Monday, December 31, 2007

2007...Final Indignities

Thought I'd try to get one more post in for 2007, you know, just to wrap things up before the new year ('cause I know you were concerned):

Garage Door Opener Installation...

...went off without a hitch. Literally. They didn't include the hitch. So we put it up without one. Seems to work fine without it.

One On One With Aunt Debbie

My sister-in-law is in town for the Holidays, and late last week decided to give each of the girls a one-on-one day with her where they would go and do whatever they wanted. Over the course of those two days Kyra got locked in a gas station bathroom and Kailey made her first visit to a bar where she played pool. Merry Christmas Aunt Debbie. Paybacks are hell.

The Girls are Headed to Disneyland...

...and I'm stuck at home. With Rex, the super-hyper-active-hundred-pound-year-old Golden Retriever. My in-laws are taking my brother-in-law and his family for my nephew's 5th birthday, and the girls are tagging along. We, in turn, get to watch their dog. Oh well, it's the least that we can do seeing as how my father-in-law has spent the past two months breaking his back installing our flagstone patio. Paybacks are hell.

And Finally...

...a sincere wish for a great 2008. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Attack of the Christmas Eve Vampire Zombie Children



This picture of the girls singing at a Christmas Eve service freaked me out...especially the two girls on the left. Click on the pic for the full Dawn of the Dead effect. The expression on the kid in the lower left is priceless. "Is there something behind me?"

Saturday, December 29, 2007

All I (Didn't Necessarily) Want For Christmas

It just wouldn't be Christmas without some stupid crap breaking around my house. Nothing major, mind you, but just enough to be an inconvenience. Life during the Holidays is busy enough without having to engage in unplanned home repairs, but somehow they always seem to worm their way into my schedule. On Christmas morning my Father-in-law noticed that the garage door wouldn't stay shut. He pushed the button to close it, but as soon as it closed it would reverse course and open once again. He pulled out the ladder and gave the unit a small adjustment, and the problem was solved...for the moment.

The day after Christmas I went out to the garage after Diane left for work and noticed the garage door was once again wide open. I closed it and it popped right back up. I had to double click the button for it to stay closed. The girls and I were heading up to Phoenix for the day and I didn't have time to mess with it. When we returned that night, I noticed that not only would the door stay closed, but now it didn't fully open either. I was just barely able to get the van in the garage. So I hopped up on the ladder, gave it another little adjustment, and pressed the button. The door returned to its' full "up" position, problem solved.

Until I closed the garage door. The door closed, and stayed closed. It closed so much that the track that guides the door bowed upward out of position. That can't be good. I pressed the button again to reopen the door and relieve the tension on the track. Nothing. I readjusted the settings on the main unit and pressed the button again. Nothing. I cursed and kicked wildly at the door. Nothing. Finally, I conceded defeat and pulled the red emergence release cord, detaching the door from the opener. I had exhausted the extent of my limited knowledge of garage door openers and would need professional help.

I called the Sears service hotline the next morning. Long story short, repairing the opener would cost nearly as much as replacing it. Just having someone to show up and look at the garage door opener would cost $65. So I dropped $130 on a new garage door opener yesterday morning. Ho Ho Ho. Merry frickin' Christmas to me. Just what I always wanted. Installation will commence Monday morning, and the call to the Sears service/installation department will most likely commence Monday afternoon.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hiding the Salami

Time to add one more thing to my growing list of concerns regarding raising daughters. Actually, this has been on my list for quite some time, but I was hoping that it was just a phase and that the girls would grow out of it. No such luck. This one has me scared out of my mind and I don't quite know what to do. How do I put this in a way that doesn't sound really bad? I don't think there is one, so here it goes: it seems as though my daughters have an infatuation with seeing male genitalia, and more specifically, my genitalia. I'm completely freaked.

They enjoy playing a game I call "I Saw Your Pee-Pee" where they burst into the bathroom whenever I'm taking a shower or going to the bathroom. I do my best to cover myself, but they still cackle "I SAW YOUR PEE-PEE!" before fleeing the room. This is disturbing on so many levels, not least of which is having your manhood called a "pee-pee". OK, so maybe the water to the shower was still a little nippy when I stepped in. Cut me some slack! Having a female, regardless of age, point at your package and laugh is never a good thing.

Even more disturbing is the fact that one look doesn't send them running for the hills screaming at the top of their lungs and clawing at their eyes. This is the desired response, at least from my point of view. I want them completely disgusted by the mere thought of the opposite sex's member.

Lately I've been ascribing to the "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy. I lock the door while going to the bathroom or taking a shower hoping against hope that if they don't have access to see "it", then they'll forget about "it". I don't think it's working...my philosophy, I mean. This morning I forgot to lock the bathroom door while taking my shower, and in burst Kailey to tell me something about her socks not fitting right. I immediately covered myself and huddled into the corner of the shower. "Does it look like I'm in any position to help you with your socks?" I asked over my shoulder.

"No."

"So where do you think you should go to get new socks?"

"To my drawer?"

"Exactly."

"OK." She turned and started to close the door behind her, then turned back and added, "I saw your pee-pee."

I spent the rest of my shower beating my forehead against the tiled wall. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if she had told me she saw my one-eyed Gila Monster, but I doubt it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Anticipation

I made it to bed with two minutes to spare, 11:58 pm on Christmas Eve. The day was a busy one full of last minute shopping, cleaning, a Christmas Eve service, and dinner at the in-laws. No sooner had I settled into bed than I heard a shuffling of feet at the bedroom door followed by a loud whisper. "Mom. Mom. I think Santa has been here." Diane had been in bed for at least a half-hour and was totally dead to the world, so I took over.

"Kyra, it's been Christmas for less than five minutes. Santa hasn't had time to come to our house yet. Besides, he won't come until he knows that you're asleep," I lied. It's a good thing Kyra's terrified of the dark, otherwise she would have gone straight to the family room where all of the Christmas goodies waited to be freed from their wrappings.

"Oh," she muttered, "I didn't know that."

I got up, grabbed her hand, and led her back to her bed where I tucked her back in and kissed her goodnight. I returned to my bed and drifted into a contented, though short, winter's nap.

Now Diane may have been blessed with the gift of sleeps, where she can fall asleep in a moment's notice, but I have been blessed with the gift of deep sleeps, where it may take me awhile to fall asleep, but once asleep, I stay asleep. This comes in handy for those middle of the night wake-up calls, when the girls have nightmares or need a drink of water. Diane, being the light sleeper, is pressed into action while I remain blissfully unaware. And asleep. This was the case at around 1:00 am when Kailey wandered into the room wanting to open up presents. Diane corralled her back into bed, and both girls cut us a big break by sleeping in until 7:00. All of us were better rested and able to enjoy a great Christmas day.

I hope you were able to enjoy the same. Merry Belated Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Still Steaming

"Dad? Daddy? Da-ad?"

It was Kailey. It was also 7:00 in the morning. On Saturday. During Christmas vacation. And this was the second time she had burst through my bedroom door with what she considered important information. She first interrupted my sleep to show me her freshly manicured fingernails and toenails, a reward from Diane for her dramatically improved report card. I am proud of her and might have been able to better show it at, say, 8 am. I somehow passed it off, she skipped out of the room, and I drifted back to sleep. Now she was back with Kyra in tow.

"Wha..." I managed from the depths of my pillow.

"Where is it?" asked Kyra to no one in particular.

"Daddy, where's our iron (pronounced eye-run)?" Kailey asked as she crawled across the bed.

"I have no idea," I answered, suddenly much more awake.

"Here it is!" added Kyra. Diane must have used it before going to work that morning.

"Dad, did you know that an eye-run can actually burn your clothes!" Kailey informed me, wide-eyed.

I just stared at her. Who are you, what did you do to my beautiful daughter, and why are you bothering me?

"Yeah, there's this thing that makes steam and you hang your clothes on this hook and it has this little, like, hose where the steam comes out and you put it on your clothes and the wrinkles come right out and it doesn't even burn your clothes!"

"Yeah, it's called a steamer," I informed her with much less enthusiasm.

"A TOBY steamer!" chimed Kyra from the peanut gallery.

"Yeah, a Toby steamer."

"How much television have you girls been watching this morning, and why are you watching infomercials?" I asked.

"I don't know," they replied in unison.

"What's an infomercial?" asked Kyra.

"It's a long show about stupid things like Toby steamers."

"Oh."

"Ummm...you said stupid."

