Friday, June 29, 2007

You Know It's GOT To Be a Good Day

I'm a creature of habit. Every day before work, I stop at Starbuck's for a little caffeinated pick-me-up. As a cost-saving measure, I'll usually go for a straight coffee, which is still $2.00 for a venti. It's been way too hot to be drinking coffee in the afternoon, so I've been splurging on iced lattes. This afternoon I dropped the girls off at my in-laws, then pulled in to the nearest Starbuck's to get my fix. There was one gentleman in line in front of me. I call him "gentleman" because he was wearing a long-sleeved dress shirt and tie. That puts him in "gentleman" status in my book. If he's wearing a t-shirt and shorts, then he's a "dude". Why I'm trying to explain all this, I don't know.

Anywho, this "gentleman" was purchasing a butt-load of gift cards, only I didn't realize it at the time. The barista asked me what I wanted and proceeded to create my tasty beverage. In the meantime, I waited behind the gentleman. And waited. After about a minute I wondered what was going on. Admittedly, I was a little slow on the draw, but give me a break, I hadn't yet enjoyed my caffeinated beverage! The gentleman was just standing there while the cashier was running transactions. I peeked around him and noticed a hefty stack of gift cards piling up on the counter. This was going to take a while.

The barista finished preparing my drink and brought it over to the registers and slid it across the counter in my direction. He analyzed the situation, studying the mound of gift cards and the ratio of cards processed to total cards. He then looked over at the unused register and I could see the wheels of his mind churning as he weighed the time/energy aspect of logging into the register and ringing up my transaction. This took mere seconds, and after reaching a conclusion, he grabbed my drink and slid it further in my direction as he declared, "Here you go, it's on the house."


I thanked him profusely, grabbed my FREE drink and skipped out the door like a school girl (as a father of two school girls, I'm an expert on this). I LOVE Starbuck's, and I LOVE FREE STUFF! How could today NOT be a good day?

Wait...don't answer that.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tourney Time: The Bad & The Ugly

Well it's too bad that even a tournament for 8 year-olds has to have ugly moments. It's sad when the kids are more mature than the adults, and this weekend reminded me once again of how easily children's sporting events can turn to fisticuffs amongst the parents. On to the review of the Bad and the Ugly of All-Star Tournament weekend.

The Bad

I've alluded to it in previous posts, but the weather sucked. It was too freakin' hot, and I'm amazed that none of the players succumbed to heat exhaustion. Kudos to the coaches who kept the girls hydrated and sprayed down. Temperatures averaged around 105 and topped out at 108.

And it was ridiculous what the parents had to drag around to keep from dying. You couldn't sit on the metal bleachers unless you wanted your ass served sunny-side up. So the area surrounding the ball fields turned into tent city with families hauling and erecting 10' and 12' portable canopies to provide shelter from the sun. In between games there was a steady flow of tournament refugees toting canopies, chairs, and coolers between the fields and the parking lot. It was quite the sight to see. By the time we actually got our canopy and chairs set up, we were drenched with sweat and spent the rest of the game sucking down as much water as possible to replace the liquid draining from our sweat glands.

So I'm thinking that next year All-Star weekend should take place around April.

The Ugly

I think if there's anything worse than a sore loser, it's a sore winner. I mean, seriously, you're winning. What in the world do you have to complain about? We played the tournament #1 seed twice and got stomped 9-0 and 6-0, even though we gave them a tough fight through half of the second game. In both of those games, their coaches and/or parents complained about some activity surrounding our team. In the first game, the teenage brother of one of the girls on Kailey's team brought a small cow bell. He attached it to his chair and rang it when one of our girls got a hit or made a good play. He wasn't being overly raucous or obnoxious with it, but at the end of the second inning, when we were losing 6-0, the umpire came up to the backstop and said, "Ummm, I'm sorry, didn't realize this but cow bells aren't allowed." They were routing us and complaining about a cow bell. Pretty pathetic.

It gets worse. We were playing for our tournament lives in our Sunday afternoon rematch, and our girls were stoked. We held the #1 seed scoreless for the first two innings and the heat was on. Our girls came up to bat in the top of the third inning and everyone in the dugout was doing cheers and getting into the game. We had them up against the ropes and we knew it.

At some point in the inning one of the opposing team's coaches called time and came out to speak with the ump (the same ump who banned our cow bell). They spoke in hushed tones for a minute, then the ump walked over to our coach at third base and spoke to him for a minute. A smirk crept across our coach's face as he and the ump walked across the field to our dugout on the first base side. There they addressed our team for a few moments before the ump took his position behind the plate and our coach returned to third base. The whole time the crowd buzzed wondering what the hell was going on.

Our questions were answered moments later. And it didn't help the situation that most of the parents from both teams were lumped together behind home plate under the canopies of the tent city erected there. One of the moms from the other team delivered the news to everyone within earshot in a manner reminiscent of a prissy schoolgirl ratting out a spitball-wielding classmate. "It's in the RULES. They are not supposed to cheer while the pitcher is in the act of pitching. It's in the RULES."

