Thursday, October 30, 2008

Long Time, No See

Hey everybody! Remember me? Yeah, I'm the guy who "runs" this site. It's pretty dusty and cob-webby right now, but I'm hoping to clean it off and get it back into shape. In my last post, I wrote about how I'd get back to you on Across the Universe, then you never heard from me again.

Until now.

Well a couple of events have transpired since then. You see, I wrote that post, then proceeded to enjoy the movie, or most of it, when the phone rang. I investigated the caller ID before answering and discovered it was my boss. Calling me from his home. When he should have been at work. Which = not good. He'd been canned, and I saw my plans for a little self-medicating "me" time spiraling straight down the drain.

I was called into work the next morning and immediately invited into my ex-boss's boss's office, along with the station manager and the corporate VP of engineering. I was calculating in my head how much I could possibly collect in unemployment when they turned the tables on me and offered me my ex-boss's job. Part of me was flattered while the other 99% wanted to throw up. The opportunity was a good one, but the responsibility of leading the department through a major transition was daunting. I told them I'd think about it.

Then I went on vacation to Mexico with the fam.

Here's our boat...



...and the dolphin we swam with in Cabo San Lucas (his name's Ricardo)...



...and the resort pool in Puerto Vallarta where I drank WAY too much tequila.



I returned from vacation and took the job, and life has been an adjustment ever since, mostly for the better. For the first time in what seems like forever, I'm working normal hours, Monday through Friday. I'm having dinner with my family, attending every softball practice, every softball game, and tucking the girls into bed every night. I'm catching up on what I feel has been lost time with my family, and that feels great.

But on the other hand, there's been a loss of personal time that allowed me to be able to engage in activities that I really enjoyed, like writing and updating this blog. That's OK, though, because I'm doing what I need to be doing right now. I hope not to go so long before my next post, but I'm not making any promises.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It's All About Me, Baby

I've made no secret that my work over the past few months has (high-pitched falsetto voice) sucked, but this week has taken the cake. I've been called in the past two nights (on my days off) to help put out raging fires, the equivalent of throwing a bucket of water on the towering inferno. Needless to say, I'm stressed. My heart feels like it's tied in a double knot, and I'm waking up every morning at 3 am and tossing and turning until 6. So in my free mornings, for the time being, I've decided it's "me" time. I'm going to do the things I "want" to do instead of the things I feel like I "need" to do. That is until I become totally swamped with those "need to do" items, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

I'm watching movies. Yesterday's feature was the uplifting Into the Wild, the true story of Christopher McCandless, who died of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness. Great movie. Bad timing.

This morning I'm shooting for something a little more lighthearted, something like, say, Julie Taymor's hallucinogenic rock musical, Across the Universe. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Little Things

Kyra tied her shoes all by herself this morning. Both of them. And I wasn't even badgering her about it. Just told her to put her shoes on. She usually puts them on, tightens the laces, then waits for me to finish the job. "You're going to have to learn to do this on your own someday," I chide. She just sighs and rolls her eyes.

But not today.

Today she put her shoes on while I brushed her hair, making life difficult for me as her little body bobbed and weaved, little hands navigating shoes on little feet. I usually tell her to knock it off, to wait until I'm done brushing, that it's hard to hit a moving target. But today I didn't. Don't know why. It seemed like an eternity for her to get those shoes on, but I soon discovered why. She raised her head enough for me to see her imperfectly tied right shoe. "Is it tight enough for you?" I asked. She pulled on the shoe, testing it, then nodded. Then she went to work on the left one.

I watched her as she worked. Bunny ear, bunny ear, around the tree and through the hole. My critical instincts screamed at me...the bunny ears are too small...the ends are too long...she'll never have enough slack to go for the double knot...and I even reached out to give her a hand. Twice. But each time, for some unknown reason, I told my critical inner being to suck it and leave her alone. Instead, I chose to listen to that other, smaller, wiser voice that said, Let her do it herself. I wish I did that more often. Because the payoff was huge.