At this point, the fatherly thing to do would have been to bite the bullet and get out of bed. But seeing as how I'm less than fatherly, I did the next best thing. "Why don't you girls turn off the TV and go play in your rooms."

"OK." And they fled the room.

I fluffed my pillow and flipped it over to the cold side, but the damage had been done. I lay there, wide awake, for several minutes before finally giving up and getting up.

Stupid Toby steamer. I'd better not be getting one for Christmas.

So Close

The end is in sight, and I'm not just talking about Christmas. I redeemed myself this week by recommitting myself fully to the patio project. And I have proof! Diane came out with the camera as we were putting the finishing touches on the mortar.



Look at the concentration. We're completely focused on the job. Like Operation, "It takes a ve-ry steady ha-and."



Diane just wanted to get a shot of my arse...my better side. I almost said "half".



Alright, alright...can't you see we're busy? Hurry up and take the freakin' picture.



The nearly finished product. We're going to cap the ends with a brick border and we'll officially be done. Then it'll be on to the next project. But that will be next year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wii, Wii, Wii...All the Way Home

It has become my newest Holiday obsession, the ever-elusive great White Whale to my Captain Ahab, the One Ring to my Gollum, the Bandit to my Sheriff Buford T. Justice. Yes, I have been hunting for a Nintendo Wii gaming system, and I'm not even sure why. The girls' presents have been purchased and wrapped, and we're pretty much done with all of our Christmas shopping. I simply mentioned to Diane a few weeks ago that it might be fun to have a Wii because four people can play at a time and the system at least requires you to get up and move around to play, so you can't be a total couch potato. She rolled her eyes. "I just know how you are about video games."

"What? That was twenty years ago!" I defended myself. Man, you do one stupid thing and end up paying for it for the rest of your life. We were dating, both of us fresh out of high school, and I was over at her house one afternoon. They had a Commodore 64 computer and we were playing Summer Olympics. OK, "I" was playing Summer Olympics. Dinner was just about ready and Diane came into the room to ask me what I wanted to drink. I was performing in the high diving event and was concentrating on nailing the perfect dive. "Hang on just one sec," I said with no idea of how much I had just pissed her off. She turned and left the room without another word. She had become second to a video game and has never allowed me to forget it.

I'd like to think that I've grown and matured in the past twenty years, and, if not, I think I've certainly learned my lesson: to give my wife my undivided attention even if it costs me my video game life. See? Problem solved.

Shortly after our brief "discussion" about the Wii, I revealed my desires to my brother. "Good luck with that," he laughed, "You can't find 'em anywhere. And people are lined up to snatch 'em as soon as they come in stock. It's crazy." Well that seemed to be it. The gauntlet had been thrown down. Oh yeah, I thought, we'll see if I can't get a Wii for Christmas. And that's when my obsession began.

Perhaps "obsession" is too strong of a word. It's not like I'm calling all of the stores in town and asking them when their next shipment of Wii's is arriving so I can camp out and snag one as soon as the doors open. My obsession falls more into the providential realm. I've been faithfully monitoring several Wii Tracker websites to check on different stores' online availability, and if I can somehow manage to secure one, then great, it was meant to be. If not, then oh well, maybe next Christmas.

But here's where the obsession comes into play. This morning I've been monitoring the websites so faithfully that I'm afraid to leave this stinking chair for fear of missing that ever-so-brief window of opportunity. My bowels are screaming at me right now, but I don't dare leave because I know that as soon as I do, Target will have them available at the best possible price, which will sell out in 2 minutes. I just know it'll happen.

My obsession does have its limits, though. I'm not going to pay an exorbitant amount for my Wii. I won't go to Amazon or E-bay to pay $450 for a $250 system. And I'm not going to fall for a $700, 10 game system package from Walmart or Toys-R-Us either. I will pay a fair price for a basic system or I won't buy it at all. Then I'll pay the $250 in shipping charges to get it here by Christmas.

Wii, Wii, Wii...All the Way Home

It has become my newest Holiday obsession, the ever-elusive great White Whale to my Captain Ahab, the One Ring to my Gollum, the Bandit to my Sheriff Buford T. Justice. Yes, I have been hunting for a Nintendo Wii gaming system, and I'm not even sure why. The girls' presents have been purchased and wrapped, and we're pretty much done with all of our Christmas shopping. I simply mentioned to Diane a few weeks ago that it might be fun to have a Wii because four people can play at a time and the system at least requires you to get up and move around to play, so you can't be a total couch potato. She rolled her eyes. "I just know how you are about video games."

"What? That was twenty years ago!" I defended myself. Man, you do one stupid thing and end up paying for it for the rest of your life. We were dating, both of us fresh out of high school, and I was over at her house one afternoon. They had a Commodore 64 computer and we were playing Summer Olympics. OK, "I" was playing Summer Olympics. Dinner was just about ready and Diane came into the room to ask me what I wanted to drink. I was performing in the high diving event and was concentrating on nailing the perfect dive. "Hang on just one sec," I said with no idea of how much I had just pissed her off. She turned and left the room without another word. She had become second to a video game and has never allowed me to forget it.

I'd like to think that I've grown and matured in the past twenty years, and, if not, I think I've certainly learned my lesson: to give my wife my undivided attention even if it costs me my video game life. See? Problem solved.

Shortly after our brief "discussion" about the Wii, I revealed my desires to my brother. "Good luck with that," he laughed, "You can't find 'em anywhere. And people are lined up to snatch 'em as soon as they come in stock. It's crazy." Well that seemed to be it. The gauntlet had been thrown down. Oh yeah, I thought, we'll see if I can't get a Wii for Christmas. And that's when my obsession began.

Perhaps "obsession" is too strong of a word. It's not like I'm calling all of the stores in town and asking them when their next shipment of Wii's is arriving so I can camp out and snag one as soon as the doors open. My obsession falls more into the providential realm. I've been faithfully monitoring several Wii Tracker websites to check on different stores' online availability, and if I can somehow manage to secure one, then great, it was meant to be. If not, then oh well, maybe next Christmas.

But here's where the obsession comes into play. This morning I've been monitoring the websites so faithfully that I'm afraid to leave this stinking chair for fear of missing that ever-so-brief window of opportunity. My bowels are screaming at me right now, but I don't dare leave because I know that as soon as I do, Target will have them available at the best possible price, which will sell out in 2 minutes. I just know it'll happen.

My obsession does have its limits, though. I'm not going to pay an exorbitant amount for my Wii. I won't go to Amazon or E-bay to pay $450 for a $250 system. And I'm not going to fall for a $700, 10 game system package from Walmart or Toys-R-Us either. I will pay a fair price for a basic system or I won't buy it at all. Then I'll pay the $250 in shipping charges to get it here by Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Living in Oblivion

Sometimes I think it must be nice to be able to live a life of total detachment and disregard for your fellow humankind, to live life in a perpetual state of oblivion. Like ignorance, it must be bliss. There's no place where I see this more prominently displayed than at the girls' school, and school programs in particular.

It all starts off in the mornings. It's a very simple ritual called "dropping off your kids" involving a seemingly simple procedure where you drive through one of the two "drop off zones", you stop, your kid gets out of the car, you wave and blow kisses goodbye, and you drive away. What's so frickin' hard to understand here? Yet there are consistently ten cars in front of me that are holding up the entire freakin' line while they take five minutes apiece getting their kids' crap together. What are they doing?! Packing a lunch? Assembling a science project? What? And you know they had all the time in the world to get that crap together while the jag-offs in front of them were taking their sweet time "dropping off" their kids. Do us all a favor. If you want to take forever parting sweet farewells, park and walk, OK?

Then there are the moms who feel the need to get out of the car, walk around to the other side and open the back door for the kid. You'd think the kid must have too much to carry to be able to open the door, but, once again, you'd be dead wrong. That kid's got the longest, fully-functioning monkey arms that you ever did see, but the hands they're attached to are apparently not able to pull the lever on a car door. Give me a break. God gave us all opposable thumbs...what the hell am I even talking about? You don't even need an opposable thumb to open a car door! Just let your kid open his own freakin' door! The only thing you need to do as a parent is keep the car in park. Do you think you can manage that, car-door-opening mama?

Then there are the school programs. These are the worst. School programs bring out the absolute worst in parents who believe it is their inalienable right to do whatever the hell they want in the name of seeing their kid perform. This afternoon, the entire first grade class performed a series of holiday music in the school's multipurpose room. The program started at 1:30, but we got there around 1:00 because we knew it was going to be a zoo. We were still six rows back, but were able to secure some isle seats and an unobstructed view of Kyra where I could get some good video. Yes, I'm a video-nerd dad.

