience there is positive. Usually. But our restaurant folly had just begun. The waitress arrived, apologized for our wait, and informed us that our meal was discounted by 20%. At least they were moving in the right direction, and we all gave her a heartfelt thanks. She proceeded to take our drink order, and I chose a pinot noir from the wine list. "That's a brand new menu that we just got in today," she explained. "We don't have either of the pinot noirs in yet."

"Then why are you giving me this menu?" I thought to myself. I was about to share my thoughts with her, but decided against it and instead asked her what they had in a red. She suggested a cabernet sauvignon and I agreed. She left and presumably turned in our drink order, then returned and took our dinner order without incident. A short while later our drinks came, all except the wine that my sister-in-law and I ordered.

In the meantime, my brother-in-law, Dave, returned from the all-you-can-eat salad and desert bar that he ordered with his dinner. He was the only one in our party to order this and he brought an assortment of rolls for the kids to keep them occupied. He made a couple of trips to the buffet for this purpose. It is key to keep the kids happy.

The manager then made a visit to our table to see how things were going. Fine, except that our wine was MIA. She assured us that she would take care of it right away. She disappeared to the front of the restaurant and reappeared a minute later...wineless. "I'm so sorry, we are out of that wine." She apologized. I just laughed. Our dinner woes had become comical. I calmly explained to her that we were now attempting to order our fourth glass of wine and asked her to bring us anything that was red and good. She apologized again, though this time I could tell that she was more than a little aggravated at her staff's incompetence, and hurried off to fulfill our drink order.

The manager returned a short while later, wine in hand, and told us that the wine was free of charge. Duh. She saw the kids chomping on their dinner rolls and asked us if we would like MORE rolls. Up to this point we had received NO dinner rolls. These rolls were commandeered from the salad bar by uncle Dave. "Oh, rolls come with the dinner?" my wife, Diane, asked. It was an honest question, completely void of cynicism. The poor restaurant manager nodded nervously. "PER-FECT!!" Diane shrieked and all of us burst out in laughter.

The manager retreated like a whipped puppy, tail between her legs. She was beginning to loathe our table. I am happy to say that we were not mean-spirited in any way the whole evening, and it paid off. The food was delicious as was the wine, and we received several baskets of rolls. Our 20% discount was also increased to 50%. In the end they did the right thing. But all of it was so easily avoidable. I wonder how much money they're losing by covering up their mistakes. It just boggles my mind. At any rate, our PERFECT dining experience will always be good for a good laugh.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Disney World...It Ain't No Disneyland!

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Disney World blows.

OK, perhaps that's a bit harsh. Let me back up and start over. We just returned from a week at Disney World. It's the first time I've been back there in probably 25 years. It's grown. A lot. I've been to the Disney counterpart in California several times in the past four years, and each time has been great. We loved our Disneyland vacations and looked forward to our time at Disney World.

By now you're thinking, "He must have had a horrendous experience there." That's not true. We had a good vacation. We created a lot of memories that I hope to carry with me the rest of my life. But it wasn't a great vacation. It wasn't Disneyland. And here's why:

  1. It's too damn big and spread out. Disney World consists of four (4) amusement parks, two (2) water parks, one (1) major shopping and night-life area, and God-knows how many other attractions like golf courses and mini-golf...none of which are connected. It's all spread out and you have to take a bus, boat or monorail to get to each area. Close to two hours of the day was spent waiting for and riding various means of transportation to one of the parks.
  2. Poor service. The service at Disney World is still better than probably 90% of the businesses out there. But it wasn't as good as what we experienced at Disneyland. I suspect this is a result of #1: that it's too big and therefore hard to find the quality of help they need. At Disneyland, there are immediate results to your requests. At Disney World, there are excuses as to why your requests can't be met or why it takes so long to fulfill your requests. I hate excuses.

My next few posts will be stories of our Disney World experience...some good, some bad, some ugly. Sorry. I couldn't resist. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

They Continue to Amaze Me

I don't know if this is the time of year when lizards hatch, but lately it seems like there are hundreds of the little suckers running around. They're cute...about three inches long...and FAST. It's amazing how quickly they can scale a wall or scurry across the rocks. I think they're cool, but I could see how some people would be a little freaked out at the sight of them zipping for cover. It also amazes me what freaks out my girls and what doesn't. There is no formula; no rhyme or reason.

My girls hate bugs. The size or shape does not matter...gnat, ant, fly, beetle...they hate 'em. They'll squish 'em, swat at 'em, scream at 'em, scream for me to swat and squish 'em...they hate bugs. But they LOVE lizards. Allow me to introduce you to Peter the Lizard:

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He's a cute little guy, huh?

