Friday, November 30, 2007

DoWiNaBloPoMo

I have fought the fight.

I have finished the race.

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

Thirty days. Thirty posts.

I am Done With National Blog Posting Month.

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

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

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

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

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

Don't I win a prize or something?

The satisfaction of a job well done?

Bah!


The Grand Finale

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



Happy Friday.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Quitters Never Win...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dirt

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Heat IS On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2007

She's Just a Laugh a Minute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Battered Randomness 2

Nablopomo Day 25

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

Hope Springs Eternal...

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

Smelling Roses

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

Da Bears...

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

Black Friday

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

Hope you have a good and colorful week.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Birthday Girl

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

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

Happy Birthday, Kyra-girl.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Party On?

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Me Me Me Me Meme

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pass the Pain Killers. Stat.

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

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

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

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

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

Patio? Looks frickin' cool.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Just a Case of Pre-Concert Jitters

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

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

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

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

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

"It sounds all...scratchy."

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

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Note to Obnoxious Starbucks Guy

Dear New Starbucks Drive-Through Guy,

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

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

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

Sincerely,

A Caffeine-Deprived Customer

Saturday, November 17, 2007

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

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

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

"What is it?" I sighed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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



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



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

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


Friday, November 16, 2007

Registered

Well, I'm entering the final three weeks of my first college course in 16 years, and I'm happy to say it's gone well. I was concerned that I wouldn't have the umption in my gumption to maintain the discipline needed to keep up with the course work, but it really hasn't been a problem. It doesn't hurt that the class has been a total cakewalk, almost too easy. It's been a nice way to ease myself back into school in an attempt to more fully round out my job skills.

Yes, I fall into the category of roughly 90% of America's work force who are currently "unsatisfied" with their vocation. I don't have a bad job. It's just not something I want to do for the rest of my life. I work at a local television station where my job, in a nutshell, is to watch TV. And push a lot of buttons. What's so bad about that, right? Like I said, it's not a bad job, I'm just dealing with a "been there, done that" mentality. I need something different, more creatively challenging than pushing the button so that you can see a Geico commercial...that crazy gecko. When I originally took the job, I set a goal of two years in which to gain experience and then move up. I've now been here for over four years. So I decided to shake off the crust that's settled during those extra two years and go back to school.

The ease of my class this past semester has made me a little cocky. Perhaps too cocky because I registered for two classes next semester. I know that I wouldn't be able to handle a load more than that, but who knows, even one of these classes could be more than a hand full. All I know is that I want to build up my job skills fast, and taking one class per term could drag this process on forever. So I'm trying two, one that really excites me and one that scares the hell out of me. I'm excited about the Digital Video Editing class. Editing is what I think I'd ultimately like to to get into and I've wanted to take this class for a couple of years now. The problem is that it was never available when I was available. Until now. Bring it on, baby!

The class that has me practically peeing in my pants is Writing for Film and Television. It's one thing to write a blog for tens of eyes to see, but quite another to submit your attempt at creative writing for someone else to decorate with their red pen. I think I do a decent job of relating stories of my day to day experiences in a way that is hopefully humorous and entertaining, but to "make up" stories that people are going to want to watch for entertainment is a whole different ball of wax. Thankfully this is just a class where I can learn and test myself a bit to see if there might be more out there for me. You know, light the passion, open new doors of opportunity, blah, blah, blah, that sort of thing. I just hope I'm not biting off more than I can chew.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Laying the Foundation

Phase 2 of the flagstone patio project has begun. We finished phase 1 in mid-August, and took a couple of months off to recover and allow the summer heat to come to an end. Phase 1 involved building a side patio that essentially covered up a weed pit next to our house. Phase two will extend the back patio into the grassy area of our back yard.



Phase 2 required quite a bit of prep work, first of which was to remove the 10 million tons of river rock filling the space between the patio and grass. The rock looked cool, but just wasn't functional as we grew tired of twisting our ankles practically every time we walked across it, which was often.



We made two large piles of rock on either side of the yard. One afternoon I looked out a back window and saw what I thought was litter that had blown into one of the piles. I walked out to pick it up and discovered it wasn't litter at all. It was a declaration:



I later asked Kailey whether those were her rocks or if she "rocked", to which she replied, "Yes." That's my girl!



Now the hard work has begun. For the past week, my father-in-law and I have been clearing dirt, staking things out, and mixing and pouring concrete. My father-in-law is the brains behind this operation, otherwise I would never undertake such an ambitious project. Of course no project could unfold without running into at least one problem. We discovered that an irrigation line cut through a portion of the new patio area. Most of my time on Tuesday was spent exhuming the lines, splicing them and running them through PVC piping and reburying them so that we could get at them if (when) they leak in the future.