"Daddy, I tied both of my shoes! All by myself!"

Her face beamed with pride and amazement and wonder, which made me want to hug her and cuddle her and never let my baby girl go. Never let her go. But I have to, little by little. She needs to learn how to do things on her own, in her own way. That can be a tough parenting pill to swallow. I released her from my bear hug and she skipped through the door wearing shoes with the bunny ears just barely peeking through the double knots and the long ends of her shoelaces flapping freely in the breeze. Not how I would have done it. But that's OK.

Really. It's OK.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Child Labor Day

Here at the Battered Ham residence, we decided to apply a literal interpretation to the Labor Day holiday and put the girls to work. Assigning housework to the girls is a little hit or miss: some days they really want to help and get into it, most days, not. Yesterday we happened to catch them on a good day, probably because Diane and I were already working. Diane took the inside while I conquered backyard weeds spurred on by a month's worth of monsoon rains. My back hurts.

The MVP of Child Labor Day had to be Kyra. She attacked the house with gusto and positive mental attitude. She washed dishes. She picked up her room. She also volunteered to clean the most god-forsaken room in the house: the bathroom. Kyra couldn't wait to get at it, following closely on Diane's heels and inquiring in a frenzied, high-pitched voice, "Can I clean the toilet too?"

Bless her heart.

Nobody wants to clean toilets. They're dirty and gross and smelly and disgusting, and ours has that stubborn hard water ring around it that you have to scrub and scrub and scrub and scrub some more but you never fully get rid of it. Diane and I usually have a contest to see who can withstand the disgustingness of the toilets the longest before the other caves in and cleans the darn things. I usually win. No more! Now (for the time being) we have a willing champion of toilets in our household...Kyra the Brave!

We realize that Kyra's fascination with toilet-cleaning is a flash in the pan at best, and that we need to capitalize on her willingness to clean as much as possible. What she needs is incentive. This is where my brilliant wife came up with a plan. At one point I checked in on Kyra, toilet brush in hand, to see how she was doing.

"Dad, guess what?"

"What, Sweetie."

"Mom says if I put on rubber gloves, I can touch the toilet water!"

I heard her, I just didn't quite believe her. "What?"

"Mom's getting me rubber gloves so I can touch the toilet water!" she repeated with a maniacal giggle.

"Ooo-kay."

Sure enough, as I emerged into the hallway, I passed Diane who was carrying a pair of yellow rubber cleaning gloves. We just looked at each other, grinned, and shrugged. I love my wife. If that's the price we have to pay for sparkly clean toilets, I say ring us up!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Buried

Papers.

They're everywhere.

Everywhere I go, everywhere I look, shoved in every nook and cranny, there they are:

Papers.

School papers, work papers, news papers, magazines, catalogs, old bills, new bills, junk mail, papers to be signed, papers to be filed, papers to be un-filed, papers to be tossed, er, recycled, papers to be shredded, papers in the "to be dealt with later" pile (compounding my problems)...

Papers.

I thought I could handle 'em. Get 'em under control. Streamline the process. Thin out the file cabinets, the junk drawers. GIVE US MORE SPACE! But they're like frickin' rabbits, multiplying by the hundreds, the thousands. I shred one (paper, not rabbit), but ten more appear. I roll a heaping recycling container out to the curb, with piles and piles and piles of PAPERS still waiting for their turn in the wings, mocking me! Their numbers stretch to the sky, waving precariously in the wind! THEY'RE FALLING! I have nowhere to run and am consumed by the downward rush of PAPERS! Is there no one who can help me? IS THERE NO ONE TO HEAR MY AGONIZING PLEAS FOR MERCY? OH, FOR THE LOVE OF...

Honey? HONEY!

Hmm? Huh? What the...

Wake up...you were having a nightmare.

I was?

You kept mumbling "papers" and kicking me in the shins. I'm going to have bruises!

Oh. Sorry Hon.

