Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Price for a Weekend Alone

It was a memorable Memorial Day weekend. Several weeks ago, my in-laws decided they were going to take another trip to see my sister-in-law, and they asked us if they could take the girls with them. COOL! They also asked if we would watch Rex for the four days they'd be gone. CRAP! Kidding. Watching Rex is a small price to pay for a long weekend alone with my honey.

On Sunday, Diane treated the two of us with massages, using the remainder of a gift certificate she received. Diane went with a sixty-minute hot stone massage and a face brightening facial while I indulged in the ninety-minute signature massage, and it was awesome. It sounds crazy, but a sixty-minute massage goes by too quickly. Needless to say, we left the spa feeling happy and shiny. We spent the rest of the weekend utilizing the grill, resting, catching up on some videos, and doing a little house/yardwork. Oh yeah, and watching Rex.

Sunday night, we let Rex out so he could do his busy work, and after a couple of minutes I heard Diane cry, "Oh crap...the sprinklers are on!" I rushed to the window to find that the sprinklers, indeed, were on, and that a thoroughly soaked Golden Retriever was frolicking in the midst of them like a swimsuit clad ten year-old on a hot summer day. I grabbed the video camera and captured the video you see below. It was quite the sight.

All in all, Rex was a good boy. It sounds like the girls had a good time with their Aunt, and I'm excited to have them home tonight. We'll see how long that excitement lasts because I'll spend the next six weeks trying to keep them entertained during their summer vacation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Master's Dealings with the General Public

One of the things I absolutely hate about my job is dealing with viewer calls. I should feel sorry for people who call television stations to complain about stupid crap, because they clearly don't have lives, but I don't. They are annoying and I would rather drink a bucket of monkey snot than deal with their stupidity. OK, maybe not, but you get my point.

People call in to see if their soaps are going to run in their entirety after the President gets done yapping, or to ask why their Favorite Show is a repeat today, or, the #1 phone call I get, why in the name of the Good Lord above are we broadcasting our programming in Spanish. Here in southern AZ, this is a major-league hot topic as the immigration debate sizzles on. Tucsonans are pissed enough to have to "Dial 1 for English". Can you imagine their ire when they tune in to their FAVORITE PRIME TIME PROGRAM and hear, "Oy Dios Mio! Mi lapiz es amarillo!" Let me just say they're not happy campers. 99.9% of the time, the issue is with the audio settings on their TV, and I walk them through it as best I can. I once spent fifteen minutes going 'round and 'round with a woman who was adamant it was NOT her audio settings. "Ma'am," I tried to explain, "I'm listening to the program on our Cox Cable feed and it's in English."

"Well, I'M hearing it in Spanish," she countered.

"If you would at least CHECK the audio settings on your TV..."

"It's NOT my TV," she interrupted. "I haven't TOUCHED my TV. Maybe I should call Cox Cable and see if THEY'RE having a problem."

"That's a great idea, Ma'am. Why don't you do that." Click. Problem from my end? Solved.

What annoys me the most about these calls is that I shouldn't receive half of them. These are the nut jobs who are transferred to me because no one else at the station has the balls to deal with them. Last week I was transferred a call from a viewer who "couldn't figure out our prime time schedule." He was confused because there was no continuity to it and he was missing shows because they weren't airing at the same time from week to week. My solution? Pick up a TV Guide!! They have them right there at the checkout counter of your local grocer, and, hell, they're even FREE in your local paper!

My all time favorite happened last Friday night. We were in the 5p newscast when the phone rang. I answered it and was immediately sorry that I had.

"Ummm, yeah..." Whenever the person on the other end of the line starts our little conversation with "Um, yeah", it's going to be bad. "You just aired a commercial for [such and such a place], and I noticed in the first few seconds of the commercial there's graffiti across the man's shirt, and since your station has been doing a series on graffiti, I was wondering what the significance of that was."


Followed by uproarious laughter. I know it's not polite to laugh in someone's face, or in this case, ear, but I couldn't help it. WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU, I wanted to scream. Instead I laughed, "Sir, I haven't the slightest idea."

"Well then why did you air it?"

"Because the business, [such and such a place], PAID us to. That's how we make our money. Businesses pay us to air their commercials."

"Well, how am I going to figure out the significance of that graffiti?"

The significance, sir, is that you have deciphered the code from the Mother Ship, and they will be landing soon to claim you as their new leader.

"I guess you'll just have to call [such and such a place]." I figured I had done my part and that it was now my turn to start passing the buck.

"I don't think they're open until the weekend, are they?"

"I don't know, sir, you'll have to give them a call. Thank you." Click.

I then set out on a headhunting expedition for the spineless jerk who transferred that call to me.

I am SOOO asking for a raise.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hey Now, You're an All Star

Kailey's Blue (Balls) Bandit softball season came to an end last night with a loss against their league arch-rivals, Lightning. The game was a meaningless one as Lightning already eliminated the Bandits from the playoffs. Only one team from each league can enter the city-wide playoffs, and Lightening earned that spot outright by beating the Bandits in their regular season meetings. Kailey had a good game offensively, going 2-3 at the plate with no strike outs.