Once we finish laying the cement foundation, we'll begin the long process of hauling the sheets of flagstone that you can see lined up against the wall and creatively placing them on the patio. I'm excited because I know it's going to look great. Hopefully we'll be done by Christmas.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

That Makes Two of Us

In light of recent developments, Diane bought Kailey a pack of supportive camisoles during their post Hannah Montana concert shopping trip in Phoenix. For those of you clueless Dad's of daughters out there, I'm going to try to walk you through this as best as I can. I don't want anyone out there getting blindsided like I was. A supportive camisole, or "cami", as Diane likes to call them, is basically a tight-fitting tank top with extra, you know, support. Diane's going to totally laugh at me for calling it a "supportive cami", but that's what it is! The cami with a listening ear. OK, moving on.

Kailey was initially excited because a girl in her class was already wearing one. "Yeah, I can feel the straps of it under her shirt when I put my hand on her shoulder," Kailey explained to Diane. Why she's putting her hand on her classmate's shoulder is beyond me. Maybe Kailey's just trying to be supportive. Any excitement over her new cami evaporated the moment she tried it on in the dressing room.

A little background to describe Kailey's style preferences...let's just say she's a little particular, with a dash of mental, when it comes to her clothes. We once went through an eight month stretch last year when every time Kailey put on a shirt, she would reach both arms straight up into the air like a bandit caught robbing a bank. If her belly showed while she "reached for the sky", she absolutely would not wear the shirt. We had to buy her shirts that draped down over her knees just to be safe. And it's not just shirts. We carefully monitor Kailey's expressions as she gets dressed in case an intervention is needed. She gets this look on her face when her mind is not agreeing with the fit of the clothing. Then she freaks.

"It teases me! It teases me!"

This, we have since decided, is Kailey's way of saying, "Mother, Father, this garment that you have chosen for my attire is fitting me in a most displeasureable way and I am currently quite vexed." We then go through a sophisticated process of Q & A before taking action: how is it teasing her, can it be adjusted, stretched out, tucked in, rolled over, or cut, or do we just simply need to start over? It's pretty aggravating.

Diane noticed "the look" on Kailey's face moments after she put on the new cami and quickly intervened. It helped being in a public dressing room which kept Kailey's ensuing conniption at a minimum. Diane calmly explained to her that she was growing up and that though the cami was uncomfortable, it was something she was going to have to learn to deal with because she would be wearing something like it for the rest of her natural born life. She then explained that it would be uncomfortable for a few days, then she would get used to it and it wouldn't bother her any more.

And then something amazing happened: Kailey was OK with it! Just like that, excitement over supportive cami-wearing was restored! Doing her best Brandi Chastain at the World Cup impersonation, Kailey ripped off her shirt to reveal her new cami to her Papa as soon as they got home. "Look what I got, Papa!"

"Oh, yeah...nice!" he politely responded, not really knowing what was going on.

She proudly wore it the rest of the day, no problem. I think she even slept in it. But then we let her take Sunday and Monday off.

Big. Frickin'. Mistake.

We reached DEFCON 1 in a matter of seconds yesterday morning while getting dressed for school. And nothing was working to get Kailey's mind off of the tight-fitting cami. Diane reprised her eloquent dressing room speech. Bomb. I used Jedi mind tricks ("You WILL wear the cami..."). Bomb. Threats of loss of TV and treats. Didn't care. I finally decided that I just needed to get her out the door because the only thing that was going to get her mind off the cami was being in public. Nobody wants their classmates to see them having a total meltdown. It worked. She was a little pouty in the van, but the worst of the storm was over.

All throughout her tirade, Kailey kept crying, "I don't want to grow up! I don't want to grow up!" And though I was currently annoyed at her tantrum, I later couldn't help but think, "Neither do I, Sweetie. Neither do I." But I could do without the hissy fits.

This morning Kailey still met the cami with a little resistance, but it was brief, maybe reaching DEFCON 4. And hopefully tomorrow cami-tantrums will be a thing of the past, another step in the journey of growing up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tagged!