As we headed to the back yard to play and mow the lawn (one guess as to who got to do what), the girls noticed one of these cruising the wall. "LIZARD!! GET IT!! GET IT!!" Scared me half to death. The lizard too. It ran for its life as the girls gave chase, and it quickly darted into the safety of the neighbor's oleander bushes. The girls were devastated.

I consoled them and when I felt like I had sufficiently fulfilled my fatherly duties, turned my attention to the lawn. On my first pass I noticed movement in the river rock that lies between our patio and the lawn. Lizard. I called the girls over and we spent several minutes tracking it, overturning rocks to reveal its hiding place, and generally giving the little guy a heart attack. This time the girls seemed content to merely observe the lizard, so I returned to the lawn.

A few minutes later I heard Kailey scream over the hum of the mower. "Daddy, I got him!! I GOT HIM!!" Never in a million years did I think the girls could catch one of those things without first squishing it. I was afraid to look. Or worse, what if it was still alive. I envisioned the lizard taking off up Kailey's arm and down her body, or into her shirt sleave! I could see her going into a convulsive tirade, screaming, "Get it off!!" I sprung into action.

The lizard was surprisingly docile. It was perfectly content to sit in Kailey's hand. Whew! Either that or it was so freakin' scared that it didn't want to move. Probably the latter. I finished the lawn, and the girls spent the next half-hour taking turns holding "Peter". Why Peter? I have no idea.

We eventually released Peter near the rose bushes in the back of our yard. As we watched him go on his merry way, Kyra noticed a spider web in one of the bushes. They freaked.


On Growing Up

Sometimes my kids can completely throw me for a loop, in a good way. Tonight as I was tucking Kailey in was one of those times. Every night I usually ask the girls what the favorite part of their day was and why. Then we talk about the day and all the things we had done. Kailey finished telling me about how riding her bike without training wheels made her feel all grown up. I was humored by the thought. I wish it were that simple. In a way it's certainly true. I feel "grown up" when I accomplish something that's personally significant: hanging a ceiling fan (without getting electrocuted), writing a song, grilling the perfect steak. I could definitely relate to what she was saying. That's when she hit me with the question.

"Daddy, do you ever wish you were a kid again?"

About a million things went through my mind at once. It was a simple question, but it seemed so mature coming from the mouth of, well, a kid. I could see one of my friends, one of my peers posing the question, but from my seven year-old daughter? It completely took me by surprise.

On the one hand, it would be nice to not have to worry about all the things we adults concern ourselves with. To have the luxury of playing the afternoons away. But then I remembered school, the tests, the peer pressure, the first love, the heartbreaks, PUBERTY, and I was instantly glad to be an adult. And that's what I told her. Well, everything but the puberty part. That's a whole other can of worms. One that I'll let Mommy deal with, thank you very much.

Truth is, part of me still feels like a kid and it's hard to believe I've been on this earth for 37 years. I still experience those "grown up" moments of satisfaction and I hope to continue to experience them for the rest of my life. I think that's part of the joy of living, the satisfaction of a job well-done.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Drive Home

I drove home with my convertible top down last night as I often do after work. In Tucson, summer days are brutal, but by the time I get off work it's usually cool enough to put the top down. After a hard day of work, it's a nice release to drop the top, kill the radio, and submit to a wind massage that eases away the stress of the day. I take the long way home. It's mostly two lane roads with little light. The sky explodes with stars. Moonlight reveals dark silhouettes of the mountains in the distance. Wildlife emerges from its daytime slumber. It's not unusual for me to see coyotes on the prowl, jackrabbits standing at attention with ill-proportioned ears stretched to the sky, or javalina families doing whatever javalina do. I've even seen a bobcat bound across the road in front of me. The drive relaxes me and on these nights I'm able to let go of the day and go directly to bed.

Now that fall has arrived, the drive home last night was a little chilly. I had to turn the heat on high to keep the chill at a minimum. But I did not roll up my windows as many with convertibles do. I don't get people who do that. Pretty soon it will be too cold in the evenings to drive "topless". I will miss that. Midnight topless-driving will be one of the things I'll look forward to next summer.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


One of my guilty pleasures is pumpkin pancakes from IHOP. This goes way back almost fifteen years ago, shortly after Diane and I were first married. We stumbled into an IHOP (I make it sound like we were drunk. Not that there's anything wrong with a drunken pumpkin pancake binge, but we were sober.), saw pumpkin pancakes on the menu, thought they sounded intriguing, ordered them and fell instantaneously in love...with pumpkin pancakes. Oh, how we loved our pumpkin pancakes! We quickly discovered two problems, though. First, IHOP did not offer pumpkin pancakes year-round. They were seasonal, usually introduced around mid-October and served through Thanksgiving, perhaps through Christmas. Second, neither Diane and I are very good at planning or marking things on the calendar, so quite often we would miss the window of opportunity to enjoy our beloved pumpkin pancakes. It's actually been five or six years since I last enjoyed pumpkin pancakes (can it really be a guilty pleasure then?). Until Sunday.