Wouldn't you know it, five minutes before the program starts, parents are streaming through the doors and standing right in front of where the rest of us, with asses half asleep from sitting on those forsaken metal chairs, have been sitting for the past half-hour. Thankfully, more chairs were set up at the back of the room and many used them. Even so, there was still one nimrod standing next to the front row taking pictures, looking back every so often to see if he was obstructing anyone's view. This guy must have been Oblivion's King because he was obstructing everyone's view and was still somehow unable to interpret the glares of 100+ parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. He only squatted down on the floor after a family member suggested that he might be in the way.

It's sad. I'm always happy and excited to see the girls perform, but accompanying that excitement is a sense of dread that the antics of these idiots will compete for my attention over the course of the program. So I put on my game face, cheer and clap and encourage my daughters, then come and vent by writing a scathing blog. For now, that seems to work.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On the Lam

Oh mama, I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of the law...

The jig is up, the news is out, they finally found me. Of course, they didn't need to look very hard, or far for that matter. They simply sent me a postcard. The "they" in question just happens to be the Pima County Superior Court and their post card was simple and to the point:

Our records indicate you failed to appear for jury service as instructed on the date noted above [December 6th]. You must immediately call the jury office to reschedule your jury service. Failure to contact the jury office may result in further action being brought against you by this Court as prescribed by Arizona law.
Oops. I completely forgot. But really, what do they expect? It's December, the busiest month of the year, for crying out loud! I didn't just blow off jury duty because I didn't want to do it (which I don't). I've just been busy. Busy, busy, busy. So busy, in fact, that I even forgot to write it in my Outlook calendar. I know that I thought about putting it in there so I wouldn't forget, but I must have gotten sidetracked somehow, which isn't hard seeing as how I'm global and everything. December 6th came and went, as did the 7th through the 18th, without so much of an inkling that I had broken the law. Usually that kind of thing will nag at the back of my mind as though I know I'm forgetting something that I can't quite put my finger on, like leaving the iron on or forgetting to pick the kids up from school, again (kidding, Hon). But not in this case. I was blissfully unaware that I was a wanted man.

Seriously, though, what do they expect? It's Christmas for crying out loud! The Courts should take the month off because who wants to be prosecuted during the Holidays? I know that no one ever wants to be prosecuted, but to have it done during the holidays just adds insult to injury. Nothing like Christmas lights and Jingle Bells to conjure up memories of the year they sent Uncle Louie up the river. C'mon, people, where's the Christmas spirit?!

And I'll bet half of the jurors summoned failed to show up because they were too busy to remember, right? Surely there are plenty of folks more incompetent than me out there. People who are all too engrossed in shopping and picking out the perfect Home Depot Christmas tree and dangling from rooftops to hang lights and spread Christmas cheer and laying flagstone patios and putting in 20 hours of overtime at work and writing stupid class papers and shuttling kids to and from various after school activities and spending way too much time blogging and finally drinking themselves to sleep to remember to report for their lawful civic duty.

I'm so going to jail.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

'Tisn't the Season...

...to lay flagstone.

Fa la la la laaa


La la la laaaa.

Unless you are my father-in-la-aw


Fa la la la laaa


La la la laaa.


I've been dealing with a self-imposed guilt trip this past week as I have largely abandoned my father-in-law on the patio project. My only consolation has been the fact that I at least helped him put down all of the large pieces, so I don't have to worry about him crushing a body part or throwing out his back. It's just that, with Christmas just around the corner, I've had to give my attention to other things. I did help him on Monday, but he fl
ew solo for the rest of the week, God bless him. I've had good reasons for my abandonment, and this is my attempt to cleanse my conscience whilst my dear ol' dad-in-law slaved away in mine own back yard.

Tuesday, I was gone. There can't be a better excuse than that. And it gets better. I was accompanying Kailey on her field trip, so not only was I spending quality time with my daughter, but was also performing my civic duty and providing quality care for your children as they expanded their educational horizons.

Wednesday morning, Diane and I took Kyra to the doctor. Another fantastic excuse as I was looking after my youngest daughter's well-being. Before that, though, I had a haircut appointment which, in my mind, is another good excuse for bailing because who wants to get all of those Holiday photos taken with a shaggy head, right? After returning from Kyra's doctor's appointment, Diane reminded me that Wednesday was now or never for getting the Christmas lights up on the house. Now I love having the house lit up with Christmas lights, but I loathe hanging them. Fortunately I did all the really hard work three years ago when I installed hooks under the eaves of the roof. And I was actually considering adding another layer of lights this year, which meant another layer of hooks. I quickly came to my senses and put the kibosh on that idea and reverted to the normal light set up.

Thursday morning was my final class for the semester (whoo hoo!), and then it was off to work (doh!). And I spent all of Friday morning paying bills and making sure we had the money to buy all this Christmas cr...stuff. I figured it would be also be prudent to pay the mortgage and keep the home we're (or he's) working so hard on from going into foreclosure.

We're making progress and I should be able to lend more of a hand next week. The flagstone is all in place, and now the long and laborious project of mortaring begins. Here's the "before" pic:



The "laying the foundation" pic:



And here's where we stand now:



Quite the difference, huh? Thanks Papa!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another Fleet-ing Moment?

Hopefully...and hopefully not.

Kyra has been complaining of stomach pains the past couple of weeks. Combine that with the acid reflux that she regularly experiences and refers to as "heart pain", and it hasn't been a very fun time. We took her into the doctor Wednesday morning where we were informed that she could feel another "blockage" in Kyra's tummy. Yes, I said another. Not good news. Diane then took Kyra to get an X-ray of her stomach to see the extent of the back-up.

The first blockage happened a couple of years ago, and it was bad. So bad that Kyra was throwing up, getting dehydrated and not pooping at all. After several calls to the pediatrician, one of her nurses finally called us back with instructions. Diane was at work and I was the poor sap to receive her sadistic marching orders. "Yes, we're going to have you go ahead and give her a Fleet Home Enema and we'll see if that clears her out." Her delivery was monotone and matter of fact, as though she were telling me to do something as simple as showering, shaving, or clipping my toenails. I didn't even know what a Fleet Home Enema was.

"...a wha...what was that again?" I stammered.

"A Fleet. Home. Enema."

That's what I thought she said. "And can I get this at Walgreen's?"

"Yes."

And do you do house calls?

There are some things that you should never, ever have to do to your child. The Fleet Home Enema is one of those things. There are also life situations that reveal a depth of love that you never thought you could experience, a depth of love that empowers you to do things you never thought you could do, things like changing disgusting diapers, rinsing out puke-filled sheets, and giving Fleet Home Enemas. I took my bowel-bound 4 year-old to Walgreen's and picked up the treatment in the seemingly harmless green box. We returned home where I read the instructions, one thousand times.

When I felt sufficiently informed (notice I didn't say "comfortable"), I gathered Krya into the bathroom and gave her the lowdown. "OK Sweetie, this is going to help you go potty." I walked her through the procedure and told her that she was going to feel a lot of pressure and that she was going to want to poop. Really bad. "We're going to wait one minute before pooping," I said. "The longer it stays in, the more effective it will be and the more the poop will come out." Or so I thought.

At this point, if I were Kyra I'd be running for the hills. I thought that she would start to throw a tantrum, but she had no idea what I was saying to her, no frame of reference to let her know that the poop chute was a one-way exit only. She trusted me and simply replied with an "OK Daddy", and I felt terrible about the rude awakening she was about to experience.

I applied the enema and she freaked. It was the worst I have ever felt as a father because I was causing my child this discomfort. She screamed the whole time, but allowed me to empty the bottle and then sat on the toilet for that whole minute before letting loose. She was a complete trooper (a pooper-trooper, if you will) and though I felt horrible about inflicting this torture on my child, I felt equally proud of her.

The enema, however, didn't even scratch the surface of the behemoth that dwelt inside of her intestines. We had to do another enema, and when that didn't work, we had to delve into the realm of prescription stool softeners before Kyra was finally able to pass the obstruction. "Get the poop out" became our daily mantra where we encouraged Kyra to sit on the potty longer than her normal ten seconds. "Otherwise we'll have to go to the store to get another home en-e-ma." Talk about motivation to take a crap. Kyra would do well to take a page out her old man's manual of bowel movement etiquette: grab your book or the sports page and have a seat for some quality throne-time.