The good news of the night was that Kailey's softball season was extended when we learned that she was selected for her league's All Star Team. Way to go, Kailey! So now, she'll be practicing with her All Star Team in preparation for a tournament at the end of June. And it sounds like the tournament is a pretty big deal, with opening ceremonies, special tournament programs, All Star uniforms, and All Star team support shirts, all for a price, of course. Still, it sounds like it should be an exciting time, and Kailey is pumped. I'm going to take a couple of days off from work so I can attend the whole tournament. I must be nuts. Taking time off from work to attend a softball tournament in the southern Arizona summer heat? I can't wait.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mourning Final Mornings

Tomorrow is the last day of school and we'll be attending Kyra's kindergarten graduation in the morning. After a short summer vacation, both of our girls will be full-timers at school, and that makes me a little sad. Sure, part of me is screaming FREE TIME, which, as a homeowner, I know really isn't true, but there's another part of me that is truly going to miss spending mornings with Kyra.

There were mornings where things just had to get done: cleaning in preparation for a family visit, doctor visits, grocery runs, or the seemingly endless house calls for home repairs/services that were beyond my limited level of expertise. But most mornings I made time for Kyra where we engage in a variety of activities. We'd play board games or cards where more often than not she'd flat out kick my butt in everything we play. Or we played make believe, everything from Star Wars to princesses (I was a prince) to Lion King. We sang karaoke, Disney-style, or I'd pick up my guitar and pluck out a tune for Kyra to create her own song to. We played soccer, softball, and basketball, and when we were bored, we'd make up games, my personal favorite being roll-ball, a game that started out rolling a ball to each other but quickly turned to beaning each other. I tried to take full advantage of the limited time we had together, and as I look back on these times, I'm glad to say that I have few regrets, and I hope Kyra will feel the same way.

I thought yesterday would be my last morning with Kyra, and I wanted to make it special: take her out to breakfast or do whatever she wanted to do before going to school. Tuesday night, that plan was shot to crap with a single KABOOM! The shock rattled our whole house and Diane and I thought a car had run through our garage door. We rushed out to the garage to find nothing peculiar. I then went out the front door to investigate. Nothing. Our neighbor from across the street joined me. He heard the boom over the din of his TV, which is saying something since he is older and hard of hearing; I can sometimes hear his TV from inside our house. We looked around for a few minutes, but still found nothing until I tried to open our garage door. The opener pulled it open about an inch, then stopped. I looked up through the gap created at the top of the garage door and saw two medium-sized springs where one large spring used to reside. It had broken in two, creating the "explosion" that led to our investigation. Mystery solved. I wonder how much THIS is going to cost.

I informed my neighbor of what happened and he told me that he had his spring replaced earlier in the winter. Just another one of those joys of being a homeowner. So I spent my last morning with Kyra on the phone trying to get someone out to fix my garage door. Turns out the door won't open with a broken spring, so I was stranded with both of our vehicles stuck inside. After calling EVERY garage door place in the phone book, I finally arranged to get someone out before I had to get to work. But my original plans were thwarted. I tried to make the most of the limited time with Kyra by challenging her to a rousing game of Monopoly Junior, Disney Princess version. I was thoroughly humiliated as Kyra once again cleaned my clock. I think the game lasted all of fifteen minutes. Then the garage door guy showed up, early for a change, and freed our cars from the prison of our garage. When he finished, it was time to get Kyra to school. Not exactly the way I wanted to spend our last morning together, and I spent the rest of the day fighting a funk.

This morning, though, I caught one of the few breaks that life tosses my way. The girls spent last night at my in-laws because I was working late and Diane was in Phoenix leading training sessions. Kailey had an awards presentation at school this morning and I met up with Kyra and my in-laws for the short ceremony, then I took Kyra home for a couple of hours before taking her to school. I was so thankful to have that time and I gave her my undivided attention. She wanted to sing karaoke, so that's what we hour and fifteen minutes of Disney karaoke. We spent our last morning together doing something we both love: singing our fool hearts out. It was great.

Tomorrow morning, she graduates from kindergarten, and I didn't think I'd experience the range of emotions I'm feeling. She's my baby and she's taking another step in her journey towards adulthood, and right now I'm having a hard time with that. The other night while getting ready for bed, Kyra came up to us and sang, "Start spreading the news...I'm leaving today..." Diane promptly requested for her to be quiet, an indication that she's struggling with this life transition as well. Don't get me wrong, we're extremely proud of Kyra and know that she's more than ready for the next stage of her life. We love seeing her experience new things where she succeeds and learns and grows. But for some reason, it's taking Mommy and me a little longer to get on board the grow-up express.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

No Wonder I'm Going Grey

This morning as we were watching Kyra's softball game, Diane turned to me, grabbed my arm and gasped, "Oh, I almost forgot to tell you..."