Maybe you oughtta take a break from your reorganization project. You know, fall back and regroup?

But I've got 'em right where I want 'em!

Yeah, right. Go back to sleep. And if you kick me again, you'll be riding the couch! Stupid papers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Better Side

This is what happens when you spend too much time at Kappy's...

...and your father-in-law comes over early to fix a gaping hole in your shower wall...

...and your precious 7 year-old runs and grabs the digital camera (I'm so proud I could cry).



Yes, that's my big butt in polka dotted boxer shorts.

Yes, those are genuine, bona fide Camp Rock sheets I'm sleeping on.

Yes, I gave Kyra a thorough beat-down-tickle-torture shortly after discovering this picture on the digital camera. Then I gave her a big hug because, like I said, I was just so proud that her first thought after seeing me in this humiliating position was to go grab the camera. I've created a montsa!

And yes, Kailey's room has since received a top-to-bottom cleaning, compliments of my lovely wife.

Questions?

I didn't think so.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Don't Blame Me

There's a nasty little rumor circulating around our household that I'm directly responsible for some of the girls' unladylike behavior. OK, OK...for ALL of their unladylike behavior. I think that's unfair. Just because I'm the only male in the house doesn't automatically make me a bad influence. That hurts my feelings. What hurts even more is the accusation that I am the one who "taught" my girls how to belch and fart. This needs be cleared up straightaway.

First of all, belching and farting are natural biological functions. The body needs some method to dispose of gaseous deposits within the stomach and intestines, thus, the belch and the fart. Some people choose to deal with the discomfort of those gaseous deposits and hold them in, people like, hmmmm, my wife for instance. Others, like me, choose to be comfortable, releasing those deposits with great regularity. As long as I'm in the comfort of my own home and there's no odoriferous accompaniment, I don't see what the problem is. So what it really comes down to is a matter of preference.

Now to address this business of "teaching". I have never, ever, sat down with either of the girls to discuss the proper form, posture, or technique for the maximization of bodily eruptions. It's not like I stop Kailey after she emits a breathy belch to offer instruction:

"No, no, no...come here. It needs to be crisp. You're limiting yourself by using just your throat. You need to utilize your whole torso. Tilt your head forward slightly and push from the diaphragm. Now try again."

Nor do I pull Kyra aside and whisper in her ear, "OK, watch and learn while I sneak up on Mommy and rip one on her head."

I would never, ever do that, primarily because Diane would kill me. I'm not that stupid.
The girls have mastered this behavior, indeed taking it to the next level, entirely on their own. Kailey taught herself to swallow air and then shake the foundations of the house with her belches. And Kyra prides herself in snuggling up in my lap and wooing me into a false sense of security before unleashing anal fury on my leg. Each eruption is followed by fist pumps and whoops of wild laughter. And they have not learned this from me.

Do I discourage such behavior? No way. In fact, this is better than I ever could have imagined it, much less planned. See, my kids don't listen to me when I try to teach them things. They blow me off. They sigh. Loudly. They roll their eyes like they know everything in the world at the ripe old ages of 7 and 9. So the fact that they have taken enough interest in something to want to perfect it to an art form makes me beam with pride (and snicker). It's just too bad that they can't make a living as body eruption artists.

Or get a date.

My non-plan is complete.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Here's a First

Diane just walked through the door, thoroughly pissed, thankfully for nothing I had done (for a change). Some woman just cut her off...while walking!

Diane was out for her daily walk through the neighborhood, minding her own business, rocking out to a little U2, and owning her side of the sidewalk when she noticed a woman on the opposite sidewalk pushing a double stroller, walking a dog on a leash, and feeding her kids from a Carl's Jr. bag perched on top of the stroller.
All parties involved were heading the same direction, and no other walkers populated the street. At some point the woman decided to cross the road, pretending to be completely oblivious to Diane. She hurried to get in front of Diane, then struggled to get her double stroller over the curb. Diane had to come to a complete stop, right next to her, and wait for her to get all of her crap together. The woman didn't even acknowledge her presence. No apology for cutting in front of her or impeding her progress. Nothing. Diane was livid. It wasn't about being cut off, but the stupidity, insensitivity, and selfishness of this woman.