We have yet to hear back from the pediatrician on the results of the X-ray. She ran through possible treatment options where the #1 priority was getting Kyra cleaned out. She only mentioned using Merilax, an over-the-counter laxative, in that process, but in the back of my mind I have this strange feeling that we'll be getting a call from the nurse suggesting a parallel home-treatment.

I originally thought that the makers of the Fleet Home Enema merely had a good sense of humor branding their product "Fleet" which means "swift", or "to pass quickly" if you use the term "fleeting", because, really, that's what you need to do, pass quickly. But I did a little research and found out that C. B. Fleet was a man who built a bowel-cleansing empire! Talk about destiny. At any rate, all of us want this situation to pass quickly, with or without the home enema.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I, Chaperone

Today, I was the coolest dad in the world. OK, I was one of about five of the coolest dads in the world as a chaperone to Kailey's 3rd grade field trip to the University of Arizona Museum of Art and Center for Creative Photography. I was surprised (and relieved) by how many dads there were on the trip. I think there were more dad chaperones than mom chaperones. To art exhibits. Go figure.

I was actually looking forward to this field trip. I'm no connoisseur of art and photography, but I do enjoy browsing the galleries, amazed by some artists' works, bored by others'. The real question today was would these galleries hold the attention of a bunch of 8 year-olds? And my challenge was understanding that I wasn't going for my personal gratification and fulfillment, but to supervise a group of 8 year-olds and then, hopefully, to experience some of that fulfillment on the side.

The kids did surprisingly well. And the museum curators have done this enough to know the quicker, the better. The tours went faster than I would have liked, but today wasn't about me. I had four chargees to look after, including Kailey, and they were all fun and well-behaved. Our group started in the Center for Creative Photography. They directed us upstairs where they had pulled a series of prints from their vault, four of which were original Ansel Adams' (the only name I recognized). We were then herded downstairs to the gallery where the kids were given a guided tour and were asked several questions about the works and photography in general.

The phrase "there's always one in every group" definitely rang true today. One kid had all of the adults shooting glances and snickering at each other. He was the "know-it-all", the kid who constantly had his hand up, the kid who had the answer to every question, the kid who threw in a little historical context for extra flavor, the kid who made everyone else in the room feel like morons. At one point I turned to Kailey's teacher and said, "I'll bet this one keeps you on your toes."

She smiled and informed me that Captain Know-It-All was a fifth grader who was a part of the art club also on the field trip. "I had him in my class, though," she added with a smirk. "And the memories are now rushing back."

We finished the tour and waited out in the lobby for a few minutes before going to eat our sack lunches. There was a gift area in the lobby and the kids in my group asked if they could go look at the postcards. I agreed. Postcards at a photography gallery? Big mistake. It's probably the guy in me, but I saw it first, rotating around the corner as Kailey turned the display rack. A nude. A nasty, little too lifelike nude. All of a sudden, life down-shifted into slow motion.

"Oh my gyosh! Hey guys! Look at THIS!" she exclaimed.

"Nooooooooo!" I cried in my head as I launched my body toward the kiosk. But my body couldn't seem to move quick enough. I could see it now, forever banned from field trips as the chaperone who allowed his kids to view gallery porn. Thankfully the boys weren't old enough to "appreciate" that kind of art. They scrunched up their noses, critiqued the work with an "EWWWW", and moved on to better things. I finally got there after shaking the cement blocks off my feet and quietly spun the display away from young eyes while redirecting them out the door to lunch. Disaster averted. For now.

The Art Museum was very cool and I was surprised by how many quality pieces were on display there. The kids seemed to enjoy it too. The experience would have been perfect had it not been for the Museum Nazi roaming the second floor and randomly barking reminders to "STAY BEHIND THE BLUE LINE". This woman was seriously pissing me off. Now I realize that some of these works are priceless pieces of art. But the kids had been given guidelines and there were plenty of parents around to enforce them. And we did. I had to remind a couple of the kids to get back, but they weren't being disobedient. They were legitimately interested in the artwork, the color, the detail of the pieces and just wanted a closer look. I just politely asked them to stay behind the line, and they did. That's all it took. This woman is prowling around with a scowl on her face and scaring the crap out of the kids. It was completely unnecessary.

At one point, I was keeping an eye on a couple of kids who had wandered away from the rest of the group to look at paintings on the other side of the room. They weren't goofing off or hurting anything, just looking. So I let them. Museum Nazi suddenly appeared in the room, scowl in place, looking for trouble. She saw the stray kids, then saw me. Our eyes met and I shot her a defiant look that said, yeah, I know they're not with the group...so what? Or at least that's what I meant it to say. I don't know whether she got that message, but she did turn and leave the room without a tantrum. Chalk up a moral victory for me.

Everyone had a good time despite the nasty nude and the Museum Nazi, and I'm glad that I had a chance to finally accompany Kailey on a field trip. It's something that I've wanted to do for a while, and I think she appreciated it. She's growing up so fast and I know that I need to take full advantage of those opportunities as long as she still wants me around, as long as it's still cool to hang out with your friends and your dad. Those days are numbered and rapidly counting down. Hopefully no one will find out about the nude and I'll be invited to chaperone again.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Just a Little Off the Top

Gifts from Nana.

Ironically, "Spike" seems to be the follically challenged one. The girls get a kick out of seeing how high the grass will grow. Me too. Sadly, this is the best grass I've been able to grow here in Arizona. I'm thinking about transplanting my back yard with Chia grass...just buy a bunch of these things and bury the heads in the ground? It could work.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

One of Those Weeks

This past week has been a draining one, physically, mentally and emotionally. I've sat down at the keyboard countless number of times the past few days to write something, anything, but ended up staring open-mouthed, dumbfounded, at the blinking cursor, unable to think of a blasted thing to write. I think I even drooled a little bit. Either that or I have a leaky roof to fix. Great.

The main bane of my week has been work. We've been trying to install a new automation system to run most of our on-air hardware for more than a year now. This week the higher-ups decided that come hell or high water, we were going to put that system on the air. Lots of bad things happened and I spent a lot of extra time at work "training", time that I could have been Christmas shopping, hanging lights, or, oh yeah, spending time with my family. These "training" sessions consisted mostly of standing around with arms crossed, watching engineers and system techs scratch their heads in wonder as to why things weren't working combined with several choice expletives.

This was the second time I've been "trained" on this system. The first training session took place way back in February when they were working some of the bugs out of the system. That training went mostly like this: "Well if the system worked, this thingy would do this," or "Now if you encounter this problem, you would do this, if the system were up and running, that is." So basically I spent my days off in a retraining refresher course on a system that should have been up and running ten months ago. And this weekend I have been running solo on this system that was declared "functional" at approximately 5:00 pm on Friday, or quitting time for those 9 to 5er's.

At about 9:00 on Friday night, Diane called me to tell me that the van wouldn't start due to a dead battery. She was at her folk's house and her dad was able to jump start the van so she could make it home, but that meant that I was up early Saturday morning getting the battery replaced. I white knuckled it all the way to Sears Automotive Center as I watched the dashboard digital display blink on and off with every bump in the road. I made it there without incident and later discovered that my Die Hard Gold battery was still under prorated warranty (of course, I missed the full replacement warranty by two months), so I only paid $30 for the new battery. That's the best news I had all week.

And to cap it all off, this morning as I stepped out of the shower I counted no fewer than four grey hairs...on my chest. It's bad enough to have grey on my head, but my chest?

Oh, yes, there will be drinking tonight.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Extreme Makeover...Christmas Tree Edition

This afternoon, Diane made our annual traditional trek to Home Depot to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. It was nearly 80° outside. Yes, Tucson's cold spell snapped over the weekend. There's something very wrong about picking out a Christmas tree when you're wearing shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops, which I wasn't, but I easily could have. There's also something very wrong about picking out your tree at Home Depot, but for some odd reason we've made it a tradition and we're sticking to it.

Our customer service experience at the Christmas Tree Depot was the polar opposite of last year. Last year we were greeted by an attendant on the lot who immediately showed us the perfect tree. We were in and out of there in about ten minutes. This year we were greeted by no one and spent about 25 minutes picking through the 7-8' nobles. I found a beautiful 9-footer that would have been perfect, but it was $30 more than the 8-footers. Thirty bucks for an extra foot? I don't think so. I pulled about ten trees out for Diane to inspect, and by the second one I wished that I was wearing shorts, t-shirt and flip flops instead of my long sleeved shirt and jeans: I was sweating like a pig. Wait, pigs don't sweat. I was sweating like a hooker in church.