Diane just returned from a three-day conference in Scottsdale where she was honored as one of her company's top managers. Her company wines and dines them, books inspirational speakers, and pulls out all the stops to express their appreciation. Diane is amazing at what she does, and it's exciting for me to see her honored in this way. As she was getting her things together and preparing to leave for the conference, Kailey came into our bedroom to present a rather unusual request.

"Mommy, when you go on your trip, can you bring me back something?"

A small grin spread across Diane's face. "Don't I usually bring you and Kyra back something when I go on a trip?"

"Yes, but I was wondering if you could bring me back something different. Like something for big girls."

"Like what?" Diane wondered aloud.

"Like a poster...with a boy on it."

My jaw dropped as Diane recounted their conversation. A POSTER WITH A BOY ON IT? SHE'S EIGHT YEARS OLD? I immediately envisioned a shirtless Enrique Iglesias, his body glistening with sweat, eyeing my daughter from his perch on her wall. OK, that was probably a little too much detail, but as an overprotective dad, that's where...oh, never mind. There's no good way to explain it. Diane seemed to think it was funny. I was looking for someone to kill. Over my dead body will she EV-ER own a poster with a boy on it. What is she going to ask for next, the annual Firefighters Calendar?

Needless to say, Kailey did NOT get a poster with a boy on it. What she got instead was all of her TV viewing privileges revoked because that's the only thing I can think of that might put that cockamamie, NO, er, um, CRAZY request in her head. I need a drink. Anything to get the image of sweaty Enrique out of my head.

Tee Ball is His-to-ry!

This morning I attended my last tee ball game, EVER! Whoo hoo! If I never see another tee ball game, it will be too soon. No more kids picking their noses, digging in the dirt, or getting hit in the head with the softball because they weren't paying attention. Actually, I kind of liked seeing the kids get hit by the was the only entertaining part of the game. Perhaps I'm just a little grumpy due to a severe lack of sleep. For some reason, the league likes to schedule the tee ball games at 8:00 am on Saturday mornings when there's not another living soul on the park's four softball fields until at least 10:00. The only benefit to playing early is to beat the penetrating rays of the desert sun, but if I had my choice, I'd rather sleep the extra two hours.

By around 8:30, I was snoozing through this game. Diane and I took our seats at the top of the bleachers for no other reason than there were bars that we could rest our backs up against. I dozed off until it was Kyra's turn to bat. Then I made my way up to the fence to take pictures and video of her at the plate. In fact, it seems like all of the dads had their cameras this morning, and we took turns marching up to the fence to capture amazing moments of our offspring flailing their bats at that elusive yellow ball.

Kyra actually did pretty well at the plate, hitting off the pitcher twice. She always seems to have to use the tee on her last at bat, a victim of boredom or fatigue due the slow pace of the game. I think she was also a little bummed. She didn't get to do any of the things she liked during the game: she didn't hit first or last (the last batter gets to run all the bases after they hit), and she didn't get to play pitcher or first base, the two field positions that get 99.9% of the action. So she was pouting.

When I look back at the season, I think we should have moved Kyra up to the next level, into Kailey's league. She would have been stimulated and challenged more, and I believe she would have excelled. And, more importantly, it would have made our lives much less hectic! Oh well...coulda, woulda, shoulda. Just like my beloved Cubbies, there's always next year. Unless we enroll them in fall ball.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Brush & Bulky Overload

When we moved into our house a little over three years ago, neither Diane nor I knew a thing about landscaping or lawn care. Sure, growing up in the Midwest, I spent a major portion of my summers mowing lawns, but I had no idea of how to keep them green and weed-free. So the past three years have been a hit and miss crash course in yard care, and my new philosophy has become "when in doubt, hack". By the looks of the foliage growing on our property, the previous owners of our home also engaged in this hit and miss course, and we are now suffering the consequences. Several of our trees and bushes were severely overgrown and no amount of hacking could scale them down to an acceptable size and still look good.

Most of our suspect foliage resides in the front yard. Two of our three "miniature" oleanders tower over me. They're huge. And our fruit tree is something of a hybrid gone very, very, wrong. It consists of two separate trees that share a base. One tree is an orange tree, the other, a gnarly mutant tree that produces what looks like tumor infested lemons. The tumor-lemon tree juts up through the middle of the orange tree and stretches up to the sky like an extended middle finger, mocking me. "Whatcha gonna do? Cut me down?" And I swear the fan palms inhabiting the northeast corner of the yard must have rabbit DNA running through their xylem and phloem because they produce fronds faster than I can cut 'em down. There is simply too much going on.

Suffice it to say that Diane and I pretty much hate the landscaping in our front yard and have been looking for an opportunity for change. Enter Brush & Bulky pickup. Twice a year, the city of Tucson arranges to pick up any brush or bulky items, up to ten cubic feet, that you set out on your curb. We're usually not ready for Brush & Bulky, but this year, fed up with our brush, we're MAKING the time to get rid our property of unwanted foliage. Only there was one problem. When we took inventory of everything we'd like to get rid of, it totaled probably closer to thirty cubic feet. We asked Diane's folks if we could use their ten cubic feet of Brush & Bulky pickup and they agreed. ROCK ON!

