Saturday, September 29, 2007


Che-he! Che-ha! Che-ha-ha-ha!
Go Illini, Go!

Che-he! Che-ha! Che-ha-ha-ha!
Go Illini, Go!

Illinois! Illinois! Illinois!

Illinois upset #21 Penn State today and is 4-1 on the season, 2-0 in the Big Ten. I think Illinois had only won 4 games the past three seasons. To say that I'm happy is an understatement.

Oh yeah, and in case you haven't heard, the Cubs are in the playoffs. I'm shuttin' up now.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Surf's Up

We're back from Newport Beach. Our trip was restful and enjoyable, but way too short. The best part, hands down, was time spent at the beach with the girls. This was their first time seeing the ocean and they had a blast playing in the surf. I must have taken a hundred pictures and an hour of video. Here are some of my favs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I'm Not Dead...I'm in California

Which just might be the same thing. I kid. We're here in Newport Beach with the in-laws for a mini-getaway and a little R & R. And for $35,000 we can spend one week a year here for the rest of our natural lives! Stay tuned for more details, pics, vids and streaming audio to come! OK, no audio.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

There's Never A Hole To Crawl Into When You Need One

Kyra's 1st grade teacher came over for a home visit this afternoon. Now there's kind of a neat/weird tension to the teacher home visit. On the one hand, it's cool that the teachers would want to come over and spend time with your child in their home environment. And on the other, you can't help but feel that they're checking up on you, gaging your competence as a parent, host, housekeeper, and digging for any dirt they can find. Well, with blabber-mouth Kyra around, teachers can leave their shovels at home. She'll gladly volunteer any juicy tidbits of information they might secretly crave.

The home visit started innocently enough. Kyra showed her teacher her room, then brought out a couple of games to play. While they played Disney DVD Bingo, I helped Kailey with her homework. When Kailey finished her homework, I let her join them while I sat down with a book and nervously waited for the visit to end.

Kyra gave her teacher the delayed tour of the house, ending in the den where the computer and my guitars are. "My dad plays the guitar. Sometimes he plays and I sing. We're working on a Hannah Montana song. And this one's a ROCKER guitar!" she explained. "Oooh," her teacher responded, feigning interest. I rolled my eyes and prayed for the visit to end. It didn't.

They sat down to play one last game, and the dam opened up: "My Dad likes beer."

My eyes bulged out of their sockets and I almost dropped my book while I simultaneously choked on my own spit. Now what Kyra said is true: I do, in fact, like beer. But I was concerned by how this information might be misconstrued by her teacher. Some people like beer so much that they drink lots, and lots, and lots of it, sometimes in a single sitting. I'm much more of a moderate, one and done type of beer drinker. Sometimes I'll admittedly go a little crazy though, and have two. My attention was now completely focused on the discussion in the other room.

"Yeah, I try to tell him that beer is AL-CA-HOL, but he just tells me that he has ONLY ONE during dinner. But this one time during dinner he said to Mommy, 'Hey, Hon, grab me another beer!'"

Dear Lord, I promise I'll go to church more often if You'd just MAKE THIS STOP RIGHT NOW!

I looked over into the den where Kyra's back was to me. Her teacher was mercifully sitting across from her and out of my line of site. However, as I stared at Kyra's back and mentally willed her to SHUT UP, I saw her teacher's head slowly leaning in to sneak a peak at me in the other room. Thankfully there was a smile spread across her face, and I knew that everything would be OK. I grinned and gave her a nervous wave before she returned to the game with Kyra.

Now if I could only get her out the door before Kyra tells her I shout "BARKING SPIDERS" when I fart.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fall. Ball. Fall Ball.

Last weekend was opening weekend for the girls' Fall softball league. Here are the stats to bring you up to speed:

New Team Name: Dragons

New Colors: Red, black, & White

New Uniforms: Cool

Number of Uniforms Owned in 2007: Kailey - 3; Kyra - 2

Funding for New Uniforms: Car Wash

Number of Practices Per Week: 2

Number of Games Per Week: 2 - A double-header on Saturday Mornings

Alarm Settings for Saturday Mornings: 6:00 a.m.