We finally settled on a tree we liked, and I hauled it up to the checkout shed where a man looking eerily familiar to Santa Claus sawed off the end and shoved the tree through one of those net things. He and another guy tossed the tree on top of our van then gave me some string. I guessed I would be tying the tree on myself. So much for customer service.

We got the tree home and into the stand without incident...for a change. Some of the lower branches were going to need trimming, but no big deal. Diane went to pick up the girls from school and I retrieved some clippers from the garage to give the tree a little grooming TLC. The main problem area was a clump of branches on the bottom of the tree. But as soon as I sat down and investigated the clump I realized that I was in deep ca-ca. Several of the lower branches had been broken, presumably when the tree was run through the netting machine. If I cut them off entirely, I'd have a large bare area at the bottom of the tree, on the good side. Crap! Crap! Crap!

After weighing my options, I decided to do a little cosmetic surgery, MacGyver style. I went back out to the garage, grabbed some string, and returned to the tree to jerry-rig the broken branch to another higher branch. It held the branch there perfectly. Disaster averted...for now. Now I just need to keep an eye on it and hope it doesn't dry out too quickly, otherwise I'll be forced to, gulp, amputate. Oh well, better that I cut off one branch and stare at a glaring, ugly bald spot than for the whole house to go up in flames. Perspective is everything.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Revenge, Montezuma-Style

We had Thai for dinner tonight, and I really need to use the facilities right now. The problem is that each of our two bathroom's bathtubs are currently occupied by little girls playing with various toys and supposedly washing their bodies. So while I sit here and suffer, writing furiously in a vain attempt to take my mind off of the attack storming the sphincter gates, the girls are splish-splashing and having the time of their lives. If they don't hurry up, there'll be a whole 'nother kind of splish-splashing going on.

Then it occurred to me, "Just go...they do it to you ALL THE TIME!"

Yeah, they do, don't they.

It's true. Whenever I'm in the bathroom getting ready, one of the girls will come storming in and, in one fluid motion, the lid goes up, the pants hit the floor, and they plop down on the pot.

"Why don't you go use the other bathroom? You know, the one that I'm not in?"

"But Daaa-aad, I like this bathroom."

"You're not going to poop, are you?"

"No, I don't think so."

Fart noises echo in pot.

"OK, maybe I do need to go poop."

I then let out an exasperated cry and flee for my life. It happens all the time and it doesn't matter which daughter. They are both equally oblivious.

So maybe tonight I'll teach them a little lesson in bathroom etiquette. See how they like it when their old man comes in during bath-time and takes a Thai-laden dump mere inches away from where they're bathing. Perhaps after tonight the
other bathroom won't look so bad.

Oops. Gotta go.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Stop...AND SMELL THE ROSES, BABY!!

WE'RE GOING TO THE ROSE BOWL, BABY!!

Illinois needed a lot of help to get to smell the roses, and they got all of it during yesterday's choke-o-rama choke-fest.

#1 Missouri and #2 West Virginia would control their National Championship destiny with wins. Choke. Choke. Both lost and made a mess of the BCS. Ohio State and LSU backed into the title game with LSU leap-frogging unbeaten Hawaii and one-loss Kansas. I frickin' hate the BCS. Let the teams decide their fate on the field.

I'll take it easy on #11 Boston College and #14 Tennessee as they were underdogs against #6 Virginia Tech and #7 LSU. Choke is too strong of a word. They both lost and Illinois climbed a couple more spots in the BCS standings to #13, and a Rose Bowl date vs. #7 USC.

Yesterday, one of my co-workers asked me if I'd rather Illinois go to the Rose Bowl and get crushed by USC or go to the Capital One Bowl and beat Florida. Basically, he was asking me if I'd rather win a bowl game against a "lesser" team or lose one to a "better" team. I told him I didn't see it that way. I'm not trying to knock Florida because they're a great team, the defending National Champs, but USC is the premiere program in the country and I'd like to see Illinois take a shot at them. It would further strengthen our football program and Ron Zook's already stellar recruiting if we could come away from Pasadena with a win.

New Year's Day, baby...I'll try not to get too liquored up.

And I'll stop saying "baby"...sorry about that.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Free Coffee or a Kick in the Head...I'll Have Both, Please

Today I received yet another free coffee from Starbuck's. Usually I'm thrilled when such fortune shines it's friendly face upon me, but today I was just grateful because coffee goes great with humble pie. All the better to choke it down with.

Two days ago, as I do on most every day before I go to work, I drove through the Starbuck's drive through and ordered my venti breve coffee (that's a large coffee with cream for you uninitiated). I pulled through to the window where I was greeted by a familiar barista. "Did we mess up your order yesterday?" she asked.

"No," I laughed. "I don't think you've ever messed up my order."

"That's weird," she said with her face all scrunched up. "After you came through yesterday we found a venti coffee sitting here and we didn't know who ordered it. We thought we must've given you the wrong order."

"No, my order was fine."

Another barista joined her at the window. "See I told you it wasn't my fault," he joked as he handed me a coupon. "Here, take this anyway. You're a cool guy."

The coupon, used by baristas as recompense for shoddy service, was for a free beverage of choice. The barista was none other than Obnoxious Starbuck's Guy, the kid I lambasted in a post two weeks ago. Right then I felt like anything but a cool guy. I felt like a two-faced jerk. But free Starbuck's coffee is free Starbuck's coffee, so I thanked him, took the coupon, and went on my way. Then I waited a whole two days to use it, you know, as a penance for my scathing tongue. Yeah, it would have been a better penance to throw or give the coupon away, but, hey, free Starbuck's coffee is free Starbuck's coffee. Never look a gift barista in the mouth, or in the eyes for that matter, especially after burying a knife in his back.

Yes, I do realize how much I suck.

Friday, November 30, 2007

DoWiNaBloPoMo

I have fought the fight.

I have finished the race.

Though I wavered for a couple of days, I never said, "You know what? This is a stupid waste of time," and gave up.

Thirty days. Thirty posts.

I am Done With National Blog Posting Month.

It's kind of like dropping your kid off at college for the first time, although I've never done that before. I have been the drop-ee, so I have experienced the feelings of parental abandonment, of watching them plod back to the car, then busying myself in my dorm room, trying not to think about the fact that I have
NO friends in this strange new town. OK, now that I think about it, this is nothing like that. Sorry.

It's kind of like giving birth, again an experience I have next to no idea of what the hell I'm talking about. I mean, I was there for both of the girls births, but I can only imagine what it feels like to give birth. It looks really, really painful, and I was marginally freaked out by my wife's psychotic behavior before the epidural kicked in. But I was a natural at holding hands and saying "push" over and over and over again with greater and greater intensity as the head emerged a little bit, then disappeared, then emerged a little bit more. Alright, so maybe I shouldn't talk about childbirth either.

Large bowel movements? Now there's something I can talk about! I've experienced a butt-load of those, but I probably shouldn't talk about that because, well, that's gross.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that writing a post a day was hard. Maybe not in the same category as dropping off your kids at college or giving birth, but quite possibly in the same category as grunting one out on the throne after all-you-can-eat night at the Sizzler. And hopefully you won't stand back to admire your Sizzler-work the same way you might with the body of work produced during NaBloPoMo, although there was this one time...oh, never mind.

I set out to produce a month of quality posts, without doing a lot of complaining about it (I did subject myself to this torture, after all), and I think I did a pretty good job, until today. Overall, I'm satisfied. And I'm done.

Don't I win a prize or something?

The satisfaction of a job well done?

Bah!


The Grand Finale

Here's a funny birthday pic of my father-in-law trying to get out of the way before Kyra goes all Jedi on him...and the piñata.



Happy Friday.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Quitters Never Win...

One afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I was helping Kailey with her homework. Like probably most kids her age, Kailey has good days of doing her homework and lazy days. Fortunately, she has more good days than lazy ones. But when the lazy ones hit, they are doozies. She is usually overly tired and the homework seems to require a little more thought than your average, run of the mill addition or subtraction worksheets. I'll try to ask her questions that will prompt more thought about the question, when what she really wants is for me to just give her the answer. When I continue to ask her questions, she breaks down. "Da-ad. I can't do it...it's too hard!"

This is where the pep talk comes in, where I tell her that she can do it and that she just needs to work a little harder and not give up so easily. We were at this point on that afternoon two weeks ago. Kailey usually settles down and settles in after the pep talk, but not on this particular afternoon. After at least two additional failed pep talks, out of frustration I blurted, "C'mon Kailey, don't be a quitter!"