A collective groan arose from the cluster of Southeast parents. Are you even f-ing kidding me? Here we are, the first team in the tournament to give them a real game, and they're nitpicking on when and how the girls can cheer? If our girls were screaming at the point of the pitcher's release and trying to razz her, then I think their complaint would be legitimate. But they weren't. They were getting into the spirit of the game, and to us, the complaint was totally petty.

The atmosphere behind home plate was tense after that, to say the least, and a few words were exchanged between parents. Fortunately, after a brief period of grumbling, everyone exercised restraint and tried their best to enjoy the game. Their girls scored three runs in the bottom of the third, effectively ending the game. We came so close to rubbing it in their fat that bad?

In a way, yes, it is. These are 8 year-old girls we're talking about here (although they had twelve of the biggest 8 year-olds I'VE ever seen). They probably still play Barbie's, and dress up, and do all the things that 8 year-old girls do. It's what the adults do that taint the kids and teach them that it's OK to do whatever it takes to win or that winning is the only thing. So, in essence, I guess I really wanted to rub it in the coaches' "fat faces".

Oh, I forgot another vital piece of information concerning those coaches. Diane and her mom were sitting by the opposing team's bench during their first drubbing when they overheard their head coach talking about our team. "This is what we used to look like before I took over this program," he bragged. What an ass. Sure, he's built a winning program, but at what cost? A program that produces a bunch of cry babies when they're winning? I'd hate to see how ugly it gets when they lose. And what does it teach these little girls?

OK, at this point I realize that I'm probably the one who sounds like a sore loser. It's not that at all. It didn't bother me in the least that we lost to the #2 seed on Saturday night. It was a close game, and, more importantly, their team was good and they handled themselves with class. They didn't bitch and moan that girls were being girls. Their coaches weren't these raging type-A personalities with testosterone gushing out of every pore of their bodies. They were competitive and they played hard, but they kept it all in perspective.

So while it was disappointing as the underdog to come up short against the #1 seed, I was still proud of our girls. They worked hard after losing a couple of games when they could have just given up. Now Kailey's coaches are talking about starting a Fall Ball team, so we'll see what Kailey wants to do. She's definitely a talented softball player and we want to encourage her and support her in any REASONABLE way we can. If she wants to play, we'll sign her up. I just want to make sure that I don't become one of those ultra-competitive softball fanatics, which I could probably slip into rather easily.

But for now, we'll just take a little breather from softball, until next week that is. Monday morning at 6:00 am, Kailey AND Kyra will be joining me in the backyard for drills and BP, 'cause next year we're gonna win it all!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tourney Time: The Good Part 2

If I know anything about blog readers, it's that they'd much prefer reading about the bad and the ugly over the good. So I'll try to make the good brief, then move on to the juicy stuff.

Southeast had its first single-elimination tournament game Sunday morning against Tanque Verde. We cruised to a 7-2 victory and started to look like the team I envisioned prior to the tournament. Southeast was hitting its stride at just the right time because our next game was a rematch against The Amazon Women of Sahuaro, pictured above. As you can see from the picture, #8 is our tallest player. The three Sahuaro players at the left of the picture are all as tall, if not bigger. The whole team was like that. It was David vs. Goliath.

The atmosphere was electric, the tension, palpable. Parents of the Southeast players, quiet for most of the tournament, came to life. It felt like we were playing for a national championship. Pitching dominated the game. We hung with them for the first two innings, holding them scoreless. But the Sahuaro pitchers were too good and too plentiful, rotating in a new pitcher each inning, and our two pitchers eventually wore down in the heat. Sahuaro had two three-run innings and sent us home 6-0. Our tourney run was over, but we gave them a hell of a fight. After the game, the Sahuaro coaches told our coaches that we were the only team to give them a hard time up to that point in the tournament.

Kailey went 1 for 1 at the plate against Sahuaro, and was one of the few Southeast players to get on base. She fouled off one pitch from the Sahuaro pitcher, who was throwing smoke for a 12, er, 8 year-old. Kailey eventually drew four balls from the opposing pitcher and then hit a single off of her coach. It wasn't her best hit, but it was probably one of her best at bats. Since she batted at the bottom of the order, she never had more than one at bat per game. She batted .500 for the tournament going 2 for 4, with one strike out and one hit pitch. Not too shabby.

And I can't say it enough: Kailey toughed it out. Actually, all those girls toughed it out. It was hotter than hell out there and they were tired from playing so many games, yet they gave it their all. Not bad for a bunch of 8 year-olds. Hopefully they collected more than just their participation medals (that's what's going on in the picture. Kailey is the one walking back in line). I know that whenever I look at Kailey's medal, I'll be reminded of the hard work and the fight that she and her whole team put up in her first All-Star tournament. And I'll remind her of how proud I was.

Sorry kids, it's late and I'm tired. The tournament bad and ugly will have to wait another day.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tourney Time

It's Monday morning, and we're all recovering from a hectic weekend of softball, Kailey's first All-Star tournament. Overall, it was a good experience, even though the Southeast Boring White Jersey All-Stars came nowhere close to winning the tournament. I was, most of all, proud of Kailey, because this tournament was one of those times where you hope you can teach your children some important life lessons. While I can't proclaim with any measure of certainty that she learned that lesson, I'm confident that a solid foundation was put in place, and Diane and I, as parents, need to continue to build.