First, Diane's Dad and I cut down two dwarf fruit trees in the back yard, loaded them up and dropped 'em off on my in-laws curb. SEE YA! That was Sunday. On Monday, I decided I would turn my attention to that finger-flipping mutant fruit tree out front. I figured special occasions called for special tools, so I stopped by Home Depot and picked out a tree pruner. Best purchase I ever made. Monday night, I took my new tree pruner out for a test drive and was not disappointed. That thing cut through those mutant branches like a hot knife through butter. Oooaah, oooaah, ooaah! I was going to enjoy dismembering finger-flipping mutant fruit tree limb by limb.

Tuesday morning, after taking Kailey to school, I grabbed the tree pruner and a bow saw and took the mutant fruit tree down. It didn't go down without a fight, though. Each of its limbs were stocked with sharp, spiky thorns that tried to gouge out my eyes upon their descent to the ground. But I was too quick for them. Every once in a while, the ones on the ground swiped my legs as I moved in for a better kill position around the tree. Eventually the mutant fruit tree was reduced to a series of piles around the front yard, leaving only the healthy, odd-shaped orange tree behind. I loaded the remains of the finger-flipper into the back of the van and transported it to my in-laws curb. SIONARA SUCKER!

In the coming days, I
will arm myself with my trusty tree pruner and turn my wrath upon the three pot-bellied "miniature" oleanders. They will join their finger-flipping mutant fruit tree brethren on the curb for the Brush & Bulky folk. Then we begin the daunting task of figuring out just what in the world we're going to plant in their place.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cubs, Why Must You Torment Me?

I've been biting my tongue all season long, but I can't take it anymore. My Cubbies spent a butt-load of money in the off season and they still suck. Should I be surprised? Not really. Tonight, they blew a 4-0 lead against the Mets, eventually losing 5-4 by WALKING IN THE WINNING RUN! I've been an unwavering, die-hard Cub fan for nearly 35 years, and I'm tired of always waiting until next year. I know it's still early in the season to throw in the towel, and I hope to crap that I end up eating my words, but I'm tired of being cursed by loving a team that is itself cursed.

I blame my Dad. He made me a Cub fan through one small, simple gesture. And I vividly remember the exact moment in my young, impressionable life when I freely gave myself to the curse of being a Cub fan.

I was four years old and in the hospital for a series of skin graft surgeries to repair third degree burns on my left arm. Talk about a parent's nightmare. While at a babysitter's house, I thought it might be a good idea to stick that arm into her wringer washer machine, but soon learned otherwise. A wringer washer machine is an old-fashioned washer equipped with two rollers that "wring" the water out of clothes. It's the equivalent of the modern day spin cycle only nuclear turbofied. So while the machine was wringing the crap out of my arm, I stuck my right thumb in the gears trying to get some leverage to pull my arm out. Off came the tip of my thumb. Did I mention I was four? In runs my babysitter to find me stuck in and bleeding all over her washing machine. She popped the top off the rollers, freed me from her washing machine of death, and held me until my Mom arrived to take me to the emergency room.

They whisked me into one of the exam rooms and immediately began cutting off the long sleeve of my Garanimals shirt. I don't know if they still do this or not, but back in the early 70's, Garanimals were known for making long-sleeve shirts with non-elastic cuffs. That way boys couldn't pull their sleeves up to their armpits and stretch all the elastic out of the cuffs. Moms thought this was awesome. Boys frickin' hated it. Between my Garanimal shirts and Toughskin jeans, I was one miserable hombre. Anyway, because I couldn't roll up my sleeve, we had no idea of the extent of damage awaiting us under the shirt. Besides, everyone's attention was focused on my hemorrhaging thumb. How could anyone but a doctor have guessed there were third degree burns under my sleeve? They cut away my sleeve and the last thing I remember before passing out was, "Hey, why does my whole freakin' arm look like cheese pizza?"

I awoke the next day (or at least I assume it was the next day) to BOTH of my arms heavily bandaged and hanging in slings. I quickly became known around the children's ward as "Popeye" because of my bulging arms. Children can be so cruel. I had several skin graft surgeries over the next several months to repair the damage to my arm. Or maybe it was just weeks...I have yet to meet a four year-old with a good sense of time. Whatever the time frame, suffice it to say that I spent more time in a hospital than any four year-old should.

What does any of this have to do with the Cubs? During one of my stays in the hospital, my Dad, God bless him, brought me a gift, a talisman guaranteeing my lifelong devotion: it was a plastic Cubs batting helmet. It was my first piece of Cub memorabilia and I took it hook, line and sinker. From that moment on, the Cubs were MY team. All because of a stupid royal blue piece of plastic with a red "C" on the front.