It was bound to happen sooner or later. When you participate in an exercise like Nablopomo and join it's various groups, you're bound to meet new people and read some great blogs, which I have. And at some point you're going to get tagged by one of those new blogging friends, which I have. David over at Living in the Now tagged me for the Crazy 8's meme. So here we go:

8 things I'm passionate about:

  • Family
  • Music: listening, singing, writing, guitar, recording...hell, if I'da listed these separately, I'd be done
  • Writing/blogging...have I mentioned before that I'm addicted to Sitemeter?
  • Creating in general
  • Coffee: the stronger, the better
  • Doing the right thing
  • Grilling the perfect steak
  • Those Fighting Illini
8 things I want to do before I die:
  • Record a CD
  • Learn how to record a CD
  • Jump out of a plane, preferably with parachute attached
  • Walk both of my daughters down the aisle
  • Tour the East with family...take in Washington DC, NYC, Boston, etc.
  • Go to Australia...I've wanted to do this since I was a kid
  • Sing the national anthem at Wrigley Field
  • Belch the alphabet in one long belch
8 things I say often:
  • "Knock it off!"
  • "Settle down!"
  • "What did I say?"
  • "Well I certainly didn't make this mess."
  • "Yes, hon, I'm certain the girls are asleep."
  • "Yes, hon, I locked the door."
  • "No, hon, I didn't hear anything."
  • "I'm sorry."
8 books I've read recently:
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Naked by David Sedaris
8 songs I could listen to over and over (this is a tough one to limit to 8, so I'm going to cheat a little bit):
  • "Where the Streets Have No Name", "One", and pretty much anything else by U2
  • "#41" and "Crush" by Dave Matthews...oh, hell, all DM stuff...especially his acoustic stuff with Tim Reynolds
  • Anything on West Coast Diaries 2 by Charlie Peacock
  • "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson...he's a freak, but has made some freakin' good music
  • The John Mayer Trio live album, Try!
  • Four words: Toad. The. Wet. Sprocket. It's all good.
  • "Heart-Shaped Box", "Come As You Are", "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana...for those special times
  • When I'm in a really sappy mood, "Faithfully" by Journey
8 things that attract me to my best friends:
  • Sense of humor
  • Adventurous
  • Passionate/know what they want out of life
  • Supportive
  • Listeners
  • Similar interests: music, sports, etc.
  • Intelligence/insight
  • Authentic
8 people I think should do Crazy 8's:
  • OK, I'm lame...anyone so inclined!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

NUMB3RS

This past weekend a number of "numbers" came to my attention for various reasons. Some are milestones, others are records, and the rest I just scrounged up for the sake of this stupid post.

12
This is the 12th day of Nablopomo, and my 12th post for November. I still feel strong. I feel like I can really do this thing. I have yet to panic, the operative word being "yet".

20 This is Illinois' AP ranking after dashing Ohio State's National Championship hopes on Saturday. 'Nuff said.

200 Yesterday I realized that my post on Saturday was my 200th in a little over a year of blogging. And 6 of those posts don't suck. Writing is therapeutic for me, so I guess it's not all that surprising that I've stuck with this whole blogging process. Yeay me. OUCH...this is me breaking my arm while patting myself on the back.

30 I'm a Sitemeter junkie. My self worth rises and falls with my Sitemeter stats. Since this blog is little more than a Mom & Pop operation, minus the Mom, who is content to sit back and critique my content with quotes like, "I can't believe you just wrote about your daughter's boobs", those stats aren't high. As of Saturday, my daily average was 30 hits. And most of those hits came from balding men eagerly pursuing the answer to life's most vital question: "Does Nioxin actually work?"

385 Thanks to a Jonas Brothers fan sight, I had 385 hits and 557 page views yesterday alone. They linked to my Hannah Montana concert review, and the kiddies came out of the woodwork to see the pictures. Who knew? I guess you should never underestimate the power of Disney.

I checked my Sitemeter stats a couple of hours after posting the review expecting to see the number around 20 or so. I about fell out of my chair when the number was 108. "What the hell?" I whispered as I immediately opened up my Blogger Dashboard page. I am embarrassed to admit that the first thought that shot through my mind was that I had been selected as one of the Blogger "Blogs of Note". Yes, I am that big of an ego maniacal dork. When those hopes were dashed to pieces and then stomped into a fine dust, I collected myself and did the sensible thing: checked the stat details which led me to the fan sight.

And the hits keep rolling in, though they are slowing down a little bit. So now, in order to maintain my newly boosted ego, I'm considering a format change to a pre-teen Disney concert review site. You know, cover all 3,000 of the different Disney on Ice shows, High School musical live shows, Ali & AJ, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I realize that this would be the blogging equivalent of selling your soul to the devil, but hey, I've now got Sitemeter stats to support.

And finally...

2 Girls for whom I need to scrounge up some lunch.

Finally, finally...