As I tucked Kailey in bed last night, we talked about the tournament and about those lessons and what she learned. At one point she asked me, "Daddy, why are you whispering?"

I played it macho. I couldn't tell her the real reason I was whispering; that I thought I might break down if I talked in my normal voice. That's how proud I was. I just told her it was late and we were talking in our goodnight voices. She was OK with that.

Enough of the mushiness and on to the details of All-Star Weekend: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly.

The Good

The Southeast All-Stars played their hearts out. They had a rough start to the tournament and played five games in 30 hours, something probably none of them have ever done before. They very easily could have gotten down on themselves and given up, but they gave their very best to the bitter end.

Friday and Saturday's games were used to determine the tournament seeds. Actual tournament play took place on Sunday. Southeast played three games on Saturday to determine their tournament ranking. They went 1 and 2 and ended up being ranked 5th out of 6 teams. Ouch. I honestly wasn't expecting that. In their first game, they played the Amazon Women of Sahuaro, the softball juggernauts of Tucson. They are the Tucson softball equivalent of the New York Yankees...the very best that money can buy. Did I write that out loud? Everybody ("hates" is a really strong word) wants to beat them really, REALLY bad. Problem is, they're too big and too good. Their smallest player was as big as our biggest player. And they cleaned our clocks 9-0 on Saturday morning. Welcome to the tournament, ladies and germs.

The bats came to life and we bounced back in our next game against Las Ninas, winning 7-5. However, Kailey suffered a bit of a mental crisis. The girls were taking batting practice before the game, and Kailey cracked herself in the knee with her bat while warming up. She had a bruise, but I think the combination of injury, heat and fatigue took its toll on her little body. She didn't want to play and told Diane she wanted to go home. Since that wasn't an option, she instead sat out of the game until it was her turn to bat. That's when the pitcher hit her on the other leg. Talk about adding injury to injury. Kailey limped to first base and ran to second on the next batter's base hit where she collapsed on the base and burst into tears. Her coach scooped her up and carried her back to the shade of the dugout. We applied ice to her leg, and she sat out the rest of the game.

I thought Kailey's leg was well enough play. Diane thought so too. Her coaches graciously stayed out of it and supported and encouraged her as best they could. But Kailey had made up her mind that she was hurt and couldn't play at the risk of further injury. Thankfully, there was a nice long break between games two and three, so we went home, cleaned her up and laid her down for a much-needed nap. In fact, we all laid down for much-needed naps. We also gave her a nice long pep talk about teamwork and not giving up and working through adversity and all that not-so-crappy crap.

The bottom line was that her team needed her and she wasn't pulling her weight. Sure it was hot as hell out there, but everyone was playing in the same heat. And before the game, one of Kailey's teammates got hit in the nose during warm-ups unleashing a bloody geyser across right field. She played the whole game because Kailey was riding the bench with a slightly bruised knee. Kailey's response: "Well it stopped bleeding." I guess compassion isn't one of her strong suits.

After making sure Kailey was well rested, fed and hydrated, Diane and I basically told her she would play the next game. I guess compassion isn't one of our strong suits either. We weren't being cruel, overbearing sports parents (I don't think). But we know our children. We know when they're giving their all and when they're holding back. Kailey had a bruise on her knee half the size of a dime, yet she carried on as though she was
awaiting the amputation a gangrenous leg. We knew this was a situation she was going to have to push through, and we pushed her to do it.

Their third game was against a fundamentally sound Oro Valley team. I could tell by the way they were warming up that this would be a tough game. Kailey gave us a couple of last-ditch-effort whines before the game, but we encouraged her to stick with it. And she did for the rest of the tournament. Southeast gave them a great fight but fell short 4-2, thus cementing our 5th seed. If we were going to win the championship, we'd have to win three games on Sunday and beat the #1 seed Amazon Women of Sahuaro in game 2.
Incidentally, Oro Valley was the #2 seed.

Kailey played the game, and afterward we heaped on the praise. She didn't give her greatest performance, but she pushed through the pain, the discomfort, and the fear, and for that, I'm extremely proud. And she contributed to her team when the tournament officially started Sunday morning. be continued.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tubes are the Pits

Ah the joys of homeownership. I'm sitting here waiting for the first of the termite inspectors to arrive because I recently discovered five termite tubes on the northeast corner of the house. That's just frickin' fantastic. I'm about ready to dub this place "The Money Pit" because lately it seems to be siphoning my wallet dry on a monthly basis. We should probably just do a preemptive strike and replace the water heater, air conditioner, furnace, interior plumbing, and re-tile the roof just to be safe. Oh hell, let's just tear the place down and start over! But I digress.

I hopped on the phone the other day to get an estimate of what it's going to cost to cast those little suckers into oblivion. The first couple of places I called set the tone for the morning. "We can't really give you an estimate over the phone. We need to get someone on-site to assess the situation and then give you a free estimate."