We were sitting in the van after church going through the ritual of putting together a plan for lunch. After much discussion and some opposition from Kailey (one of the girls always opposes the lunch plan), we decided upon IHOP. You can get breakfast OR lunch there, even though it is the International House of PANCAKES. We arrived and sat down in a booth, arranged the activity mats and distributed crayons to the girls. The hostess gave us only three crayons and I was surprised when there wasn't a fight over who had more crayons. After helping the girls decide on their order, Diane and I perused the menu. I was investigating the omelette section when I heard a gasp. I looked up to see Diane reaching for the little advertisey-tent-display-thingy that restaurants always adorn their tables with to inform patrons of the latest cuisine and beverage specials.

"They have pumpkin pancakes," she breathed.

My eyes exploded from my head and we stared at each other in a competition to see whose eyes could bulge out the farthest. "Do you think we can add them on to our omelettes?" she asked.

I would have paid any amount of money to add pumpkin pancakes to my order. Turns out that for an extra $.79, we could add pumpkin pancakes to anything our hearts desired, at IHOP anyway.

They were delicious. Just like I remembered them. Kailey likes pumpkin pancakes too. HA HA...a convert! Kyra declined to try them, but she too will be turned. So head out to your local IHOP today and try the pumpkin pancakes. Tell 'em I sent you (at which point they'll cock their head and look at you strangely). But stay away from the coffee. IHOP coffee still sucks.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Home Repair, Part 2

This entry should actually be titled "Home Destruction/Home Repair". My last home repair job was the result of an act of nature; this one, an act of me.

A few days after the roof tile incident, Kyra and I ventured into her room on a quest for toys. Each week part of Kyra's homework is to collect objects beginning with the letter of the week and place them in her "letter can". She then takes her letter can to school and presents her chosen objects to the class. Of course, we had waited until the last minute to put the letter can together, so we were rushing to get it done before she left for school.

This weeks' letter of the week was "A", and Kyra wanted an airplane for her can. One of her toy playsets had an airlpane in it and I made a beeline to her closet to get it. The sliding doors of her closet were both open and overlapped in the center of the track. I spotted the playset and tried to push the doors open to get to it, but they would not budge. Kyra, you see, has a knack for knocking her closet doors off their tracks. I have absolutely no idea how she does it. She's just a little thing, and it takes a fair amount of pressure to get them off track. Normally it's a relatively easy fix, just pop the rollers back on the track. But on this special occasion, both doors were off track and completely jammed together. I shot Kyra a look. I didn't have time for this.

"Sorry, Daddy." she whimpered.

At this point I should have grabbed the airplane and left the doors for later, but I didn't. After a fair amount of pushing, hitting, and cussing (under my breath, of course) I finally freed the doors from each other and was able to get the front door back on its track. The back door would have none of it. One set of rollers was off its track and it would not go back in no matter how much I fiddled with it. I was pissed at this point and decided to pop the other set of rollers out of the track and start from scratch. Only they didn't want to come off. "How did she do this?" I said to no one in particular. Sometime in the midst of all the pushing and pounding, Kyra silently dismissed herself from the room. "I'm three times her size, and I can't even get this thing off!!" The door wouldn't go on and it wouldn't come off. I finally gave it one last frustrated shove. CRACK!! That did the trick. The door broke free...literally. The rollers, still attached to a nice little chunk of door, fell at my feet, mocking me.

Expletive. This one was out loud because I noticed Kyra was no longer around. I really didn't want to buy a new door. I picked up the door chunk, inspected it and thought maybe I could reattach it using wood screws. Cool. I'd get to use my drill. Besides, I figured I'd try anything before buying a new door.

I angled the door to get it out of the closet, but before long, it was wedged in tight between the floor and the upper molding of the closet. Remember, the front door was where it was supposed to be and had easily snapped back into place. I didn't want to remove it to get the back door out. Expletive. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS!

I finally dislodged the back door...again...removed the front door, and freed the back door from my youngest daughter's demon closet. Now we're getting somewhere. I put the door down on the floor of the den and headed out to the garage to get my drill and some wood screws. After digging around the tool box for ten minutes (man, I gotta clean that thing out), I finally assembled a rag-tag team of wood screws. I grabbed the drill and returned to the door. All I needed to do now was reattach the wood chunk and we'd be back in business.