Happy Veterans Day and a heartfelt thank you to all of the veterans out there!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Post Concert Wrap Up

Concert posters were made, paraphernalia was purchased in mass quantities, hearing was lost, voices were screamed and sung hoarse, and a good time was had by all at the Jonas Brothers/Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert at Jobing.com arena in Glendale. I knew the girls would love it, but was genuinely surprised when Diane reported that it was a really good concert. Who knew? A pictorial review:



Hannah did indeed rock. Both of the girls made posters to display during the concert. I forgot to ask them if they were able to take them into the arena.



As official Hannah Montana fan club members, Kailey & Kyra had an opportunity to win raffle tickets for an official tour of Miley's party bus. They arrived too late to participate.



The Jonas Brothers were the opening act. I didn't hear too much about these guys...



...but this is a shot of Kailey during their set. Look at her eyes, all glossed over and dreamy-looking. I was surprised she didn't come home with a Jonas Brothers poster for the wall of her room. She did, however, choose the hot pink Jonas Brothers T-shirt over Hannah Montana.

The girls called me at work during the intermission, and they were hyped. It made me sad to miss that experience with them. Kailey kept going on about how loud it was in the arena. "The Jonas Brothers came out, and all the girls were screaming at the top of their lungs," she gushed. "I had to cover my ears!" OK, now I was less sad to miss the experience of ten thousand girls screaming at the top of their lungs.

"I could feel my heart beating in my chest!" Kyra reported, trying to explain the feeling of bass pulses reverberating inside her chest. I laughed, knowing exactly what she was talking about, and then felt sad again.



(Revision: I thought I'd better add a little more about The Jonas Brothers since I've been receiving about a million hits from a JB fan site. I polled the girls and they said that the Jonas Brothers were "awesome". Cool? Oh, and here's another JB pic for your enjoyment.)



Hannah/Miley's stage set up.



Miley did a couple of different sets, first as Hannah Montana followed by a set as herself. After all, she's going to need to establish her own identity as an artist. She can't be Hannah Montana when she's 30. Right?



She also had about 350 costume changes, because you just simply can't wear the same outfit for two hours.



Kyra singing along and having the time of her life. And who's freaky stalker-looking dude in the background? Mind yer own BEESwax, dude! I'll have to edit him out of the picture.



Here Miley's doing what I think is a solo acoustic set, if I remember the report correctly, which further impressed Diane. The concert wasn't a simply choreographed lip-synch show. Miley is a very talented young lady.



Here the girls are pulling Grammy away from the Beer, Wine & Spirits stand...again! Kidding. I just think this is a hilarious backdrop for a "family" photo.



They spent the night in Chandler and finished off their trip with, what else, a little shopping! They made it home safe and sound Saturday night, and I'm glad to have them back. By the way, I had the house to myself on Friday night and didn't do ONE load of laundry.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

UPSET IN THE HORSESHOE!!!

OSKEE-FRICKIN'-WOW-WOW!!

My hands are still shaking as I just finished watching the Illini topple the #1 team in the land...on their turf. I can't ever remember a time, in the past several years anyway, when you could hear a pin drop in the Horseshoe. Totally. Freakin'. Awesome.

Illinois lost against Michigan a few weeks back due to penalties and turnovers. I knew going into this game that if they could keep their heads, limit those personal foul penalties, and not turn the ball over, they could win this game. That's exactly what they did. They had one ten-yard false start penalty and NO turnovers. Their defense had three interceptions, and Juice Newton, er, I mean Williams, threw four touchdown passes as the Illini racked up 400 yards of total offense against the #1 defense in the land. This victory ensures Illinois a bowl birth as well as a probably ranking in the top 25.

We finish the season next week against Northwestern. Let's not overlook this game, guys. Get your feet back on the ground and take care of business.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Priorities

Well it looks like we've got ourselves a good, ol' fashioned dilemma brewing. Since missing a day of school on Monday due to a fever/cold combo, Kyra has developed a dry, course, nasty cough. She sounds like a hoarse dog. We should probably keep her home another day, which brings us to dilemma #2: my mother-in-law spent mucho dinero on four tickets to see Hannah Montana in concert in Phoenix. Tonight. She also signed the girls up for the Hannah Montana fan club, which entitles them to attend a pre-concert party on Hannah Montana's party bus. If we keep her home from the concert, Kyra will never, ever, ever, ever, ever forgive us. And she would remind us hourly of that transgression for the rest of our lives. What to do, what to do?

Well, we did what any responsible parent would do: we kept Kyra home from school so that she could rest up and enjoy the concert! What?! Oh, don't give me that crap! Like you wouldn't do the same thing! Did I mention the fact that these are HANNAH MONTANA tickets? They're more precious than gold, people! Kids can make up their school work. There's no "making up" Hannah Montana!