"Can't you just give me a ballpark figure?" I pleaded.

Only one place took the bait. "Termite service in Tucson runs anywhere between $400 and $800."

Great. I guess they figure that sending their inspector to your house will make you cave right then and there and pay whatever they tell you. Well, I'm not playing that game. I scheduled six inspections between now and Monday, three nationally known exterminators and three local ones. I'm going to let them duke it out for my business.

Ding dong.

Speak of the devil. Let's get ready to rumble.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Little Tub Music

I was giving Kyra her bath the other night when she decided that she needed to entertain me with her take on a familiar tune. Actually, she was teasing me. You see, I was shirtless while bathing her, which she apparently thought was pretty disgusting. I'm not sure why. I had good reasons for my upper body nudity. I had just finished mowing the lawn, so I was hot, plus I'm always looking for an opportunity to rip off my shirt and show off my hot bod. Kyra had her head tilted back getting it rinsed when she broke into song:

I see London, I see France,
I see Daddy's BOOBS!

Are they brown, are they natural?

I don't know, but they sure are GROSS!

I got her in the end, though. I told her that her little song didn't RHYME and marched my natural brown, gross boobs right out of the bathroom.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thirty-Nine and Lookin' Fine

Today begins the final year of Diane's thirties. Where did the time go? On this date seventeen years ago, I nervously knelt on one knee and asked her to spend the rest of her life with me (scary thought), and she agreed. I guess she thought she had nothing better to do for the rest of her life. So here we are, seven cities, five states, five apartments, two townhouses, one house, five cars, two cats, one fish, and two kids later. It's been quite the ride. And although it hasn't always been easy, together we have always been able to make fun of our life situations enough to keep our sanity. Laughter sometimes is the best medicine.

So to my hot, strong, sweet, caring, and giving wife with the best belly-laugh in the world (yes, I am looking for some late-night action): here's to many more years of memories and laughter together. Happy Birthday, Hon. You're the best.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dad Turned Off the TV

My parents divorced when I was about ten years-old. The details surrounding their relationship have always been vague, and I've never pursued either of my parents for how and why their relationship ended. I don't know why. I guess I just don't want to drudge up the past. Their divorce was civil. As far as I can remember, there was no drawn out legal battle, and they didn't drag me and my brother into the middle of things and use us as pawns for leverage. I think they tried their best to do what was right for us, and, from my perspective, they did a good job of that.

I don't remember dragging around a lot of emotional baggage from the divorce like some kids do. It seemed back then that kids would cry and blame themselves for their parents' split. My brother and I didn't do that. All we knew was that prior to the divorce there was a whole lot of yelling and screaming between our folks; after the divorce, they got along. Sure it sucked that my Dad no longer lived with us, but whenever he'd return us home after a weekend visit, he and my Mom would sometimes sit and talk for hours. I never saw them do that when they were married. So I gladly embraced a divorce that enabled my parents to talk civilly to one another over a marriage of screaming and yelling.

I think the divorce was something of a wake-up call for my Dad; an experience that told him it was time to grow up a bit. I honestly don't have that many memories of my Dad pre-divorce, other than him tormenting me and my brother. Dad liked to "hang out with the boys" in those days, but I think the divorce helped him to sort out his priorities, and my fond memories of time spent with my Dad emerge post-divorce. We'd spend every other weekend with him, and during those times we'd go bowling, see movies, have breakfasts at a little dive restaurant down the street, or follow him around to endless softball tournaments that his team had entered. We didn't mind the tournaments because we'd have the run of the park, or we'd be bat boys and engage in various smart ass back-and-forths with the guys on the team.

But the most significant thing my Dad ever did, the thing that has made a lasting impression on me and to this day has become a priority in my attempt and desire to be a good Father to my girls, is to listen, ask questions and be interested in our lives. We'd be lounging around watching TV in the living room of his 900 square foot rental house, with its' green shag carpeting and bing cherry red furniture, and he'd grab the remote, turn off the TV, and say, "Let's talk. I want to know what's going on in your lives."

"Awww, Da-ad," we'd groan and put up a feeble resistance, typical of pre-teens, but eventually would give in to the quiet of the house as we revealed details of school, friends, sports, family, music and girls. It was a very simple exercise, just a click of a button, that has had a profound impact on my life.

And that impact has even greater significance now that I'm a Dad. Sometimes it's so much easier to keep the girls "occupied". We color, role play, sing, play sports, watch videos, etc., which are all important things, but can sometimes just be busywork. It's a whole different story to slow down, turn off the boob tube or the computer or the iPod or anything that distracts us in our fast-pace society, and say, "Let's talk." It's a lesson from my Dad that I will work hard to employ for the rest of my days. Thanks Dad. Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Last Primer Before All-Star Weekend

Kailey's big All-Star tournament is next weekend, and her team has been practicing HARD the past few weeks to get ready. They're taking this thing very seriously. I love it. What I don't love is their lack of a team name. They simply call themselves "Southeast" or "Eastside", which has nowhere near the ring of the Blue (Balls) Bandits. Even their All-Star jerseys are boring. They're white. We may as well call ourselves the Southeast Eastside Boring White Jersey All-Stars. I understand the practicality of the choice of white for their jerseys. They're playing in a weekend tournament in 100+ degree heat, and white jerseys will keep them as cool as can be under those circumstances. But it's still boring.