Dragons' Record As of Week 2:

Kailey's Batting Average After 4 Games: 1.000

Kyra's Batting Average After 4 Games: .000

Number of Times Daddy's Told Kyra Not to Swing at Crap Over Her Head: 1,312

Number of Times Daddy's Told Kyra Not to Swing at Crap in the Dirt: 4

Number of Times Daddy's Told Kyra to Pay Attention: 1 million

Number of Remaining Games for Kyra to "Adjust" to the Older League: 16

Friday, September 14, 2007

They Must Be Postal Workers In Training

"I want cold lunch today...they're having BEAN BURRITOS for lunch!" Kailey informed me with a scrunched up nose.

The past two days have been parent-teacher conferences which means the kids have half-days. They're out of school by 11:00 am, but the school district still insists on serving them lunch, which on any half-day is bean burritos. Do you know how many kids voluntarily eat the half-day cafeteria bean burritos? Two. Why they continue to serve them, or even HAVE a lunch period for a 3 1/2 hour school day, is beyond me.

It was 6:30 am. I had consulted the lunch menu earlier in the week and was relieved to find that bean burritos were not on the menu for Thursday and Friday's half days. But that was apparently an oversight on behalf of the menu-making people. The half-day would not be denied bean burrito status. And of course we hadn't been to the grocery store this week and had bupkus in the way of, well, food. I could have packed them a can of peaches and some tuna fish, but decided to spare them the social stigma of bringing canned goods to school for lunch. That type of thing tends to stick with you for a while.

So I was off to the store while Diane got the girls ready for school. Diane told me that while I was there I may as well pick up some things that I wanted for my meals for work and that she would do some clean-up shopping later in the day. I said, "Cool," and headed out the door.

Now I don't know about you, but anytime I stop by the deli counter at the grocery store, it DOUBLES the time of my shopping trip. I could be spending $10 or $200, it doesn't matter. And I could be the only one in the whole frickin' store (as was the case this morning), it makes no difference. Half the time I spend shopping will be spent standing at the stinking deli counter. I've tried buying the packaged lunch meats, but they're just not the same, at least in my mind, so I bite the bullet and throw myself to the mercy of the lethargic deli counter workers.

I usually try to keep it simple and order one thing. I walk up to the counter and see all of these packages of meat piled up against the display window, but no matter what I order, it's never right there in the case! The deli debutante excuses herself with a grunt, then shuffles into the freezer to find a fresh meat pack (reader, get your mind out of the gutter). She emerges moments later then spends several minutes looking for razor with which to slice the plastic open, drain it into the sink, then plop the chunk of meat onto the slicer. "Now how much of this do you want?" They ALWAYS have to ask again because it's WAY too difficult to remember either a HALF POUND or a POUND. Perhaps I should start ordering bizarre amounts, like .79 of a pound or a 1.13. Maybe that'll stick in their heads.

And heaven forbid if I want two different things! Because they'll complete the first order, then ask "Now what was that other thing you wanted?" because, hell, if they can't remember HOW MUCH you want, there's no freakin' way they're going to remember MULTIPLE MEATS. They then go through the WHOLE PROCESS OVER AGAIN, including the search for the razor that they JUST USED. It's totally frustrating. And it doesn't matter who waits on me, the results are always the same. They must train 'em that way.

Yesterday morning I made the mistake of believing that since I was the only one there I could order some roast beef AND mesquite chicken and receive them in a reasonable amount of time. Nope. There I stood, clock ticking away against my cold lunch prep time. It was 7:10 when the lady finally plopped the last of my order up on the counter. Knowing I now had no time to put together two lunches, I raced over to the non-deli meat section, grabbed two Oscar-Meyer Lunchable packs, which the girls would probably rather eat anyway, and raced back to the checkout isle.

I was the hero of the day as packed the Lunchables, with their processed meat, Ritz crackers, Butterfinger candy bar, and Capri Sun sugary fruit drink, into the girls lunch boxes. If I had only known it would be that easy. I guess it was ultimately my fault, as it usually is. I didn't have to order two things at the deli counter yesterday morning, fully knowing deep down in my heart how it would all go down, but selfishness took over: I had a hankerin' for roast beef.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September Storm

This is a test.

I've been wanting to try out Blogger's video uploading capabilities for awhile now and have just now had an opportunity to get to it. Last night as I was grilling teriyaki chicken breasts for dinner, a nasty little storm snuck up on me from the north. There I am, grilling away, happy as a clam when these big fat raindrops started falling. That's odd. There's not a cloud in the sky to the south, I thought. A few minutes later, the wind picked up, the skies opened up, and I collected my teriyaki chicken breasts and headed inside.