I just laughed, which is why I get in trouble so much. "If you were in the car, you would've totally honked at this woman," she retorted. She's right, which is why as soon as I finish this post I'm heading over to Ace Hardware and buying my wife an air horn for her walks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Buns of Steel

Last week Kailey punched a hole in the wall of our master bathroom shower...with her buttocks. She was messing around trying to get Kyra to laugh when she threw herself back against the wall, and punched through six, four-inch ceramic tiles, leaving a gaping hole in the wall. How a sixty pound little girl can punch a hole in the wall with her bare butt is beyond me, but it happened. The only thing I can think of is that there must have been a little bit of water damage in the wallboard. It didn't help that the builders of the house used conventional wallboard instead of blueboard in the shower, but that's water under the bridge (sorry).



I was at work, of course, when it all went down. I'm always at work when major home repair issues come up, like this time, or this time, oh this was a good one, or even this time. Not that it would make much of a difference if I were home. I would just do what I told Diane to do...call her Dad, the fix-it master of the universe. Of course Diane was bringing up terms like "complete bathroom remodel", but since we're about $10,000 short of a $10,000 remodel, I suggested we look at other options.

My father-in-law came out, looked at the problem, and had us up and running in about three days. The fix was relatively easy. He cut out the old wallboard, checking for any more water damage, patched the hole with new wallboard, then re-grouted our existing tiles back into place...exactly what I would have done. ;)
Thanks, Papa! You da man!

So Diane and I have officially retired from our nightly sponge baths (darn!) and returned to boring ol' showers. Oh, and we're having Kailey's buttocks licensed as a lethal weapon.


Monday, August 18, 2008

If You Want a Job Done Right...

In September we're taking an extended family cruise to the Mexican Riviera as part of "The Year the Battered Ham's Turn 40" extravaganza. I can't wait. I've never been on a cruise, but I've heard that it's not too shabby. Mostly I hear people rave about how great it is, immediately followed by a detailed commentary on how fat they got, immediately followed by something along the lines of "You'll love it." I'm sure I will. These days, anything not involving work falls into the category of "good".

While it's not specifically required, it has been strongly suggested that we secure passports for our trip to make our shoreline excursions more easily accessible. Fine. Diane took the point on this task, rounding up all of our information that she could find and barking orders at me to get my procrastinating butt in line and secure the stuff she couldn't find. We needed one last item before submitting our applications: the passport photo. Diane heard that Walgreen's does them, so yesterday afternoon we set out to put the last piece of the puzzle in place.

Now when I think about the phrase "passport photo", what comes to mind is something along the lines of the "driver's license photo". You go down to the DMV and pick a number. They escort you to a room or a specified area for quality DMV photography, point that big, boxy camera that projects a ring of light onto your nose, instruct you to say "cheese" (or not), and, blam, you're done. You've just taken the worst picture of your life, that is, until you've had your passport photo taken.

We showed up at Walgreen's, and of course, there's nobody in the photo department. A couple minutes later, a gentleman came back to help us. Diane told him we needed passport photos taken, and I swear the man snickered. Behind the counter was an area where I assumed he'd take our picture. It had a little curtain, a few different backgrounds, and a big, honkin' camera-looking thing like they have at the DMV. I was wrong. Instead, he leaned down behind the counter and grabbed the dinkiest digital camera I've ever seen and guided us out into the aisle in the middle of the store, where he pulled down one of those roll up, retractable video screens like the ones you had in your school classroom for movie time. I was mortified. The dude was going to make a public spectacle out of us! Why not just make an announcement? "Attention Walgreen's customers! Blue light special on public humiliation in aisle ten!" I should have put the kibosh on the whole thing right then and there, but I was strangely intrigued, like the time my co-worker asked me if I wanted to see of picture of his brother whose nose was bitten off by a dog. No, I really didn't want to see his maimed brother, but the disturbed and twisted side of me did. I needed to see how this whole thing would play out.