Fortunately, the Southeast All-Stars' play is anything BUT boring. This morning they had a scrimmage game against another local All-Star team in as a kind of last minute primer before the tournament. They won 6-2, and I saw several positives going into All-Star weekend.

As is true for any baseball/softball team, the key to having a great team is pitching. If you've got great pitching, you're on your way. In Kailey's league, the girls pitch. When they pitch four balls, the opposing team's coach comes in and pitches. The common batting strategy is to wait for the opposing team's pitcher, who usually sucks, to throw her four balls, and then swing away when the coach comes in to serve big fat meatballs. This strategy takes great fortitude as the batter has absolutely no idea where those four pitches are going to end up. At least one of them always goes over the backstop, and you can all but guarantee that another one is coming for her head. But if your team has a pitcher that can actually throw STRIKES, the batter gets frazzled. At best, or worst depending on your team, she'll watch two strikes go by before striking out swinging at a pitch two miles over her head. Otherwise she'll have one or two strikes on her before the coach comes in to pitch, making the odds in favor of a strikeout. Keep the coach off the mound and your chance of winning greatly increase. The Southeast Eastside Boring White Jersey All-Stars have several girls who can throw strikes consistently.

After pitching comes offense, and Eastside can hit from the top to the bottom of the order. The question is will they swing at the strikes thrown by the other teams' pitchers? I don't know. The opposing teams' pitching this morning was pretty atrocious. I think they can.

Defense at this age group is pretty much a non-factor. Every team's defense sucks, with the exception of a couple good plays per game. These girls are still working to refine the motor skills required to field, throw, and catch. If they knock a ball down, you encourage them with a "good job!" If they field the ball cleanly and make a good throw, the encouragement grows in excitement. But if the 1st baseman catches the ball or if they catch a pop up, everyone pees themselves with excitement. You'd think the Cubs won the Series. Eastside managed to make a few key, pee-inducing defensive plays, including a couple of caught fly balls. If they keep it up, they'll go far into the tournament.

One last note concerning the sad state of affairs surrounding modern sport. This morning before the game, as the parents were lounging around sucking down water and trying not to die of heat stroke, one of the coach's wives surprised us with a last minute tournament requirement: birth certificates. We already submitted a copy of Kailey's birth certificate with her original softball registration. But apparently the pressure to excel is so great, even at this young age, that coaches are tempted to cheat and recruit older girls to their rosters. So we have to submit another copy of her birth certificate to tournament organizers so they can verify her age. She'll pass that test, and then it will be tournament time. They face a stiff opponent in their first game Saturday morning: the Amazon Women of Sahuaro. Can't wait.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

I Hope This Isn't A Sign

Who can it BE no-ow...da da da DA da da...
Who can it BE no-ow...da da da DA da da...

I grabbed my cell phone and saw that it was Diane calling from home. As soon as I answered the phone, I heard it.


I immediately detected the frustration in Diane's voice. "OK, now the smoke detector in OUR bedroom is beeping." She was in the process of the girls' bedtime routine, and I, of course, was at work. Like our living room, our bedroom also has vaulted ceilings, and Diane was a little befuddled as to how to work my
collapsible, extendable Gorilla ladder. I started to talk her through it when work suddenly required my immediate attention. I told her I'd call back in five minutes.

I lied. It was about fifteen minutes later when I called and Kailey answered the phone. "Daddy, I showed Mommy how to use the ladder!" I about fell off my chair laughing. The girls have been present for several of my home improvement projects that required the use of the Gorilla ladder, and it makes me extremely proud to know that that knowledge stuck. My girls will be able to change smoke detector batteries, hang Christmas lights, and the like. That's pretty cool. Tomorrow I think I'll teach them how to change a tire.

I still had to talk Diane through the actual battery replacement process. "It takes a 9 volt's in the top desk drawer by the computer...there's a compartment on the side of the detector that slides out..." Diane then handed the phone to Kyra while she climbed the ladder and finished the task. Kyra spent several minutes pouting about how she only got to help Mommy with one thing while Kailey got to help her with TWO things. Typical Kyra. I tried to explain that sometimes the biggest help a little girl can give is by getting out of the way and not pouting, but she wasn't buying.

When satisfied that Diane had the situation under control, I hung up the phone and returned to my work. That's when the little voice began talking. What if it's a sign? The little voice talks to me more often than I'd like to admit. What's worse is that I talk back.

What if what's a sign?

C'mon, two beeping smoke detectors in one week?

The batteries were probably all installed at the same time and are now going bad, that's all.

Sure, sure, you're probably right. You shouldn't worry about anything. I'm sorry I even brought it up. Still, I'd probably sleep with one eye open 'cause you ne-ver kno-ow.