I set the first screw in place, applied pressure with the drill and pulled the trigger. RRR-RRR-RRR. The battery was dead. "I'm really not good at this," I laughed as I finally grasped the absurdity of the whole fiasco. I left the screw half-drilled into the door and put the drill battery in its charger. That was my final clue that maybe I should take a break. I guess I'm not that good at picking up on clues. I'm certainly not stubborn.

I have no idea of what Kyra was doing this whole time. She could have been juggling chainsaws for all I know. What I do know is that I cooled off and we finished her letter can...without the airplane. I couldn't find it. She had to settle for ants, Ariel, and aardvarks. She went to school with her letter can and I returned to the door after the battery recharged and finished the job...without a hitch. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you exercise a little patience. I may not be efficient, but I get the job done!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Home Repair, Part 1

Bob Vila, I'm not. Tim "The Toolman" Taylor...that's closer to the truth. My luck comes in one variety and that's "bad". This past month was filled with an unusual amount of freakish occurances around the house, putting my limited home repair skills to the test. This is part one.

I was at work on a Friday night about three weeks ago. The ten o'clock news had just finished when my cell phone rang. It was my wife. "We've got problems." She said. She had just gotten home from work and discovered various messages from our neighbors informing us that a pipe behind our garage had burst and flooded our side and back yard. They noticed the flooding around 5 pm that evening and turned our water off via the water meter on the street.

"How did it burst?" I asked. I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around the situation.

"It looks like one of the roof tiles fell and broke it." Diane replied.

"A roof tile fell and ruptured a pipe buried three feet underground??!!" Give me a break. I was tired.

"No, there's a pipe coming out of the back of the garage and there's a chunk missing from it."

Great. "Well, do you see a tile on the ground?" I asked as I helplessly tried to assess the situation.

"Ummm, oh yeah...there's a tile right over here!"

That's just great. That's just friggin' fantastic. Out of all the stinking tiles on my roof, what are the odds of one of them falling off and breaking a 3" piece of pipe? When my luck is involved in the equation, pretty high.

I was stuck at work, which made things worse because I was powerless to do anything about it at that moment. If we had to bring in a plumber on a Saturday it was going to be expensive. Hopefully it would be easy to fix. Finally, my bad luck ran out.

Here's what I found when I finally returned home to check things out:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A roof tile had indeed fallen off the roof and ruptured the pipe. The pipe was plastic pvc piping and took all of 30 minutes and less than $20 bucks to replace. Thank God.

Now I'm waiting for my water bill.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Late Night

I just got home from work to find all my girls asleep. The house is dark and quiet. I should probably go to bed too, but my mind is too awake. Don't really know why. That makes for a restless night of sleep. So I'll write for a bit.

My wife has the gift of sleeps. She can fall asleep anytime and anywhere at the drop of a hat. Some nights we'll crawl into bed and I'll be telling her a story about my day, and I just know she is fighting the sleep. She wants to welcome it so badly, but knows that it would be rude to fall asleep in the middle of a story. So she stays awake. I'll smile and say, "You were almost asleep, weren't you?" and let her drift off. I just checked in on her and she was in light-sleep mode, as though waiting for me to get home before allowing herself to fully give in to her sleep-gift.

Kyra, my youngest, is a light, resltess sleeper. She thrashes around in her bed, throwing off covers, mumbling nonsense and generally cracking me up. When I checked in on her, I found her face down and spread eagle with most of her left leg dangling off the bed. I never would have done that at her age. That's how the monsters get you. Apparently she doesn't realize that. Perhaps ignorance, in this case, is bliss. Kyra is the one who most often shuffles in to greet me in the late nights after work as I nurse a beer and flip through countless channels of worthless programming. She'll give me a hug and I'll carry her back to bed where I tuck her in and give her a kiss goodnight. I'm half-hoping she'll come out and see me tonight.

Kailey, my oldest, could sleep through an air raid. She'll manage to work her way onto her covers and will sleep through any maneuvers needed to get her back under the covers. And God help me if I ever have to wake her up for school in the morning. It's actually turned into sort of a game where I'll sing silly songs and rub her back. When she ignores me long enough the back rub becomes tickling and then we're off. She's actually still under her covers tonight, sleeping on her side with her favorite blanky under her head. Did I just write "blanky"? I love to watch Kailey sleep. She's such a deep sleeper that I often wonder what she's dreaming about. I'll occasionally ask her about her dreams and she comes up with these crazy, elaborate tales that could only come from a dream. I think I'll ask her tomorrow after our singy-tickle wake up game.

I seldom remember my dreams anymore.

Perhaps that's part of the problem.


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