Diane was up first. She nervously stepped in front of the screen while a few shoppers watched (and snickered), and smiled.

"Don't smile," Walgreen's man said.

"What?"

"Don't smile," he repeated. "They don't want you to smile in passport photos anymore."

Telling someone not to smile is like telling them not to blink, swallow, or laugh in church, which instantly makes you want to blink, swallow, or laugh in church. Diane couldn't do it. She burst out laughing. It took her a few moments to contain herself, after which Walgreen's man took one (1) picture. There must not have been options. Diane stepped out and I stepped in, and Walgreen's man took my one (1) picture. He wrote it up, told us it would be about 20 minutes, and we left to go get dinner.

I returned after dinner to retrieve what I knew were going to be quality pictures. Walgreen's man was not there, thank god. He would've laughed in my face. He was replaced by Walgreen's woman, whom I promptly paid before leaving the store. I took the photos and retreated to the car where I admired Walgreen's man's handiwork. I opened Diane's first and practically peed my pants. It is, hands down, the worst picture she has ever taken in her life. PERIOD. I need to preface this next statement by saying that the following words came straight from Diane's mouth. I did not say these words. I thought them, BUT I DID NOT SAY THEM:

"I look like I'm 250 pounds!"

Then I opened mine, and I think I did pee a little. I looked like I was recovering from a two-week bender. So while I'm laughing my head off in the van, alone, people are walking out of Walgreen's wondering if there's something seriously wrong with me. There was: I just paid $17 for passport photos that there was no way IN HELL we were going to use. I should have gone back inside and raised hell, but I was too humiliated. I just drove home.

So now our backs were against the wall. We wanted to submit our passport applications today to make sure we get our passports before our trip, but we had no usable photos. I jumped into action. The Walgreen's passport photo operation was amateur at best. Hell, I thought, I could do a better job than that guy. So I jumped online and found this website that let's you upload and format your own passport photos for free! You can then either print them yourself, order them through the website for $5.99, or send them to a photo finisher for a small fee. We retook our pictures at home (they're still bad, but infinitely better than what we had), I uploaded them and had Walgreen's print them up for 41¢.

I'm dying to post the pictures for your viewing pleasure, but Diane threatened, in no uncertain terms, to castrate me, then leave me if I did. And there's no way in hell I'm posting my mug shot without hers. They're just best when seen as a pair. If there's anything good that has come out of this whole scenario, it's this: Diane's photo currently resides on our refrigerator as motivation for her nightly walks. After all, she wants to take that 250 pounds off before putting it all back on during the cruise.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Eleventh Hour

I'm in hour eleven of an eighteen hour shift. Yes, you read me correctly, an eighteen hour shift. The reason I'm working an eighteen hour shift is that my station is in the eleventh hour of a major equipment upgrade/station switchover, the leaders of which, in their infinite wisdom, failed to realize that a little training might be required for the operation of said new equipment/new station. Since they pushed up the switchover deadline from the end of the month to Wednesday, they thought it might be prudent to train us on a roomful of new equipment four days before the switch! They notified us about the training, and the new deadline, two days ago. Nothing like a little bit of foresight and planning. So this morning I dragged my butt into work at the crack of dawn to engage in several hours of "training" before I started my "regular" shift. I'm tired. I'm cranky. And I'm not very happy.