Thanks. Thanks a lot for that, you stupid, STUPID little voice. Now I have to see if the extinguisher still works. And find a good shrink.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's Nothing...Just an Old Dusting Injury

I'm getting old, and getting old sucks. Every day it seems I wake up with a new pain somewhere in my body and I'm not even 40 yet. And I hear that it only goes down hill from here on out. Great.

I've struggled with lower back pain for the past couple of years, and the only way I've been able to keep it relatively in check is to keep active. Sounds weird, but it's true. The more I move, play, workout, the better it feels. The longer I sit or lay down, the harder it is to get up, and I take on the appearance of an eighty year-old man.

Yesterday morning, I woke up with a new back pain: a little tweak right in the middle of my back, nothing major. I eased myself out of bed and into the morning, breakfast for the girls, and breakfast for myself. I then engaged in some of the domestic activities of the day. I started out dusting as it was getting pretty thick around the house. I was going to follow that up with vacuuming and then head outside to mow the lawn.

I didn't get very far. I finished dusting the piano in the living room when I grabbed the piano bench and attempted to lift/slide it back into position. WHAM!! That little tweak in the middle of my back exploded, leaving me flat on my face on the floor, writhing in pain. And no matter how I moved, I couldn't find a position that was void of pain. So I'm laying there moaning and gasping for breath because breathing hurt, and wondering if I was going to die right there on the spot. After what seemed like an eternity, the pain subsided enough to where I could sit up. I had a hard time standing, though, because I couldn't lift my arms to support my weight. I spent several more minutes kneeling on the living room floor, which was convenient because I spent that time praying to God for the pain to go away.

It didn't, but Kyra did eventually wander by and I enlisted her finish dusting the living room. I couldn't leave the job unfinished. After much pain on my part, we did finish the job and I retired to the comfort of a heating pad for the rest of the morning. Vacuuming and mowing would have to wait. I'm going to have to come up with a better story, though, because when people see me doubled over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and ask me what happened, they're probably going to be quite amused to hear my less-than-manly explanation that I injured myself dusting.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Do You Hear What I Hear?


I have no idea what time it was or when I even became cognizant of the piercing intermittent tone. All I know is that it was way too early.


The sound wasn't loud enough to wake me outright. It eased me out of my sleep and made me question whether I was dreaming it or actually hearing something.


I definitely was not dreaming it.


Smoke detector. Are you kidding me? I was too tired to even look at the clock and tried in vain to drift back to sleep.


Diane mercifully got up at some point and closed the door. I went back to sleep.


Ha ha...not loud enough to keep me from sleeping. Sometime later our bedroom door opened and the bathroom door slammed shut. Kyra. She hasn't learned the fine art of gently opening and closing doors. The toilet flushed and she emerged from the bathroom. "Daddy?" Oh please, Dear Lord, let it be at least 8:00. "The tooth fairy came last night!" she whispered loudly as she flashed a toothless smile and held up a $5 bill. Five dollars! Holy crap! I think I got a quarter per tooth when I was a kid. I gave her a hug and she walked out of the room...without closing the door.


Alright, alright. I summoned the energy to look at the clock. 8:00 am on the nose. Now to find the culprit. There are six smoke detectors in our home: one in each bedroom, one in the hall, and one in the living room. I stumbled out of bed and trudged out to the hallway where I stood under the smoke detector there and waited, the living room to my left, bedrooms to my right.


Of course the beep came from my left, from the only smoke detector I couldn't stand on a chair to fix. The living room has a cathedral ceiling that peaks at roughly fourteen feet off the ground. Guess where the smoke detector is located? I couldn't even get at it with the normal ladder. I needed the big daddy of all ladders: my million-foot collapsible, extendable Gorilla ladder. It also weighs about a million pounds.


BITE ME!! I headed down the hall to see if Kailey was up. I peeked in and found her sitting up in her bed looking frizzy-haired and groggy-eyed. Kyra had apparently woken her up with her $5 bill as well. "What's that sound?" she croaked. I filled her in on what was happening and she told me she wanted to help. So she followed me to the garage.


I haven't rearranged the garage since the plumbers were in there fixing our water main fiasco a couple of months ago. In order for them to get to the main water line, I had to move the contents along one wall of the garage to another wall of the garage. Guess which wall the million-pound Gorilla ladder was on? So instead of sleeping in on this glorious Saturday morning, I cleaned my garage, engaged in a major upper body workout extracting and setting up my Gorilla ladder, as well as a good cardio workout as I scaled the ladder into the upper stratosphere of my living room, all just to pop out a little compartment on the smoke detector and replace a 9 volt battery. How was your morning?


What was that?

Friday, June 08, 2007

King of Pain

"What song do you want to hear?" Diane asked as she sat down on the bleachers. She just got off work and joined me to watch Kailey's softball practice. I gave her a puzzled look, so she clarified. "Debbie's going to the Police concert tonight and she wants to know what song you want to hear. She's going to call us when they play it." I immediately began to feel sorry for myself. Here I was watching a bunch of 8 year-olds trying in vain to catch a softball while my sister-in-law was on the verge of seeing one of the greatest bands of all time in concert. Sure, I could catch them in concert when they come to Phoenix a week from Monday, but I don't have $225 for a ticket, let alone $450 for two. Someone please pity me, or send cash.