And still my guilt consumes me. Don't think for a moment that I didn't lobby like hell to try to sell those babies. People are paying a bazillion dollars for them after all. I tried to reason with them...we could buy a Ferrari, a vacation home in the Hamptons, a small tropical island! I even tried the humanitarian route by offering to use the proceeds to feed a small African nation...for a year! But they were steadfast in their decision. It was Hannah Montana or bust.

By now, Grammy, Diane, Kailey and hoarse-dog coughing Kyra have packed into the van and on their way to Phoenix for a girls night out with Hannah Montana. I hope they bring me back a T-shirt.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Caught in the Crossfire

Yesterday was gymnastics day. The only thing I like about gymnastics day is that it gives me an hour in the afternoon to read nearly uninterrupted, save the frequent glances to see what brilliant maneuvers the girls are performing at that particular moment. Somersaults...great. So much for Beijing. I'm usually one of the few dads occupying the chatty, mommy and kiddie-dominated observation area. I don't mean to offend here because I know what it feels like to be alone at home with the kids all day long, but I can tell that these moms are craving social activity. It's sometimes hard to hear myself think over the din of moms fighting to get in their daily allotment of words while their kids fight to get the attention of their moms.

I've finally gotten around to starting the last of the Harry Potter books, and it's been so good that I've had great difficulty in putting it down. So to say that I was REALLY looking forward to my reading time is an understatement. After the girls scurried off to their respective classes, I found a chair in a relatively uninhabited area of the waiting room and sat down. There was a pregnant mom two chairs to my left, a mom in front of me diagonally to my left, and a mom with a cute little baby three chairs to my right. I smiled at the baby and Baby-Mom as I took my seat, then dove into my book. Not a minute later, a laptop-carrying mom and her daughter greeted Baby-Mom and slid into the two seats separating us.

Diagonal-Mom turned around and let out a loud gasp. Computer-Mom did the same. "HOW ARE YOU!!" they shrieked almost in unison, as though running into long-lost childhood friend.

"Your hair looks great! You finally found a stylist?"

"I did...it took awhile but I really like her..."

"She did a great job. I love it!"

"Awww, thank you!"

They went on like this for a few minutes, and I couldn't help but feel like I was in their way. I thought about asking Diagonal-Mom if she would like to trade seats, you know, so they could talk more easily, but thought that might come across as rude and self-serving. So I stayed put. And as I really had nothing to contribute to this conversation, I kept my nose stuck in my book. Until they started harping on their husbands. This topic of discussion attracted both Baby-Mom and Pregnant Mom as well. It was like a shark feeding frenzy. I was completely surrounded.

"My husband's out of town until Saturday."

"This is going to sound really bad, but I kind of like it when my husband goes out of town."

"I know!"

"Oh, me too."

"I can get so much more done at home when he's not around."

"Seriously!"

"I can get the laundry done and completely put away..."

"I stay up as late as I want and do whatever I want...I get the house so clean..."

"...and you don't have to worry about feeding the kids Kraft macaroni..."

CHORUS: "Yes!"

On and on they went until it started to sound like a June Cleaver secret society gone horribly, horribly wrong. At some point in the discussion, I looked up from my book with an amused grin. Part of me wanted in on this conversation, and part of me wanted them to shut up so I could fully enjoy my book. I decided to give the former a shot. The plan was to allow them to notice me listening in on their conversation (how could I not!), and then have them invite me to contribute the masculine point of view, which was basically this: you can do anything you want and you choose to do laundry? You ladies need to get a life!

The master plan was a flop. I looked around and followed their conversation for a few moments, looking for an in, but they completely ignored me. They had no interested in the masculine perspective. Oh, well.
I guess you can't help everybody. They eventually turned their conversation to Crate & Barrel, Overstock.com and really soft bedsheets before redirecting their attention to their children flopping around in the next room. I shrugged it off and peacefully returned to my book, which is all I wanted in the first place.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Weird Science

This is Kailey's science project. It's been hanging on the wall of her classroom for about a month, ripening. I think it finally repulsed her teacher enough for her to urge Kailey to take it home. I now share it with you, dear reader, before plugging my nose and dumping it into the trash.



Any questions?

Oh, and my friend Brandt also sent me this solution to my book light crisis.



Yes, those are night vision goggles. Thanks, my friend, but these babies might fall into the realm of "overkill". Besides, I'd probably need to see a chiropractor after using them.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Disturbing "Developments"

It's taken me nearly a week to summon the nerve to write this post. You see, I grew up with a younger brother. We did "boy" stuff: foraged through the woods surrounding our house, made forts, played "guns", rode our bikes at kamikaze speeds down ridiculously steep hills, wrestled, farted on each other's heads...you know, boy stuff. Being the older brother, I knew what it was like to defend a sibling. The only two fist fights I ever had in my life were on account of my brother's mouth. It got him into trouble, and I went 1-1 trying to bail him out. But that's what boys do. It was all I ever knew growing up. I was ill-prepared to become the father of two daughters.