I guess last minute training is better than NO training (my lame attempt to be a "glass half-full" kinda guy), but the lack of planning has been stressful and frustrating for the whole department. Fortunately, we have come up with a stress-relief solution we refer to as "Kappy's Therapy", Kappy's being a dive bar a short distance from the station. Every couple of weeks, when the stress level has built up sufficiently, we'll head to Kappy's after the 10 o'clock news, have a couple of drinks, unwind, gripe about the company, and laugh until it hurts. It's been quite therapeutic. Every night can't be a Kappy's night though. I don't want to turn into an alchie bum. Anyway, it's less about the alcohol and more about the camaraderie. It makes the B.S. more tolerable (marginally) knowing that we're all in the same boat and that we can at least get away for a good laugh at the insanity.

So I'm thinking that if Wednesday's switchover is the twelfth hour, hours 13-15, at least, will need to be spent in Kappy's Therapy.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Olympic Sidenote

My favorite Olympian name?

Dutch swimmer, Pieter Van Den Hoogenband.

Sure, he's been around for awhile (this is probably his last Olympics), but every time the commentators mention his name, I have to repeat it, saying it over and over (and over), much to Diane's chagrin. I just can't help myself. It's like I have Tourette's syndrome or something. The name is just too lyrical...

Pie-ter-Van-Den-Hoo-gen-band...

Pie-ter-Van-Den-Hoo-gen-band...

Pie-ter-Van-Den-Hoo-gen-band...


He he. Now you have Tourette's syndrome too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nothing Like the Thirst-Quenching Relief Of...

...candy bars?

The girls' Fall Softball League has officially begun, accompanied by the Fall Ball fundraiser: candy bars! But due to their school's "Healthy Snack" policy, they can't sell them at school. That blows. I seem to remember a box of candy bars permanently attached to my arm throughout my junior high/high school days as a penance for being artistic. You never saw a football player hawking candy bars, candles, wrapping paper, or make-it-yourself pizzas. Never. Kailey and Kyra, too young to yet be fazed by the negative stigma attached to fundraisers, bless their hearts, attacked this challenge with true entrepreneurial spirit, setting up a chocolate bar stand in the driveway in the 104° heat.

Unfortunately there's not too much foot traffic down our street at 4:00 pm during the summertime. And despite jumping and screaming at every car that passed by, they couldn't get anyone to stop for a $2 candy bar. I didn't have the heart to tell the girls they were probably scaring people away. If it wasn't for their friends from down the street, bless THEIR hearts, the day would've been a total loss.

I can see what's coming. The girls' enthusiasm will wane after a couple of days, and I'll shell out a hundred bucks for two boxes of overpriced chocolate that I'll then, in turn, guilt my co-workers into buying because I've supported their kids' stupid fundraisers (you know who you are). So don't pretend to be busy when I visit your cubicle/edit bay/control room with the gargantuan box of milk chocolaty chocolate bars under my arm. You're buying.

BIG time.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What the...?

I haven't been posting very consistently over the past few months, but I still regularly check my Sitemeter stats, which, accordingly, are pathetic. Most of my hits come from a segment of the world's most desperate, balding men seeking the answer to life's most important question: does Nioxin work. And of course they leave this site ultimately unfulfilled.

Today as I checked the daily numbers, I was floored by the Google search that listed my blog as one of the top potential sources of information to the following query:

"music to help you defecate"

I don't know whether to be horrified or honored.

But since I also like to be helpful, let me first ask my bound-up compadre a question: are you looking for music that will relax your bowels or would you rather find something that will scare the sh** out of you? If the goal is the latter, I would suggest any of a variety of death metal bands out there...seriously scary stuff. If that doesn't work, give Clay Aiken a shot (sorry Mom).

If it's relaxation you're going for, might I suggest some smooth jazz, Air Supply (possibly falling in the scary range), Yanni (Hey! What happened to the mustache?), or just plain ol' nature sounds. Hmmm. I wonder...if the sound of running water makes you have to pee, does the sound of...oh never mind.

If none of that works, just take some freakin' Miralax.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Time for a LOTTA Reorganimization

WE OWN ENTIRELY TOO MUCH CRAP.

It's true. There, I said it. Think you're better than me? Well, you probably are. At least I'm man enough to admit I've got a problem. And I might even be man enough to fix it.