My answer was immediate: King of Pain. I love that song. It could be my theme song because, as the Battered Ham, it may very well be my destiny to be the King of Pain. Is anyone coming to my pity party? If so, bring cash. Debbie called a little while later and I told her my song of choice. "I want to hear that one too!" she cried. She was way too excited, but who could blame her? She also offered to buy me a T-shirt, which was very cool of her. Life was getting better.

So we finished watching Kailey's practice, went home, fixed a little dinner, chucked the girls in the tub, and got them to bed. By the time we finished the nightly routine, it was already a quarter to ten. And all the while I waited for the phone to ring. Diane and I crashed in front of the TV and decompressed. At 10:30 the phone rang. The caller ID verified that this was the call I had been waiting for. I pressed the "Hands Free" button on the receiver and we were met with a wall of sound, mostly screaming people. The screaming eventually subsided and we could clearly hear Sting's vocals along with Andy's guitar riffs. But I never heard a drum beat or a bass line. It didn't matter. It was still awesome.

As we were listening, Debbie shouted into the phone, "This is their second encore!" They followed King of Pain with So Lonely, from their first album, then left the stage. Or so I heard. Several times during the second and third encore, Debbie and her friends would engage in a discussion on whether or not we were still listening. "Are they still there? I don't know. I think they're still there! Are you guys still there?" Like they could even hear us if we answered in the affirmative.

The arena went nuts when The Police began their third encore with Every Breath You Take and they ended the concert with Next to You, also from their first album. I think Diane was getting tired of listening to the garbled music through the speakerphone, but I didn't care. I know it's pathetic, but I just couldn't bring myself to hang up on The Police. They finished their song and Sting gave his last, "thanksforcominggodblessyougoodnight!" and Debbie confirmed the end of the concert with, "That's it". We talked for a couple of minutes and I thanked her for letting us listen in as well as for the T-shirt. Then we hung up and our vicarious Police experience through my sister-in-law's cell phone was over. The silence was deafening.

Tomorrow morning I'm dragging my guitar downtown, setting up shop on a street corner, and raising a little concert money. For now, enjoy The Police live from Vancouver.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Gateway To/From Hell

I own a Gateway computer. I bought it two years ago under the impression that Gateway made a reliable computer. Unfortunately, impressions are often wrong, and I soon discovered through Consumer Reports that Gateway has one of the highest repair/service records of computer manufacturers. Note to self: read Consumer Reports BEFORE you buy.

Now to be fair to Gateway, I may be somewhat responsible for the current issues I'm having with my computer, with a BIG emPHAsis on "MAY". My computer was working just fine until I decided to upgrade my operating system in order to be able to use my new Zune player. Then things went rapidly downhill from there. About a month after installing the new OS, my computer completely died. I'd turn it on and it would try to boot, but then a cryptic message of gobbledy-gook would appear on the screen. I wrote it down and called Gateway support. "Oh, that's bad," the tech said with a hint of smirk in his tone. "Your hard drive is gone. You'll have to replace it." I told him the computer was less than two years old, but he was unflappable in his these-things-sometime-happen attitude. I called a computer geek repair dude (who wasn't at all geeky) who verified that my hard drive was indeed dead, and I paid him one arm and one leg to replace it and recover the information from my old drive. Did the new OS have anything to do with the failure of my hard drive? Probably not, but I'm open to the possibility.

So my new hard drive was tooling right along until a couple of weeks ago when my computer inexplicably began to lock up. No amount of CTRL+ALT+DEL could bring it back, so I'd have to power it down and restart the computer. Then the computer wouldn't boot. To make a long story short, I discovered that the registry was corrupt. I have no frickin' idea what this really means, but I do know that it's a fairly common problem to which there is no easy fix. My computer will eventually reboot, but I have to turn it off, unplug it, and let it "rest" for awhile before it will cooperate.

I've used System Restore and tried to reconfigure my settings to an earlier restore point. No good. I've done a full system restore, wiping out my hard drive and starting from scratch. No good. I've used my Windows XP discs to try to repair the registry. No good. Then last night, I did a total XP reinstall that reformatted the hard drive and deleted many of my drivers that I still need to reinstall. It's the last straw. If this doesn't work, I'm going to send my Gateway from Hell straight back to where it came from, and I don't mean Best Buy. Then I'm going to buy a Mac.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Is Summer Vacation Over Yet?

If I have to tell the girls, "Keep your hands OFF one another," one more time this early summer vacation, I'm going to have a complete mental breakdown. And I've had them at home alone for a grand total of one and one-half days. I will admit that I'm partially to blame because I've spent much of that time outside doing "man-stuff". My father-in-law and I have been constructing a new patio on the back corner of the house, and the girls were initially excited about the "man-stuff" activity. They expressed their desire to "help", so we put them to work. But apparently shoveling dirt and sand and mixing cement aren't their cups of tea because they lasted a grand total of about five minutes before retiring to the relative comfort of the boob tube.