Diane and I and were married right out of college after five years of dating. Yes, we were high school sweethearts, though, technically we didn't start dating until after Diane graduated. We shelved any form of birth control at around the fifth year of our marriage when we decided it was time to start a family. At that point I knew I wanted boys, or at least a boy, with whom I could mold and shape and engage in activities that display all of that father/son testosterone-laden bravado...like farting on each other's heads. But weeks stretched into months into years with no results. Diane wasn't getting pregnant and we were both starting to worry. Most of our friends were starting families and would inevitably ask us, now nearly into our eighth year of marriage, "So, when are you going to have a baby?"

"Well, we're working on it," I wanted to say. "But so far it seems like I might be shooting blanks. Thanks for asking!" Of course I didn't say this. We'd just smile politely and shrug our shoulders. At this point it didn't matter to me whether we had a boy or a girl. I just wanted to be a dad.

Diane and I were just about to the point of seeing a fertility specialist when one day she walked into our apartment and pulled a home pregnancy test out of a Walgreen's bag. "Really?" I asked, and Diane nodded. She peed on the stick, set it down on the vanity, and we waited nervously on the bed. Positive. We were going to be parents. I guess I wasn't shooting blanks after all! It was one of the happiest days of my life.

"It's a little girl!" the obstetrician confirmed several weeks later. I broke out into a cold sweat. In the weeks following the positive pregnancy test I had regressed from I'll-be-thankful-to-have-a-child mode to I-really-want-a-boy mode. Or maybe I'm-scared-to-death-to-have-a-girl mode is more accurate. I immediately conducted a mental inventory of all the girls I dated, kissed, or otherwise tried to take advantage of during my pubescent years (thankfully, a short list), and I immediately repented of any wrong-doing, as if it might help the current situation. I was going to have a daughter. And the fact that nearly every guy we told responded with a varying version of "better get yourself a bat/shotgun/weapons of excruciating torture" didn't help the situation either.

All that crap flew right out the window after Kailey was born. She was the most beautiful baby in the history of babies, as far as I was concerned, and she had me hook, line, and sinker from the get-go. Kyra was born 20 months later (so much for shooting blanks...why the hell did it take so long the first time?), and I was resigned to the fact that I would be the father of daughters and that I wasn't going to worry about those teen years. We'd cross that bridge when we got to it.

It seems that bridge is a lot closer than I'd like it. Last week, on Halloween night, we had just gotten home from trick-or-treating and the girls were in the process of taking their baths. I was sitting in the living room chatting with Diane's folks and handing out candy to the last of the trick-or-treaters when Diane walked into the room. "Kailey just walked up to me and said, 'Mommy, my chest really hurts!'" I didn't think anything of it and just attributed her comment to the list of daily ailments that seem to afflict the girls. But I noticed Diane and her Mom grinning while exchanging a knowing look.

"Well, they say that girls are developing earlier these days," her Mom replied.

"I don't remember them hurting so much as itching, though they were a little sensitive, I guess," said Diane.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. My mouth about hit the floor. Are we talking about what I THINK we're talking about? What the HELL! They must have seen the horror on my face. "She's eight," I gasped. It was all I could muster.

"Yeah, they say that girls are developing earlier," my mother-in-law repeated.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard you the first time. They who? Who are these "they" people because I'd like to have a word.

"She's EIGHT!" I grunted.

"Haven't you noticed," said Diane. "The past month they've been...swollen?"

Oh, Dear Lord in Heaven Above, I could not believe we were having this conversation. But sadly, I had noticed.

"Yes, but, but I guess I just figured we just needed to cut down on the afternoon snacks," I stammered.

"Honey, you don't gain weight in your boobs!"

"You did."

It's amazing how two seemingly simple, harmless words can have such a devastating effect. Note to all men, which is really a no-brainer, never, and I mean NEVER, make any mention of weight gain to your spouse, boobs or otherwise.

"Only because I was having YOUR babies!"

My mother-in-law rescued me by turning the conversation to the scientific reasons surrounding early development in young girls, but I really couldn't tell you what she said. My head was swimming with the inevitable: puberty was coming and it had blind-sided me. I think I would have been more mentally prepared for this if she were 10. But she's only 8. And I am freaking out. Since Christmas is just around the corner, I'm going to start on my Christmas list. Top three items? Baseball bat, shot gun, weapons of excruciating torture.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Duped

As I write this, Kyra, my "sick" 6 year-old, is in the next room singing at the top of her lungs and perfectly executing the choreography to High School Musical:

We're all in this together
Once we know that we are

We're all stars and we see that

We're all in this together...