He was a well-intentioned soul, my Dad. How on earth could he know he was passing down the curse? Somehow, now that I think about it, he knew. He knew exactly what he was doing. He himself had endured the torment throughout his lifetime, and now he wanted company in his misery. In time he recruited my brother as well, who is now paying the ultimate price. You see, my brother turned coat and became a bandwagon Cardinals fan after they won the Series in the early eighties. Now he's back and he's a Cub FANATIC, the worst kind of torture there is. His daily mood is determined solely by the Cubs final box score. Poor bastard. At least I see the final score, mutter "Stupid Cubs" and then carry on with my day. But it's getting old...really old. I don't want to wait until next year anymore.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mommy's Movie Preferences

Happy Mother's Day, Moms! I hope you had a great day. This morning, the girls were excited about Mother's Day, and Kailey got up very early, before 6:00, in order to make Diane breakfast in bed, because, in her words, "every Mom should have breakfast in bed on Mother's Day." Breakfast consisted of a cold cinnamon roll, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Later in the morning, we showered Diane with cards and all of the "crafts" the girls made at school in preparation of the momentous occasion that is Mother's Day. One of the last things Diane received was a construction paper flower made by Kyra. The flower consisted of several layers of different colored paper that were folded into "petals", and the whole flower was folded up and held together by a Velcro clasp. When the clasp was opened, the flower unfolded to reveal something about Mommy on each petal. It was actually quite clever. And it's always interesting to see what your young one is going to reveal about you. Here's what Kyra's flower had to say about Diane:

Red Petal #1 had a picture of D
iane, Kailey, and Kyra which was taken at a school function.

Red Petal #2: Kyra's response to the phrase, "I love my Mom because..." she loves me. Fair enough.

Red Petal #3: "She is..." 38 years old. One day she'll learn to never reveal a woman's age.

Red Petal #4: "My Mom's Hobby/Favorite thing to do is..." heng out with me! It's true. Diane spends most of her time henging out. Honorable mentions = sleeping, watching reality TV, sunbathing, and drinking margaritas.

Orange Petal #1: "Her job is..." tel peepul whin thay have to go. Though she's been to Diane's workplace hundreds of times, Kyra clearly has no idea what she does. Sounds like she thinks Diane is a bathroom monitor.

Orange Petal #2: "When I am sick my Mom..." give me mesinr. Give her a break. She's six. Besides, given the correct dosage, mesinr can be extremely effective.

Orange Petal #3: "Her favorite food is..." Tie food. Anything that TIES her over till dinner! AR! AR!

Orange Petal #4: "Her eyes are..." brown. Diane has amazing eyes, but they're hard to classify. They're actually a blue-grey.

Which brings us to Yellow Petal #1. Diane opened the flower to Yellow Petal #1. She read it. I read it. We looked at each other and broke out laughing. Here is what it said: "Her favorite TV or movie..." adot movies. No, she's not talking about Arizona Department of Transportation movies...that's ADULT movies. Now Kyra's idea of adult movies are completely different from an adult's. But our thoughts quickly turned to Kyra's teacher who clearly had to do a double take when reading her response. The joke of the day quickly became how Diane likes adult movies, and I tried to cash in on her newfound pleasure, but she wasn't biting. Kyra, being ever the sensitive soul, thought we were making fun of her and ran away crying every time we brought it up, so we had to nip that fun in the bud.

Yellow Petals 2-4...oh, who even cares. Nothing matters after you find out your wife of nearly sixteen years has a newfound appreciation for adult movies! Looks like Father's Day came early this year!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Daddy, the Enforcer

Last night, Diane called me at work shortly before the 10:00 newscast, and as we were chatting, she gasped, "Oh my gosh, Kyra's still awake. She's in her bed singing. Here, I'm going to give her the phone. Tell her to go to sleep."

She caught me off guard. "Wha...why don't YOU tell her to go to sleep?" I asked.

"Because she'll listen to you. Here she is."

And with that, I was cast into the spotlight: it was showtime. Kyra took the phone and greeted me in her cheery voice, "Hi Daddy." Today was a half-day of school for the girls, which meant Kyra would go to school in the morning instead of her usual afternoons, and that she would get to take her lunch box and eat in the cafeteria with the other kids. Kyra was going to get to do big girl things and she was excited. Too excited to sleep. But still.

I quickly took my disciplinary tone with her, "Sweetie, it is WAY past your bedtime and you need to be up early for school tomorrow. Stop messing around and go to sleep."

"But Daddy..." Kyra ALWAYS has something to say.

"Stop messing around and go to sleep...goodnight," I enunciated.

"BWWWAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa," the sound of Kyra's bawling trailed off as Diane took the phone and exited her room. You'd have thought I thrust a spike through her ear. Have I mentioned before that Kyra has a flare for the dramatic?