That's where I'm probably still in denial.

When we bought our house five years ago, it was the perfect size, or so we thought until we moved all of our stuff in. Shortly after we signed all the papers we discovered that we had already outgrown our home. Not really, but it sure felt that way. There simply weren't enough available nooks and crannies to put all our stuff. That's when "The Great Purge" began, and probably about twice a year I engage our home in a never-ending tango of "what stays" and "what goes".

The girls are the biggest problem. If they'd just stop frickin' GROWING, or needing NEW TOYS for Christmas and birthdays, we'd be fine. When they come to me whining about clothes not fitting, I try to convince them that capri "floodwater" pants and belly shirts are "in", but to no avail. So we buy them a whole new wardrobe and stockpile their old clothes until we figure out what to do with them, usually bagging them up and carting them over to Goodwill. We could probably do pretty well with a garage sale, but we're not garage sale people. Too much work. And too many weirdos poking around in your garage. It's just easier to bag it all up and let somebody else deal with it.

Or it was until the good ol' Federal Government began their charitable contribution crackdown last year. It used to be federally acceptable to guesstimate the value of your contributions, but I guess too many people were valuing their broken Mr. Coffee coffeemakers at $1000 a pop. I'm telling you, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil it for everybody. So now they want "documentation". It's not enough to merely write it all down...you've got to have pictures of all the crap you're giving away too! Suddenly the garage sale isn't looking all that bad...

Anyway, I give you all of that backstory simply to say that "The Great Purge of Aught-Eight" has officially begun. Only this will be the Purge of all Purges. As I sat and thought about our home I realized we weren't effectively utilizing our storage space. Man, that sounds anal! But it's true and it's driving me nuts! We have closets where we just threw crap "temporarily" when we first moved in that hasn't been touched in five years. File cabinets overflowed as well as bins of pictures and letters and cards. And then there's the issue of the girls' schoolwork: what do we save and what do we toss? It's a sort of self-damning experience to be judge, jury, and executioner to a 7 year-old's artwork, but we since we only have room for the best tigers (or is that a severely beaten chinchilla?), some of it's gotta go.

On Sunday and Monday (yes, it took me TWO days), I tackled the main file cabinet, shredding six bags of sensitive documents and tossing an equal amount of non-sensitive papers. My poor shredder was smoking! Yesterday, Diane and I teamed up, with Diane taking on hall closets and the kitchen pantry while I prepped and "documented" ten garbage bags of clothes and other miscellaneous household items, all of which were piled up in the garage, for transport to Goodwill (the garage sale will have to wait another year). Phase two will be the girls' closets, which is a lot of fun with the girls whining about us giving away toys they have NEVER played with, the guest room closet (what a frickin' disaster that thing is), and a few various "junk" drawers. There is light at the end of the tunnel! I'm always open for reorganimization tips, so if something has worked well for you, please send it along because I need help.

In more ways than one.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sedona Getaway

Last week Diane and I enjoyed a little getaway to Sedona as kind of a double anniversary/40th birthday present. If you're ever in Arizona and have a chance to spend a day or two here, you won't be disappointed. Sedona is nestled within the majestic red rocks of Oak Creek Canyon, roughly two hours north of Phoenix on I-17, and there's a little something there for everyone: miles of trails for hikers and bikers, jeep tours of the canyon, hot air balloon tours, and several national parks/monuments within a short driving distance. Sedona is also well known for its artistic community and is filled with shops and galleries displaying a variety of artwork. We went with the low-key vacation, browsing the shops and galleries of Uptown Sedona and Tlaquepaque Village, and eating our way through town. Not a bad way to go!

Now I don't particularly enjoy shopping, but I do find it refreshing to peruse galleries with interesting artwork, and we spent a whole day doing just that. I may have mentioned once or twice (in my only postings in July) that work has been stressful, and viewing good art is a great release for me. Of course what everyone considers "good art" is going to differ, but I wasn't disappointed on this particular trip. One of the highlights for me was stumbling across an extensive display of Salvador Dali etchings...that dude was seriously whacked (and talented)! And my favorite art piece came in at a measly $4000. I need a new career.