It was raining so hard that I decided to grab my video camera and get some footage. I love a good storm, and this one was a doozy. It rained so hard that we couldn't see the houses across from us. Of course by the time I got the camera out and headed outside, the worst of the storm had passed. Unfortunately, much of the color and contrast was lost in the transition from the analog signal of my 9 year-old camera to my computer, especially the rainbow. You can barely see it in front of the tree and descending on my neighbor's shed. The girls wanted us to jump the wall and look for the pot of gold. I told them that I didn't think the neighbors would appreciate us stealing what should be THEIR gold.

The girls' response was pretty much the equivalent of "Screw them."

Enjoy the vid.

Six Years

Last night during dinner, Kailey turned to me and asked, "Dad? After dinner can we go on the computer so you can show us what happened when the planes hit the buildings?" We've had many mini-discussions about 9/11 in the past week since both of the girls' classes at school have been covering it in light of today's anniversary.

I was flooded with conflicting emotions at Kailey's request. As a father, my immediate instinct was to protect my children. I hope they never experience a day like 9/11 in their lifetime: the fear, the grief, the utter sense of loss and helplessness, the all comes rushing back even six years later. Not enough time has passed. But it's also important for them to know what happened, even when they are probably still too young to comprehend it all.

I decided to focus on some of the positives from that day. We talked about how people came together to help one another; the heroism of the passengers from Flight 93 as well as that of the NYPD and NYFD. As we talked, my heart swelled with pride at the efforts of these people, everyday people who rose to the occasion and made a horrible, horrible day just a little bit brighter. If there's anything I really want the girls to "get" about 9/11, this is it.

After dinner, as the girls took their baths, I watched some of the YouTube entries on 9/11. "You're going to get yourself all depressed again," Diane warned. She was right and I knew it. But this was my way of remembering and paying homage to those whose lives have been eternally altered as a result of those senseless attacks, however sick, twisted, and masochistic it might seem. I do a pretty good job of sheltering myself from the pain 364 days a year. One day of letting it in isn't going to kill me.

I didn't let the girls watch any video last night. Too many of the clips had pictures or video of people falling to their deaths, and I didn't want to open that can of worms right before bedtime. Perhaps I'll let them watch something this afternoon if I can find a clip that focuses more on the indomitable human spirit than the death and destruction of that day. It's the former that makes this nation of ours great and is what will ultimately heal those wounds.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ask A Stupid Question...

Diane just walked into the room and asked, "You want a margarita?"

Is Britney Spears opening the VMA's a train wreck waiting to happen?


Of All The Days to Start Fasting...

...from television: opening day of the NFL season, and I saw NONE of it. Nada.

My class assignment this week is to fast from television for 72 hours, then write a reaction paper describing the experience. Seeing as how I WATCH TV FOR A LIVING, putting your very favoritest shows on your wide screen HD TV for your viewing pleasure, I burst into laughter upon reading it. I'm not addicted to television, and with the exception of watching LOST, which doesn't come back until January, I could probably find many more worthwhile things to do with my time than watch TV. In fact, if it were up to me, I would watch very little TV while at home. The hard part is not getting enticed when Diane and the girls watch TV. Since Diane only watches reality shows, and the girls watch Disney, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon, this shouldn't be too hard. So I decided to give the assignment the good ol' college try. Sorry.

I was 100% with the program until about 7:30 this morning when a thought sat me bolt upright in bed...THE BEARS PLAY THE CHARGERS TODAY! FOR REAL! I broke into a cold sweat. How could I have forgotten something so important! Like forgetting your anniversary! OK, not that bad, but close. Today my NFL withdrawal was going to come to an end as I partook in a double-dose, nay, a triple-dose (how could I forget about Sunday night football?) of bone-crushing pigskin action.