Even the miracle of modern TV is not powerful enough to overcome the curse of summertime boredom, so the girls resorted to the next best thing: picking on each other. So there I was, literally breaking my back mixing and shoveling cement in an attempt to beautify the very home in which they live, when I heard a series of blood-curdling screams. I dropped my shovel and trudged to the door to find the fruit of my loins locked in a struggle on the family room floor. "WHAT IS GOING ON IN HERE!" I bellowed as I threw open the door.

My inquiry was met with a flurry of incomprehensive accusation. "I WAS TRYING TO...KYRA WAS TOUCHING...SHE PULLED ME...AND SHE WON'T LET...I TOLD HER TO STOP...KAILEY NEVER LETS ME..."

Since I (1.) was dripping with sweat, (2.) didn't really want to know what was happening, and (3.) didn't care, I dispersed them with a unilateral "Go to your rooms and think about what you've done", then returned to my work. One of the girls would poke her head out the back door twenty minutes later, ask if they could come out of their rooms, and the whole process repeated itself several times until we wrapped up our patio work for the day, around noon.

Now before you lablel me as the suckiest father alive, you need to know the touching and picking continued even when I devoted my full attention to the girls. We played "talent show audition" where I pulled out my guitars and microphone, and the girls took turns at the mic as they created songs to tunes I played. Kyra liked acoustic guitar tunes. Kailey wanted to rock to electric guitar tunes. Both picked on the other to the point where one sat in time out while the other took their turn at the mic.

And I curse the day we ever bought the "Madagascar" edition of Sorry instead of the regular, colored pawn edition. Each pawn is a character from the movie "Madagascar", and we can never get through the pawn selection phase without a major meltdown. When we finally got to the game, I had to draw a line in the carpeting between the girls and threaten them with their immanent loss of life should they cross that line.

I finally took them to the park in the 100 degree heat to let them burn off some energy and hopefully take out some of their aggression on the monkey bars. It seemed to work, but I now know I've got my work cut out for me. I need to do a little planning for the rest of our summer days together or I'm going to lose my mind. Only 35 days until school starts again, but who's counting?

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Doctor is "In"

I'm not sure how this responsibility fell into my lap, but I'm rapidly becoming my work's resident counselor for relationship trouble. Guys seem to be coming out of the woodwork to pour their guts out about their women problems. I'm definitely not an expert in the field and I'm just as perplexed by the female psyche as the next guy, and I've told them as much. I guess I'm just willing to lend a listening ear, which is apparently what they need. I've been told more than once that they weren't necessarily looking for answers, just for someone to talk to. That works out well for me since I certainly DON'T have any answers to their problems, and though I have my opinions, I try keep them to myself. I don't want to mess things up any more than they already are. I can just see the aftermath of my advice: "Dude, thanks a lot. My marriage is OVER. You NEVER tell a woman what's REALLY on your mind. What were you THINKING? Why did I ever listen to YOU?" I can then see myself getting slapped with a lawsuit for practicing psychology without a licence. Perhaps I should steer clear of my new found calling as a counselor. Sorry boys, from now on the doctor is "Out". Unless, of course, you're willing to sign a waiver.

Friday, June 01, 2007

And They Came Bearing Gifts

The girls are back from their trip with Grammy and Papa, and they didn't come home empty handed. Whenever Diane and I go on a trip alone, being the amazingly fantastic parents we are, we always bring back a gift for the girls, even if it is just a "stupid" T-Shirt. Well the girls, taking a cue from us, decided they couldn't possibly return home without bearing gifts for their beloved parents. They came to this decision while on a delay at the airport waiting for their return flight home. So Grammy and Papa accompanied them to the airport gift shop where the girls carefully and thoughtfully selected their gifts for Mommy and me.

Their flight didn't arrive in Tucson until late Wednesday night, so the girls spent the night at my in-laws. I stopped by to see them yesterday morning on my way in to work. The first thing they did, after giving hugs, was run for their presents. Kyra grabbed hers first and proudly presented it to me: a water bottle from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, decorated with a 3-D mural of a variety of animals. Cost: $9.95 (the price sticker was still affixed to the bottom). She told me that I could use the bottle at work. Very thoughtful. I DO get thirsty at work. I gave her a big hug and told her that it was perfect.

Kailey then ran up and handed me her gift: a key chain from, well whaddaya know, Woodland Park Zoo! I'm noticing a theme here. The key chain had a fabric strap with a cheetah or leopard, I'm not shure which, on the end. Cost: $5.95 (we haven't yet taught them the practice of removing price tags from gifts). She told me that she knew I didn't have a key chain and thought I needed one. She's absolutely right. So I attached the key chain to my already too-bulky ring of keys because I am an awesome and supporting Dad who loves his daughter enough to walk around with a very large bulge in my pocket. Besides, it makes up for some of the shortcomings down there. I gave Kailey a big hug and thanked her.

It is often said that it's not the gift, but the thought that counts. I believe that whoever coined this expression must have been a parent. I was moved as my girls took turns revealing the overpriced airport gift shop treasures that they selected specifically for me. And regardless of the price tags, seeing the expressions of pride on my girls' faces as they showered me with their gifts has made them forever priceless.


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