Let's just say that once you hear something 100 million times, it tends to stick.

Kyra battled a mysterious fever all weekend long, and as recently as last night posted one of 100.5. This morning she woke up fever-free, but complained of a sore throat and sounded like snot clogged every orifice of her head. Oh, and she was playing this one up, too. "Daddy," she whispered as if on the very verge of death itself, "I'm too sick to go to school today." I knew she was hamming it up for all it was worth (where does she get THAT from), but since her school health policy states that they'd prefer a child to be free of a fever for 24 hours before returning to school, we decided to keep her home.

As Diane rushed to get ready for work and I rushed to get Kailey ready for school, Kyra laid in our bed moaning, fake-coughing, and complaining of her sore throat. Up to that point I didn't dispute her claims of the sore throat. But now that I've witnessed the family room review of High School Musical, I'm not so sure. Diane told her that if she stayed home she needed to rest. Today is a rest day, not a play day, a mantra that I recited at least a hundred times this morning. For as soon as Diane and Kailey shot out the door, Kyra perked up, turned to me and asked, "Daddy, will you play with me?" I repeatedly threatened to get her dressed and take her to school, but she called my bluff. She knew I had nothing.

When she walked into the den wearing her Hannah Montana Halloween costume and grabbed my mic and mic stand, I knew we were in trouble. I was putting on the finishing touches on a paper for my class, and I promised her that when I was done we would engage in some low-key activities. Four hundred hands of Go Fish and Uno later, it was time to pick up Kailey from school. Tomorrow, come hell or high water, Kyra will return to school, health policy be damned.


And On A Side Note...

This month I'm participating in a masochistic blogging exercise known as NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month. The goal of this exercise is to post daily during the month of November. I was hesitant to sign up, but I'm happy to say that it's going well so far. My mind has yet to blank out on material, which is good since it's only Day 5. We'll see how good I feel on Day 25.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bowl Bound?

Whoa, Nelly!

The Fighting Illini picked up 655 total yards of offense and their seventh win of the season with a 44-17 trouncing of Minnesota last night. While it's true that Minnesota is woeful this season, it's comforting that the Illini beat them soundly. And picking up that seventh win should ensure their first bowl birth since 2001. Still, I'd love to see them pick up at least one more win this season, preferably two. Next week we head to Columbus to face #1 Ohio State. How sweet would it be for the Illini to storm into the The Horseshoe and knock the Buckeyes out of National Championship contention? We've looked tough against ranked opponents this season, losing only to Michigan. If the Illini can play tough and keep their heads, they'll have a shot. I can't wait.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Light Sensitive

One teeny-tiny source of contention over the course of our sixteen year marriage has been the issue of reading in bed, or more specifically, lights out time. Diane has developed a need to quash nearly every source of light in the room before she can go to sleep. Clock radios must be set on dim or covered up, a VHS tape is placed in front of the VCR's digital clock, and the bathroom door must be closed to blot out the light from the toothbrush charger. While all of these sources do produce a significant amount of light, they are easily blotted out by simply allowing your eyelids to close. All of my arguments as such have fallen on deaf ears, and over the years I have been gradually trained to cover my clock radio and the VCR, and to close the bathroom door. Yes, I have been assimilated.

So imagine Diane's chagrin when I bring a book to bed and read late into the night with light from my bedside lamp flooding the room. She tolerates me for the most part, occasionally covering her head with a pillow. But when I hear that disgusted sigh emanate from under the pillow, I know that's my cue to reach for the bookmark. Assimilated.

We discovered this issue early into our marriage. On an evening that we decided not to do what newlyweds do at night (and morning, midday, and for an afternoon snack), I kissed Diane goodnight and grabbed a book while Diane rolled over. I've noted before that Diane has what I consider to be the "gift of sleeps" and it amazes me how instantly it grabs her. She doesn't drift. She plummets. This night was no different and soon her deep, patterned breathing filled our small bedroom. I smiled as I scanned the face of my sleeping beauty before returning to my book. Fifteen minutes later my beautiful bride rolled over to face me.

"WILL YOU TURN THAT LIGHT OFF! I'M TRYING TO GO TO SLEEP!" she erupted, startling me.

"But, but you were just asleep," I tried to explain, wondering what kind of beast had invaded the body of my wife, who, moments earlier, had seemed to be enjoying a peaceful sleep.