Diane got back on the line and I thanked her for that pleasant and uplifting phone experience and then excused myself to get ready for the newscast. Sometimes I hate playing the heavy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gettin' Yer Bell Rung

Tuesday night, Diane and I took Kailey to her gymnastics class which we had to reschedule because of a conflict with softball. Her rescheduled class was later than normal, and the gym bustled with several classes of girls of varying age going through a variety of exercises from floor, to vault, to balance get the picture. Only one thing will stop all activity in the gym dead in its tracks and it's situated on one wall next to the vault: a bell. It is a common practice that when a budding gymnast accomplishes a new feat, she, or the occasional he, bounds over to the bell and rings it. The gym goes silent as all attention is directed toward the ringer of the bell, followed by the collective question inquired by all who are present, "WHADJA DO?" The bell-ringer then gives a description of the mastery of their new skill:

"I did a somersault!"

"I climbed the 20-foot rope without plummeting to my death!!"

"I did a roundabout half-pike, triple gainer with a lemon twist!!"

The gym then bursts into cheers and applause, and the bell-ringer runs back to join her class, beaming with pride.

Kailey recently moved up to the next level and is doing quite well. I'm often impressed by her gracefulness as well as her natural ability to pick up new maneuvers quickly. About halfway through the session, her class moved to the low balance beams, situated about a foot off of the floor. They began by doing their normal beam exercises, but then her instructor introduced a new move to the balance beam: the handstand toe-touch. The girls are used to doing this move on the floor. They start by going into a handstand, touch their toes at the top of the handstand, then bring their legs back down to the floor where they resume their standing position. Now they were supposed to do this on the beam. The handstand position was no problem for most of the girls, but they were falling all over the place as they tried to land squarely back on the beam.

When she started, Kailey was stumbling and tumbling like the rest of the girls, but then began sticking her landings. Granted, she was only going a quarter of the way up on her handstand, but as her confidence grew, she went higher and higher in her handstand while sticking more of her landings. Her instructor worked with her for a minute, saw her stick a landing, and, yup, you guessed it, sent her over to the bell. Diane and I smiled as we watched Kailey trot with confidence across the gym to where the bell sat on the wall. She gave the string a tug and the bell sang out, prompting everyone in the gym, as if on cue, to respond with the required inquiry:


Kailey took a deep breath, then stopped. Her proud smile faded from her lips and the blood drained from her face as she realized she had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA OF HOW TO EXPLAIN WHAT SHE HAD JUST DONE. Her little body slumped against the wall as she felt the stare of every eye in the gym boring into her, waiting to hear the details of her fantastic feat. Her eyes widened to what seemed the size of her head, revealing the churning wheels of her mind that desperately searched for an explanation. After what seemed like an eternity, Kailey muttered something unintelligible, at least to Diane and me as we tried to stifle our laughter, then scurried back to her class to the gracious cheers of the parents and other gymnasts.

She completed the rest of her class without incident, but I think she left the gym having learned an important lesson. If you're gonna ring the bell, you'd better have a damn-good explanation.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Nioxin...Does it Work?

About a month ago, I began experimenting with Nioxin when it was presented to me by my color technician sister-in-law. Shortly after making this public confession, I was encouraged by Beast Mom to take before/after pictures to show the progress. I was sceptical that the stuff would even work, but after a month of use, I believe there is a noticeable difference. So without further ado, I present to you the before/after effects of Nioxin, and you can be the judge. I'll address the side effects later.

First, my hairline before Nioxin. This picture was taken on Kailey's birthday, roughly two weeks before I started the daily Nioxin regimen:

OK. Now the after pic, roughly five weeks later. Thoughts?

As you can see, the runoff from my original application thickened my eybrows as well as darkened my skin, but I can deal with those side effects because I can definitely perceive a thickening effect in my hair. Highlights too!! Nioxin is amazing and I give it my wholehearted endorsement!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Saving Our Planet

I just had the following conversation with Kyra as we were on our way to school:

"Daddy, yesterday in school we learned we need to save our planet by getting trashed."

Once again I'm questioning our decision to send our girls to public school. "What do you mean by 'getting trashed'?" I laughed.

"We need to pick up our trash and we need to have three different containers: one for paper, one for cans, and one for bottles," she explained.

"Very good, Sweetie, but that's called RECYCLING, not GETTING TRASHED."

Kyra might be on to something though. Getting trashed to save our planet might entice many more people to get with the program.

The Night the Bats Were Silent (Game Night)

It was a cold, blustery evening for softball, and it seemed like the Blue (Balls) Bandits were in no mood to play, which became evident in their 4-0 loss to the Amazon Women of Sahuaro. Seriously, half the girls on the other team looked like they should be playing on the 13U team. The final score is deceptive because the Amazon Women had an extra at bat where they scored three runs before the game was called due to the time limit. I hate the time limit because it's a disadvantage to the home team. The visitors are almost always guaranteed an extra at-bat, and the Bandits have lost at least two games because of this.