I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth. I don't want to be the type of dad who categorizes his children into camps of "winners", "losers", or "quitters". I do, however, want to raise two girls who work hard and don't give up in any of their endeavors in life, who don't feel like they are entitled to anything but will strive to achieve their life goals and dreams. And it starts with the simple things, like putting in the extra effort on difficult homework assignments. But right then I felt like the world's biggest jerk. And a hypocrite.

I took a deep breath to apologize, but before I could do it, Kailey blindsided me with a question: "Were you ever a quitter, Daddy?" Her question was completely sincere, but it staggered me nonetheless. It was as if, at that very moment, she could see into the most vulnerable, fleshy underbelly of my soul and was prodding at it's most tender spots. My gut reaction was to put up my defenses and deny it, to portray myself as a pillar of strength. If her question had been posed with even a hint of malice, that's probably what I would have done. But it wasn't. It was a question from a curious 8 year-old who wanted an honest answer to an honest question.

I took another cleansing breath, sat down next to Kailey and confessed that, yes, I had had moments in my life where I had not given my best effort or had given up altogether, and that they were moments that I was not proud of.
I told her that one of the reasons I wanted her to learn to work hard and never give up is so she might not experience similar regrets in her life. And I told her that as long as I knew she gave her best effort in anything she did, I would be proud of her. I don't know whether or not she fully grasped what I was trying to explain to her, but she seemed content with my answer, and we proceeded to work through her homework with no further issues. It was a precious few moments where I was, once again, disarmed and humbled by my oldest daughter.

I know that I won't be able to fully protect my girls from failure and regret. In some ways, they are unavoidable experiences that help form character. But I also know that they will become stronger women if they can learn to work through those times of adversity rather than avoid them, come up short, or bail out completely. The saying goes, "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game." That's where Diane and I come in as parents, to teach the girls how to play this game of life, the good times and the bad. And if they need a dad to lean on a little bit to help them get through the rough times, I'll be here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dirt

Last night we let Kyra play games on the Disney Princesses website, but apparently that wasn't all she was doing. We found this letter laying on the kitchen table later that night:


At first I was amused. He he. Kyra calling Hope's brother a "cumeplanr" is the pot calling the kettle "black". Kyra is the queen of cumeplaning, not to be dethroned anytime in the near or distant future. Although it sounds like he might give her a run for her money.

As I read on, my amusement was replaced by guilt mixed with a dash of horror. A hoosg crush on a coot boy named Wyatt? I suddenly felt like I was invading her privacy, but, hey, she left the paper right there on the kitchen table for the world to see. It's not like I removed her personal diary from under her mattress and broke the lock on it to violate her personal space. But it's weird for me, as a Dad, to hear (or in this case, read) my youngest daughter express her emotions over a boy. I guess I should get used to it. I know Wyatt, and yes, he is coot. He's also a very nice boy, so my feathers weren't horribly ruffled.

Then it occurred to me, this is dirt. I can use this for personal gain! Or at least for manipulative purposes. And she can't even deny it! It's all right here in pink and white! And a Grinch-like smile crept across my face. Oh yes, this could work out quite well...

"Hey Kyra, go clean your room or I'll tell Wyatt you think he's coo-oot!"

"Oh, you don't think you need to listen to me? Well I think your
entire class would find it very interesting to discover that you have a hoosg crush on a certain bo-oy."

This one's my personal favorite, and I've already used it. "Hey Kyra, you remember when you said Hope's brother was a cumeplanr? Yeah, you're sounding a lot like him right now." I used that this morning on the way to school, and for the first time in her short life, I rendered Kyra speechless. Utterly. Speechless. Maybe digging into her personal stuff isn't such a bad idea after all?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Heat IS On

It finally turned cool here in Southern AZ just before Thanksgiving, cool being in the upper 60's/lower 70's and sunny. It's the perfect weather, in my humble opinion, but it was short lived. The past two days have been cold, cloudy, and downright gloomy. They've been the kind of days where all you want to do is lay in bed and pull the covers over your head, which is pretty much all I did yesterday, minus the bed and the covers. I napped in the chair. This morning reminds me of an Illinois fall day: crisp, cloudy, and windy. The thermometer on the patio shows me that it's a brisk 49°. In Tucson. That just ain't right.

Given the change in weather, we finally turned the heat on last week, especially with overnight temps flirting with the freezing point. Since we moved here, Diane's blood has thinned and she has gone all Southern AZ on me. When temperatures dive below 75°, she dons sweaters, turtlenecks, ponchos, anything to keep her warm. Now that the temps are in the 50's and 40's, there's an ongoing debate about climate levels inside our humble abode. You'd think that because of the way I was raised, I'd have no problem with maintaining a tropical climate within the house during the winter. But I do, and I have absolutely no idea why.

Growing up, my brother and I would engage my Mom in a constant epic battle over the thermostat. The most heated battles took place during the summertime when my Mom insisted that the air conditioning be set at 88°. "What's the point! We're dying in here!" we'd plead. The point was that I had a single mom trying to raise two boys on a teacher's salary, and we could either eat and have enough money left over to do the things we wanted to do, or we could pay the electric bill. But not both. At 88°, much of the humidity, which is brutal in the Midwest during the summertime, was removed from the house and made things a little more bearable. Barely. My brother and I made frequent trips outside just to remind our bodies of the difference in heat and humidity, then go back inside to convince ourselves that even though it was 88°, it was still cooler than the muggy heat outside.

In the wintertime, the thermostat was set around 69°. I don't remember us complaining so much about that. All of us would just bundle up. We'd throw on extra sweatshirts and wear slippers around the house and shock the hell out of ourselves and each other every time we'd touch something or someone. And each of us had these plaid blanket-thingies with snaps that you could snap up into a sort of floor-length gown with arm holes and everything. They kept us warm, but I'm sure we looked like a misfit, plaid-frock clad order of monks. All we needed was a chant: Do-mi-ne, Lord we pray, keep us toa-sty.

Now I'm all growed up and the master of my climatic domain. While I've totally chucked the notion of sweating my ass off in the summer, for some reason I've embraced freezing it off during the winter. And I still have my snappy blanket tucked away somewhere in the closet, though I haven't used it for nearly 20 years. Perhaps it's nostalgia. Perhaps I'm a lunatic. Perhaps it's a combination of both, but I like keeping it cool inside during the winter. I have compromised a little though. Last night as I was getting the girls' pajamas out, a shivering Diane peeked in the doorway and asked, "Honey, is the heat on?"

"Yes, the heat IS on," I confirmed. "It's a balmy 72° in here."

And if you don't like it, there's a red and black plaid snappy blanket in the hall closet with your name on it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

She's Just a Laugh a Minute

Kailey's starting an early campaign for her run for class clown. I'm so proud. This afternoon as we were driving in the van, she was telling me how mean one of her teachers was because she wouldn't let them drink from their water bottles. "Yeah," she deadpanned, "Whenever one of us is bad she makes us sit on a stool in the corner with a pointy hat on our heads."

I immediately whipped around to look at her. "What?" I gasped, intending to launch a full inquiry into this heinous situation.

She cracked up laughing. "I'm kidding!" she cackled. "GOTCHA!!"

My mom, who was in town for Kyra's birthday, was riding next to me. I turned to her and shot her a look before joining in Kailey's laughter. She had gotten me. "Yeah, that was pretty good," I admitted.

We later picked Diane up from work and went out to dinner. As we were waiting to order, Diane was asking Kailey about some of her study habits, specifically about writing down her assignment information correctly. "So what did I say about that?" she asked as she tried to prompt the results of an earlier conversation.

Kailey shot back with perfect comedic timing, "Never to blow your nose in the dish towel?" After a moment of stunned silence, we lost it.

So while Kyra aspires to be Hannah Montana, Kailey seems to be following in the footsteps of Kathy Griffin. God help me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Battered Randomness 2

Nablopomo Day 25

My cockiness over writing a post a day, like Elvis, has left the building. Tonight it feels like I have nothing new of interest, so I'll return to a few random tidbits of news and developments of the past 24 hours.

Hope Springs Eternal...

...and saves the day. Kyra's friend from down the street, Hope, and her brother were the only kids to come to Kyra's birthday party today. And Kyra was OK with that, to our great relief. Actually, they had a great time. Karaoke, piñata pulverizing, pizza, cake, and presents...a good time was had by all. There was actually one other friend from her class who RSVP'd last night, but, wouldn't you know it, woke up this morning with a fever. Darn the luck.