But it wasn't meant to be. I stuck to my guns and refrained from spending any time in front of the boob tube. Instead I spent the afternoon playing with the girls and working on some of their softball skills, which I have to admit was probably time better spent. I later logged on to the computer to see how the Bears fared: a 14-3 loss to the Chargers. Three measly points? My time was DEFINITELY better spent. And I was in a better mood too. Hell, if this is how the Bears are going to perform, I'll GLADLY fast from television for the rest of the season!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Oh, There's Need To Fear, All Right

Yesterday was the first Friday I've had off in a long time, as well as the first evening I've had alone with the girls without some sort of extra curricular activity to attend. I've been putting in a lot of overtime at work covering a co-worker's vacation and haven't seen much of the girls in the past couple of weeks. Diane was working late, so I decided to have a daddy-daughters date night where we would do dinner and a movie. The movie of choice for the evening: Underdog. Kyra lobbied hard for Bratz, but finally conceded to seeing Underdog after I explained to her that it would be a cold day in hell before I EVER saw the Bratz movie. She pouted for a bit, but seemed to perk up when I asked her if she wanted to stay home or go out for date night.

"Date night?" she asked. "Is that where we go out and you teach us about what we're supposed to do on a date?"

"Uhhhh...I suppose." I laughed. I hadn't really thought about that, but it made sense. Why shouldn't I, as a father, teach my daughters about what they should expect and what they shouldn't tolerate on a date. Granted, they're still about eight years away from the dating scene (oh please, dear Lord), but I guess it's never too soon to start.

Kailey didn't want any part of it. "I am NOT going out on a date with my DA-AD," she protested. "We're just going to go see a movie!"

Fair enough. So Kyra and I went on a daddy-daughter date and Kailey tagged along for the ride. Kyra was hilarious, holding my hand, giving me several spontaneous hugs, and frequently asking, "Is this what YOU used to do on your dates with Mommy?" Kailey kept her distance and looked at us like we were a couple of freaks.

Since we left the house a little late, I decided we'd see the movie first and then catch a bite to eat. To tie us over, I splurged for the $100 small drink and small popcorn at the concession stand, fully knowing that at some point during the movie Kyra would have to go to the bathroom. She did...about an hour in. I don't think Kyra's ever seen a movie in the theater start to finish. I didn't mind taking her this time because the movie SUCKED. I've taken the girls to several movies, usually animated, that I have enjoyed nearly as much as they have. This one, though, was painful to sit through. So Kyra's bathroom break was a welcome reprieve from the torture of this film. The girls enjoyed the movie, and Kailey's frequent bursts of laughter at Underdog's antics and Kyra's loving arm hugs made the time worthwhile.

For dinner, we hit the food court at the mall where the theaters are located. The girls wanted pretzel bites and cheese for dinner, but I said they had to have dinner first. They opted for cheese pizza and I obliged. Big diff, right? At least the pizza had tomato sauce.

As we sat down to dinner, Kyra returned to the practice dating theme. "Daddy, is this where we're supposed to talk about each other's interests and get to know each other?" Kailey rolled her eyes. I laughed. This kid was totally cracking me up. At the same time I was also getting a little freaked. Kyra was WAY too into this dating thing. It very well may have been that she was just excited to be going out with her dad. But I've also heard her verbalize her love for a certain boy at school and how they will one day get married. As innocent as it is, it's still hard for me to suppress the feeling that all of this is a little much for a 6 year-old. Call me paranoid. Call me over-protective. Can't help it. I'm a dad to two daughters.

"Sure," I said, suppressing my paranoia and choosing to indulge my youngest daughter. "This would be the perfect time to get to know each other. So what do you like to do?" Kailey was turning pale and looked like she could hurl at any moment. Part of me could identify with her and was glad she wasn't that excited about dating.

"I like dressing up and going to the mall and singing High School Musical songs."

"Everything I'M looking for in a woman," I teased.

"Daddy!" Kyra blushed. "I'm so embarrassed!"

They finished their cheesy pizza, then the three of us shared a small order of pretzel bites, taking turns identifying the various shapes before devouring them. "This one's a snowman!" Chomp. Off with its head. "Here's a piggy!" Chomp. Off with its head. "This one's a, it's UNDER-dog!" Chomp. Off with its head. Good riddance.

We stopped by to see Diane at her store before calling it a night and heading home. I love daddy-daughters date nights and will continue to have as many of them as I can before they become too "mature" to go out with their old man and before they start dating for real. I'm sure that day will come soon enough. I wish Underdog were here. Oh, that's right. Kyra bit his head off.

No, the irony is not lost on me.


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