Have you noticed a little change of tone here? It's amazing how much my attitude toward the game has changed over the course of the season. At the start of the season, everyone was cheering for all the girls, but as the season progressed it was obvious how competitive these teams were. Now, we want to see the Bandits crush the opposition. Last night, Diane and I were secretly cursing the Amazon Women under our breaths (and to each other), willing them with our mind-powers to swing at crappy pitches. Yes, we know, we are horrible people.

We could have won this game, or at least have been a little more competitive, if the girls would have duplicated their normal hitting performance. But none of our sluggers were hitting. It seemed like everyone kept striking out. Kailey fell victime to the "K" in her first at bat, but crushed the ball over the shortstop's head into left field on her second and last at bat. She and another runner were left stranded on base as other Bandit batters failed to hit the ball. Defensively, she did well, cleanly handling a ground ball while playing left field and nearly throwing out the runner at first base.

Only three more games before tournament time. Hopefully by then our bats will come back to life.

Monday, May 07, 2007


One of the many pitfalls of parenting is sacrificing quality time with your partner in order to deal with life's daily grind. Diane and I stagger our work schedules as well as utilize the services of my in-laws to avoid having to place the girls in daycare. And then we're constantly transporting the girls to softball games, softball practices, gymnastics, etc. Throw in miscellaneous activities like play dates and birthday parties, and, oh yeah, homework, and there's not much time left over for Diane and me. In the midst of all of this activity, communication gets easily lost in the shuffle, and is often reduced to grunts or smart-ass remarks (usually uttered by me) that bristles against the sensitivities of the other party (usually Diane). Sure, we have a couple of hours together to connect after we get the girls to bed, but by that time we are exhausted and usually collapse in front of the TV.

Last week was a tough one for Diane and me. I am a guy, and guys sometimes do or say stupid things that hurt our loved ones. Sometimes this is intentional, but most times, in my case anyway, it is not. We are just oblivious to what we've said or done, and in many cases the ones we've hurt just stuff their bruised emotions. Thank goodness Diane isn't like that, and last week she'd had enough. She confronted me on some of my attitudes, words and actions. Like I said before, I am a guy (notice I didn't say "man"?), and guys sometimes don't deal with confrontation very well. Guys are more interested in saving face than dealing with the consequences of their words or actions. So, like a guy, I addressed her issues at the surface level and then tried to sweep them under the carpet because I was pissed and didn't fully understand where she was coming from.

We continued to go through the motions for the next few days, mostly because we saw each other in passing on our way to work or to the girls' activities, but Diane, thank goodness, refused to let it go. One thing I really love about my wife is her strength. She is a beautiful woman, minus all of the emotional baggage that most beautiful women seem to carry with them. She pulled me aside one morning late last week and asked if we could spend some time talking through our issues on a day where we had time. I was tired of all the tension between us, so I agreed.

So last night, after we put the girls to bed, Diane threw a bag of popcorn in the microwave and stirred up a batch of margaritas (what better than a buzz to loosen the tongue), and we settled into our positions on our comfy chair for a heart-to-heart chat. Diane shared first, and although I sat down ready for a fight, her words took all the fight out of me. Her feelings weren't insecure and irrational the way I thought they would be, and I quickly realized that I had a decision to make: I could argue for the sake of saving face and continue being an ass, or I could validate her and her feelings, own up to my actions and apologize for hurting her. Let me add here that approximately 99.9% of the apologizing in our relationship is done by me. It's not manipulated out of me, I'm just that stupid. I clicked the override button on my stupidity, took my medicine, and apologized for the zillionth time.

We were then able move into a productive discussion about our relationship where we came to the realization that we miss each other. We see each other every day, but we're always in motion, going somewhere or doing something. This is a necessary evil as parents, but we end up neglecting ourselves and our relationship in the process. One of the best things we as parents can display for our girls is our love for each other. Diane even commented last night that the girls actually get excited when we go out on a date. The last time we went out (before Valentine's Day...ughhh), the girls teased us, "MOMMY AND DADDY, GOIN' ON A DA-ATE!!" then running off and giggling, well, like school girls. So, we're going to make a concerted effort to date more, and I'm excited about it.

Our discussion wasn't fun, but it helped me to realize just how much I still love my wife...actually how much MORE I love my wife...because she doesn't let me get away with my childish B.S. She's a tough cookie who makes me want to become a better man. I love you, Hon. You're the best. Happy Early Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

100 and Counting...Softball & Insanity

Welcome to my 100th post! I'd like to thank the insanity that pervades my life, which has supplied 100 posts-worth of material that is hopefully at least mildly entertaining. Here's looking to 100 more.

The past two weeks have been chock-full of insanity with dog-sitting, SEVEN softball games, and me working nearly thirty hours of overtime. Last week the girls had five games in five days, three of which were makeup games from rain-outs. Kailey played three games, all of which were Blue (Balls) Bandits victories where she got a lot of hits and scored a lot of runs. Kyra and her Purple (Nurple) Pixies played twice. Coverage of Kyra's Pixies has been noticeably absent from my blog for a number of reasons. First, tee-ball is tedious and boring. Most of the girls can't hit, can't field, and can't pay attention. Some of this is mildly amusing, and the girls will get an occasional good hit or make a good play, but we enjoyed it much more when both of the girls were playing in the same tee-ball league. Now that Kailey has moved on to the next level, tee-ball has revealed it's true, bland self.