Smelling Roses

With Kansas losing to Missouri last night, there is an outside chance that Illinois could be Rose Bowl bound as an at-large bid. But they're going to need a little help. If #1 Missouri loses to #9 Oklahoma or if #2 West Virginia loses to Pitt, #3 Ohio State will slide out of the Rose Bowl and into the national championship game. And #15 Illinois could slide in with a #14 Tennessee or #11 Boston College loss next week. That's a lot of if's, coupled with a likely match up against USC. I want to see it happen. REALLY BAD. Stay tuned.

Da Bears...

...have had a forgettable season after their run to the Super Bowl last year. However, I happened to tune in during the final minutes of their overtime victory against Denver. They scored two touchdowns in the final 5:00 to tie the game and send it into overtime, when they scored the final field goal mere minutes into overtime. Grossman's back, baby! Yeah, right. Little too little...

Black Friday

And I didn't spend a dime. Not on Black Friday, Brown Saturday, or Chartreuse Sunday. How will I ever survive?

Hope you have a good and colorful week.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Birthday Girl

Seven years have gone by way too fast. You came as a little bit of a surprise to Mommy and me. It took what seemed like forever for Mommy to get pregnant with your sister, and yet before Kailey even celebrated her first birthday, we learned that you were on your way. We weren't disappointed. In fact, we experienced a mixture of relief and gratitude as we realized we wouldn't have to wait years before having another baby. You were born on a Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the ultimate reason for giving thanks. I can still remember your weary eyes staring into the face of your Mommy for the very first time. And it seemed like only yesterday.

Now, you're riding bikes, reading books, swimming like a fish, hitting the ball like Ichiro, and singing like a rock star. You have an inquisitive nature, an unquenchable hunger for knowledge, and a sweetness and sensitivity that I pray never goes away. And you have a laugh that fills my heart to the point where at times I think it might explode. I am so proud of you and hope that you have the best birthday ever.

Happy Birthday, Kyra-girl.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Party On?

As a parent, you hate situations like this. You want your child to be well-liked, to have lots of friends, to not be the last one picked in gym class, to have their birthday parties well-attended.

Kyra's birthday is this weekend and we're celebrating it on Sunday afternoon. Several weeks ago when we were planning the party, we posed the question to Kyra: "Do you want to have your party on Thanksgiving weekend so that your Nana and Aunt Debbie can come, or do you want to have it the week after Thanksgiving so that more of your friends can come?" We then tried to explain to her and prepare her for a potential low-friend turnout should she choose a Thanksgiving weekend party because a lot of her friends could be out of town visiting family. "That's OK," she conceded. "I really want Nana and Aunt Debbie there."

Fair enough. I figured she'd probably have a handfull of kids show up, but none of us were prepared for this. As of today, no one has RSVP'd. I feel terrible. And pissed. Part of me wants to go on a tirade for this terrible injustice. And part of me just wants to cry. Kyra has such a sensitive soul that she will be absolutely crushed if nobody shows up on Sunday afternoon. And I don't want to see that happen. I realize that it is a holiday weekend, but I can't believe that NOT ONE KID is available to come. I mean whenever Kyra comes home with a birthday invitation, it's all she thinks and talks about. She's so excited about going to ANYONE's party. I can't believe it's not the same with the other kids in her class.

So I am dreading Sunday. I think I'll take evasive action on Sunday morning and start canvassing the surrounding neighborhood for kids. I'll buy and wrap gifts for them to bring, just so there's no expense on their part. And hell, I'll even invite and feed their parents just so they don't think I'm some predator-freak who's trying to have my way with their kids. I'll do just about anything to try to make this party special for my baby girl. Then, for the rest of the year, Kyra will attend each and every birthday party she's invited to, sans-present, as repayment of being stood up by the rest of her classmates. Yes, I am a little bitter.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful

Hope you're having a Happy Thanksgiving. This year I'm stuck at work. Again. Television stops for no one. Yes, it stinks not to be able to spend the day with my family, but I'm kind of used to it. 'Tis the nature of the beast. At least I'm making double time-and-a-half for my work today, and for that, I'm thankful. We've got Christmas to think about after all.

I'm also tired. Kailey came down with some sort of virus or food poisoning last night and spent the night puking her guts up. Poor thing. Of all the days of the year to come down with a stomach virus. So her Thanksgiving feast will most likely consist of Sprite and Saltines. Thank goodness for leftovers.

I haven't felt all that thankful this past year, and I don't know why. Thankfulness used to come pretty easily to me, but recently it seems to have been replaced by uglier attributes such as bitterness, selfishness, anger, and greed. I have plenty for which to be thankful: a beautiful, loving and supportive wife; two healthy, smart and talented children; a roof over our heads (and a very nice roof at that); and a job that allows me to support my family. I think that's part of my disconnect. I have a job, but it's not a job that I really want. Yes, it helps to pay our bills and put food on the table, but doesn't come close to offering personal fulfillment.

I think we become bitter and selfish and angry when we focus on the things we don't have as opposed to being grateful for the things we do. When we don't have the great job, when we don't have the perfect car, or when we don't have the 50" HDTV with BluRay, DVR and 5.1 surround sound. Man, I really hate that I'm writing this, but I'm guilty of all three. It makes me sound vapid and petty, but it's true. And I hate it.

So here I sit, alone with my thoughts in this room at work, and I know that something's got to change. I don't want to be that person hell-bent on material things. Not that material things are bad. It's just that they will never be enough. If I get the right job, the cool car, and 50" HDTV with BluRay, DVR and 5.1 surround sound, I will then want a new guitar, a Power Mac, a professional grade video camera, new bedroom furniture, a kitchen remodel, and a monkey. Again, vapid and petty, but true.

Now that we are entering the Holiday Season, I'm going to choose to be grateful for the things I have and not the things I don't. And for any family members who are reading this, you now have my Christmas list.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Me Me Me Me Meme

Apparently, my Crazy 8's weren't crazy enough, and I've been tagged by Dave at Living in the Now for yet another Meme. He took it easy on me, though. In this meme I need only to reveal "7 weird and/or random facts about yourself." First I need to lay out the ground rules before I get to the dirt:

  1. Link to the people that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
  2. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
  3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
  4. Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
My weirdness:
  • I made it through the 80's without owning ONE pair of parachute pants, though I desperately wanted them. My mom gave me the choice of owning parachute pants or eating. I chose eating.
  • I'm a pen fanatic. I love pens and am very particular about the pens I use. My current favorite is the Uniball Signo fine tip. I don't like sharing my pens either. I break out into a cold sweat if someone asks to borrow it, and I pity the fool who tries to run off with my pen.
  • Even though I don't see it, I've had a LOT of people tell me I look like Nicholas Cage.
  • I am afflicted with the same skin disorder that Michael Jackson claims to have. It's called vitiligo, which is a loss of natural pigmentation resulting in white patches of skin. People with vitiligo have no defense against the sun's rays. The patches won't tan, just burn. That's why you see Michael with an umbrella whenever he's outside. Southern AZ is not the best place in the world for me to be. I try to stay in the shade and slather on the sunblock.
  • I like Barry Manilow. I can't help it. I blame my Mom because I grew up listening to him. But I liked listening to him. In sixth grade I entered a solo vocal competition where I sang "Even Now". My music teacher wouldn't let me sing it the way I wanted to, like Barry sang it. I had to sing it choral style, with no vibrato and, oh yeah, up one octave. I sounded like I belonged in the frickin' Vienna Boy's Choir. I hated that woman. I only practiced the song twice, won first place, and never entered competition again. Barry would be so proud.
  • I am a recovering vandal. I once spray painted my girlfriend's name on the support of a highway overpass. I was in high school and was with two friends who spray painted the names of their girl friends on the same overpass. One day several years later, when I was home from college and my younger brother was now dating one of the girls whose name had been written on the overpass, my Mom burst through the door. "I am going to KILL your brother! I was driving down under the overpass, and there in four-foot tall letters was spray painted, 'I LOVE CHRISSY'. I wondered what the statute of limitations were on punishment for vandalism, but then figured, screw it! I was 21 or 22. I was a man! So I started laughing. Hard. "And if you would've looked ten feet to the right, you would've seen 'I LOVE DIANE' written in five-foot tall letters." I confessed.
  • I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. That is neither weird nor random. Just outside of Champaign, as you drive westbound on I-74, is a sign noting "The Origin of the Kaskaskia River". There is nothing there. No creek. No body of water anywhere. So one night, in the "wee" hours of the morning, my roommates and I decided to drive out there and create an origin of the Kaskaskia. And we weren't even intoxicated. I don't think.
TAG!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pass the Pain Killers. Stat.