"I CAN'T SLEEP WHILE THAT LIGHT IS ON."

You know that whole thing about not going to sleep angry? At that moment I dismissed it as complete crap. I was pissed and there was no way I was going to try to "resolve" it right then. I would have gladly turned my light if she had simply asked. She didn't have to be so crabby about it. I slammed my book down, turned off the light, and went to sleep. Angry. And I woke up angry the next morning. Diane noticed my moodiness and asked me what was wrong. As. if. she. didn't. know.

"Well, I didn't particularly care for the way you snapped at me last night."

"Snapped at you? About what?"

"About turning off the light."

"What light?"

She remembered nothing of what had transpired the previous evening. In the same way some people walk in their sleep, Diane had bitched in her sleep. I was married to a sleep-bitcher. This scenario played itself out several times over the ensuing months, and I decided to have a little fun with it.

"Turn off your LIGHT."

"You're asleep."

"I am not."

"Yes you are."

"No, I'm NOT. I can't SLEEP 'cause your LIGHT is on!"

"You're not going remember any of this in the morning."

"Yes I will, now TURN OFF YOUR LIGHT!"

"Wow, you sound like a crotchety old woman."

I eventually decided to cut back on my nighttime reading for sanity's sake. Oh yeah, and for the sake of our marriage. Even though I liked messing with Diane during her sleep-bitching episodes, I still couldn't help but be a little freaked out by them. It also occurred to me that it might be possible for Diane's sleep-bitching episodes to transform into a sleep-knifing episode should I continue with my mental hijinks. So I regulated my bedtime reading and sleep-bitching drifted into the memory of our marriage past.

On Father's Day, Diane gave me a gift certificate to Barnes & Noble. I was already working through a small stack of books, so I didn't get around to using it until last week. I picked out three books, and as I approached the checkout line, I noticed a display filled with book lights. I've often thought about picking one up over the course of our marriage. Why I haven't, or why Diane hasn't given me one as a gift, is beyond me. So I grabbed one and added it to my short stack of books, believing this would be the solution to our long-standing night reading conundrum.

In theory, the book light should have worked, except for the fact that this particular model harnesses the light from a thousand suns. It is so frickin' bright. "Oh, that's not going to work at all," Diane commented the first time I tested it. I put the light away until a couple nights ago, when I decided to give it another try. I had roughly twenty pages left to go on Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild and I wanted to finish it. Diane was sleeping soundly, so I grabbed the book light, situated it on the spine of my book and flipped the switch. The incandescent lamp burst to life,
flooding the bedroom with an eerie blue light. Diane stirred, then settled, and I felt a wave of self-consciousness wash over me as flashbacks of sleep-bitching filled my head. I laid a pillow between us in a lame attempt to shield her eyes, but it didn't ease my growing anxiety.

I finally pulled the covers over my book and the book light, and curled up into an uncomfortable position on my side so that I could see the pages to read. This is ridiculous, I thought. I'm a grown man who's afraid of waking up his wife. I'm pretty sure I could take her if I needed to. Yeah, right. I finished the book and, disgusted with myself, switched off the light and went to sleep. The next day I awoke with a stiff neck, the result of reading in that weird position. Next week, I'll try to exchange my book light for a "lesser" model. Otherwise it'll be back to the same ol', same 'ol. Assimilation.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Disgusted

Always. Save. Your. Work.

Always.

This morning I downloaded ScribeFire, a blog editing add-on for Firefox, because I wanted to experiment with an editor other than the one here on Blogger. I set it up and linked it to my Blogger account and typed up today's post. I didn't want to publish directly to my blog without looking it over first, so I clicked the "Post as Draft" box, then the "Publish" button. Several seconds passed when a "Publish Successful" box popped up, followed by a prompt asking if I wanted to save or clear my post.

Always. Click. Save.

Always.

Before I knew what I was doing, I clicked on the "Clear" option. That prompt was immediately replaced with a honkin' huge "Error" box. Oh no. What have I done? I cleared the error message, and in a mild panic, called up my blogger account. No draft. I went to my blog. No new post.
Insert expletive, no, series of expletives describing the depths of my stupidity and incompetency here. Now in full panic mode, I reopened ScribeFire and furiously searched for an "Undo" button, a "Magically Reappear" button, anything that would bring my post back. But to no avail. It is lost, free falling into cyberspace, where no one can hear you scream. Or is that just "space"?

I started to reconstruct my post, while it was still fresh in my head, but lost heart. I'll work on it later this afternoon and publish it tomorrow, if I can only remember to save it, that is. Frickin' idiot.

 

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