In Kyra's league, each batter gets four pitches from the coach. If they don't hit the ball in those four pitches, then they bring out the tee, a symbol of shame and defeat. Which brings me to the second reason: until recently, Kyra was underperforming at the plate. I know, I know...this makes me sound like the controlling, ultra-competitive dad who rides his kids mercilessly, but let me assure you that I'm not. I regularly pitch to the girls in the backyard where they both proceed to pound the crap out of the ball. Kailey has been able to translate this to the ballfield while Kyra hadn't. I don't know if it was just game day nerves, but she would just whiff at those four pitches, and then hang her head as the coach moved the tee into position. THEN she'd pound the crap out of it. Her coach could sense her mounting frustration, and in one of her at bats last week, he walked to the plate and took a moment to give her a little pep talk. He held the yellow ball right in front of her nose and said, "Kyra, I KNOW you can hit this ball." And she did...nearly took his head clean off. And about time, too.

Kyra had a game this morning that her coach wasn't able to make. I told him and the assistant coach that I could give a hand if they needed me, and shortly before the game started, she asked me if I would coach third base. Why exactly a third base coach is needed in a tee-ball game is beyond me, but I obliged her nonetheless. I headed out to third base where the extent of my coaching ability was whittled down to a one-word utterance, screamed repeatedly until I was nearly hoarse: "RUN!" Each of the girls I encountered at third base were more interested in just about anything OTHER than running.

"My name is Taylor, what's your name?"

"I have a family...I have a Mommy, a Daddy..."

"There's a big dog!"

"...a brother, a Gramma, a Grampa..."

"Hey look! There's a little dog! He's so cute!'

" auntie, and my cousin...they're all over there! Hiiiii!"


That was Kyra. She'd run to third base, then give me a hug. She was excited to have me helping out with her team, and I didn't have the heart to tell her there are no huggies in baseball, er, softball. Besides, today she deserved her huggies. She was one of only two girls to get hits off of the pitcher, crushing the ball on three of her four at-bats. She only had to hit off of the tee once. Atta girl. Better late than never.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Little Too Excited Over Home Cleaning

Rex went home yesterday, but he left millions of reminders of himself all over our house, just so we wouldn't miss him. We could actually collect all of the hair he distributed over our house to construct a smaller version of him Mini-Rex. Earlier in the week, Diane swung by her folks house to pick up their super-duper, industrial strength, dog-hair-picker-upping vacuum cleaner. I thought it was overkill until I tried our regular run-of-the-mill vacuum that took nearly a half-hour to clean a 10' x 12' area rug. I decided to give their Hoover a try, and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, once I started, I was actually EAGER to vacuum the whole house, including rooms he hadn't been in. What's up with that? The model was a little bulky and heavy for my taste, but it did a much better job on our carpets. Diane's folks arrived to pick Rex up while I was vacuuming, and I actually asked them if I could keep the vacuum just to finish the house! Yes, it's official, I'm quite the dork. So now I'm adding a new item to my coveting list: guitar, drum machine, HD TV, surround sound system, HD video camera, and, yes, a new vacuum cleaner.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Desert in Bloom

This is probably my favorite time of year in the Southwest. It's not too hot and the desert bursts into bloom, especially after winters when it's received a lot of rain. This wasn't one of those winters. Yesterday afternoon, I grabbed the camera and headed outside to capture some of the blooms around our property.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Overprotective Dad?

I am a dad who has been "blessed" with two beautiful daughters. On several occasions when I've been out with the girls, at the store or the playground or the coffee shop, I've had other dads make comments something to the effect of, "Daughters, huh?" which is usually accompanied by "The Look." Every dad with daughters knows "The Look". "The Look" is a telling expression of pity and concern recognizing that you, dad of daughters, were once a teenage boy with raging hormones...raging hormones that sometimes took over your ability, or desire, to treat members of the opposite sex with the dignity and respect they deserve. "The Look" says get ready, 'cause payback is hell.

For the most part, I was a good boy as a teen, able to keep the hormones somewhat corralled, something I'm quick to remind the Good Lord of while pleading for the lives of my girls. I was a good boy...kinda! Please don't punish them to punish me! Please don't let them give in to the raging hormones! Please give them the horse-sense to know the difference between LOVE and HORMONES! Now, I don't want to be the dad who polishes his shotgun while potential suitors come calling, but I will if I have to! I like the following resolution even better, sent to me by a friend: The Trunk Monkey chaperone...he'll keep the boys in line when you're not there to.

Hopefully, God will be merciful and we won't need a Trunk Monkey to keep those boys in line, but I'm going to check it out as an option on our next vehicle...just in case.


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