Pain. Intense, excruciating pain. Arthritic fingers won't glide across keyboard. Hand curved in permanent G.I. Joe "kung fu" grip. Typing with right index finger. Occasional help from thumb.

Had "bright" idea yesterday. Deviate from original patio plan. Be creative! "Extend" one side of extended patio. More digging. More mixing. More hauling sand, dirt in wheel barrow. Will look "cool".

Today. May have overdone it. Digging. Lots of digging. Hauling lots of dirt. Big hole. Found irrigation lines. Again. Crap. More digging and rerouting lines. Dug some more.

Fill big hole with cement. Mixing. Lots of mixing. Sand, cement, water. Mix, pour, repeat. Stopped counting at 20. Can't feel arms. Lower back killing me. Legs? J-E-L-L-O.

Took ibuprofen. 6 or 7. Not working. Need more "kick". Percoset? Vicodin? OxyContin? Screw it. Going directly to morphine.

Patio? Looks frickin' cool.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Just a Case of Pre-Concert Jitters

The past month has been all-Hannah, all the time. Hannah Montana for Halloween, Hannah Montana in concert, and now Hannah Montana...the birthday party. Kyra turns 7 this weekend, and yes, she has chosen Hannah Montana as the theme for her party, which we'll be having at the house, complete with a guitar piñata (I just want you to know...it took me at least ten frickin' minutes to figure out how to put that frickin' tilde over that frickin' "n"). Let me just say that in this season of thanks, I will be thankful to give Hannah Montana a rest for a good, long time.

A few weeks back Kyra decided that for her birthday party she would like to perform a Hannah Montana song. And she wanted me to accompany her on guitar. Does it sound to you like I have an ambitious Miley Cyrus-like performer in the making? Hey, if she can make us some Miley-like money, I say go for it! I'll even pay for the future therapy! After a thorough review of Miley's latest CD, Kyra selected I Miss You, a song about losing a loved one. And she wanted to dedicate it to her great grandpa who passed away just before Christmas last year. I love it when her sweet side shines through.

So I had a song to learn. I went online to try to find lyrics and a chord chart for the song. The chord charts I found were complete crap and I sometimes wonder if the doofuses uploading them are listening to the same song. Like the saying goes, if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. So I did. Since then I've listened to the song a million times just to get the tune down and to practice with Kyra.

Tonight we practiced without the CD for the first time, and I think Kyra was a little shocked, like walking the tight rope without the safety net. We ran through it a couple of times and when we were done, Kyra looked depressed. "My voice doesn't sound right," she pouted.

I laughed. "Yeah, your voice sounds a little different when Miley's not singing along, huh?"

"It sounds all...scratchy."

In reality, it sounded fine...like a soon-to-be 7 year-old singing a Miley Cyrus song. I think she's just getting a little anxious about her performance and I'm beginning to see signs of perfectionism sprouting in my youngest daughter. Hmmm...I wonder where she gets that from.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Note to Obnoxious Starbucks Guy

Dear New Starbucks Drive-Through Guy,

I'm normally a pacified, peace-loving human being, but in the few brief interactions we have had, I have been pushed to the brink of my sanity. Now I realize that the culture created by Starbucks produces employees who are warm, personable, interactive, sometimes a little over the top, but still tolerable. And I am more than happy to converse with people who are genuinely engaging. You, however, have taken "over the top" to an art form.

I am a simple man with simple pleasures, one of which is to pick up my venti drip coffee as a pick-me-up before a long shift at work. I can be a little cranky when my caffeine level is low, and your fake-enthusiastic greeting doesn't help matters any. Neither do your pet names. I don't know you and don't enjoy being referred to as "bud", "guy", "dude", and sure as hell not "pal". In your case I would gladly concede to being referred to as "sir" before any of these. And let me remind you that you're working in a drive-through. Your job is to take my order, see that it's filled in a timely manner, and be pleasant in the process. I don't want to answer stupid surveys that you've made up off the top of your head or give you the details of my daily plans or the contents of my lunch bag. Sometimes silence is golden.

How you ever got hired by Starbucks to begin with is a mystery to me. Even more mysterious is why they let you interact with customers because you are quite possibly the most annoying person I have ever met. The only reason I can think of is that the other employees have banished you to the drive-through window so that they don't have to be subjected to your hyperactive banter. My wife suggested that I try to out-annoy you, but I know that's not humanly possible. So, instead, I offer a little word of advice: go back on your meds. They help. They really do. And if you're opposed to that, perhaps find a new line of work more suitable for your "talents". Like telemarketing or used car sales. Just leave my beloved Starbucks alone.

Sincerely,

A Caffeine-Deprived Customer

Saturday, November 17, 2007

'Tis the Season...for "Santastic"?

It's no longer a big surprise. What used to be regarded with great disgust and disdain is now blindly and blandly accepted as the norm, and it is simply this: the Christmas season begins earlier and earlier every year. No sooner are the spooky decorations of Halloween torn down than the festive ones go up. Hell, some retail outlets even seem to mark Labor Day as the beginning of "the Season". Screw Thanksgiving. They can't make any money on Thanksgiving, a holiday in which only Butterball comes out ahead. Retailers feel the need to keep their eyes on the prize, which this year is to rake in as much cash as possible before the looming recession sets in.

Our Christmas season reluctantly sputtered into life on Tuesday night. I was tired from a long day of digging in the dirt and mixing cement when Diane called me from work. "Hi...I umm...signed us up for something here at the mall tonight. I thought it was tomorrow night, but it's tonight. Can you get the girls ready and come in? We can do dinner here and then go." How did she know that that was exactly what I wanted to do after a long day of manual labor beautifying her back yard.

"What is it?" I sighed.

" I...don't...know exactly. I know it involves seeing Santa. It's some new thing that's supposedly sweeping the nation. Ours is only one of three malls in the country that has it."

I laughed. "Three malls is hardly 'sweeping the nation'."

"I know, but it sounds like it could be fun for the girls. Tonight is reserved for employees of the mall and they're giving everyone complimentary photos with Santa. So can you come?"

Did I have a choice? I felt like being a Scrooge, popping open a beer and lounging in front of the TV. But, in the interest of starting off the Holiday Season on the right foot, I conceded. I hobbled out to the family room to give the girls the news. "Hey girls, I'm going to get a quick shower, then we're going to get dressed and GO SEE SANTA!"

Kyra's response was classic. "Santa? It's not even Christmas yet! We haven't even had Thanksgiving!"

I think I startled her with my unexpected burst of laughter. She jumped but then smiled as I held my hand up for a big high-five. Amen, sister. That's my girl.

The prospect of seeing Santa quickly overshadowed any rational thought of Christmas being 45 days away, and we were soon out the door. We met Diane at her store, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then headed over to the Santa Claus experience that was sweeping the nation.

The village constructed in the mall's center court was called "Santastic". Inside the village was a series of stations or activities that basically kept families busy while waiting in line to get their picture taken with Santa. It's a pretty ingenious concept. In the first station, we were greeted by helpers with radio headsets who invited us to free cookies and milk. They also invited the girls to write a letter to Santa on the "Santastic" stationery.



The next station was a mailbox with a direct link to the North Pole where the girls took turns depositing their letters. As they opened the mailbox, they were met with a gust of wind and a cold blast of snow.



Next was the "Naughty or Nice" meter. Kids pushed the big red button and watched the needle flirt precariously with the "Naughty" side before settling on "Nice".



Obviously, any "Naughty" children didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of sitting on Santa's lap. Needless to say, I didn't get my picture taken with Santa. Oh well, maybe next year. I told Diane that I was a naughty boy in need of punishment, but she just rolled her eyes.



The girls finally made it to the Jolly Ol' Elf, though, with no problem. They took a nice picture and then hit him full on with their Christmas lists. We were then herded over to a computer station where a helper showed us a series of pictures taken at the various stations. This is where they make their money. We reviewed the pictures, but the only one we really wanted was one with Santa and the girls. The helper looked slightly disgusted as we told her we only wanted the complimentary photo. Hey, if they wanted us to buy more pictures, they shouldn't have allowed me to bring in my own camera. Live and learn.

So I've returned to Bah-Humbug mode for at least another week. I'll try to get back into the Christmas spirit after Thanksgiving. After all, I've got Christmas lights to hang.


 

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