Diane and I did pick up a couple of more "affordable" pieces of pottery that are prominently displayed on top of our kitchen cabinets. It was a great trip. Next time we'll probably plan a more kid-friendly adventuresome trip, but for now, it was just what the doctor ordered.












Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Wee-Wee Thing That Makes You Not Get Hit By The Baseball

My cell phone rang while I was at work. It was Diane (it's always Diane). "So...did you leave something out that you shouldn't left out for the girls to find?"

My mind raced and I suddenly had the feeling of being sent to the principle's office. Chainsaw? No, I don't own one. Nudie books? No, I don't own any of those either. Condoms? No, we haven't...never mind. I couldn't think of a single thing that I could've left out that was about to get me in trouble. I was hardly even home today because I had gotten up early to go....ohhhh...

For the past few months, a couple of my co-workers have been badgering me to get up early in the morning and drive 30 minutes to a park on the other side of town to play baseball. Not softball. Baseball. Not on a team. Not in a league. Just a handfull of guys getting together for batting and infield practice. Now I haven't thrown a baseball in 20 years, which, after throwing softballs for the past 20 years, is a bigger deal than one might think. And while I wasn't completely disinterested in playing baseball, I was infinitely more interested in gazing at the insides of my eyelids while enjoying the relative comfort of my bed.

This week the stress level at work has ratcheted-up two or three HUNDRED notches due to renovations that will add six radio stations and three more TV stations to our building. Around Wednesday I noticed a knot in my stomach that would not go away, and I knew I was reaching the limit. I also knew I needed a release (besides heavy drinking), so on Thursday morning I reinstated my free weights workout, and that afternoon I told my co-workers I would meet them at the ball field on Saturday morning. I am now reminded why exercise is such an effective means of stress-relief: your body is in such pain that your worries are now focused on whether or not you can stand up, pick up a pen, comb your hair, or blink rather than all the other random crap going on around you.

Saturday morning I got up early and met three other guys out at the ball field for a two hour workout, at the end of which I knew I was in trouble. Still, it was good to get out there and be active for a change. We finished up, and I rushed home for a quick shower before heading in to work. It was in my haste to get ready for work that I committed my transgression: I left my cup out. It's not like I left it on the kitchen table or counter top or anywhere that needed to be completely re-sanitized. I just left it out on my dresser, where Kyra found it. Apparently, when she finally figured out what it was for, she freaked: "YOU MEAN IT GOES ON HIS WEINER??"

I got her on the phone where she took her turn chastising me. "Dad, did you know you left your thing out?"

"What thing?" I teased.

"YOU know...the wee-wee-thing-that-makes-you-not-get-hit-by-the-baseball."

I had to laugh at that, like my cup has magical powers to steer baseballs away from my nads.

"My cup?"

"Yes, you left it out and it was really gross."

"I'm sorry, Sweetie. I won't let it happen again."

"Good."

Today I'm paying ten-fold for my transgression. It hurts to breathe.



Monday, July 14, 2008

The Girls Are Back In School Today, Do Daa, Do Daa...



This is me doing a happy, happy dance.

Whoops. This is me closing the blinds.

This is me resuming my happy, happy dance.

Don't get me wrong, I love my children dearly, but there's only so much petty squabbling one can take. And the Tucson summers are so hot, it's not like I can shove them out the door to go play. They'll die. Then I'll feel guilty. Which is why I love our school district's decision to have a year-round school year. So whilst all of you are still dealing with your whiny, bickering children, mine are being dealt with by yet-to-be-proven-competent teachers! HA!

I'm sorry. I apologize. I'm sure your kids aren't "whiny" or "bickering" and that my girls' teachers are perfectly competent.
I guess I'm just giddy with all the silence around here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I Called Him "Chico" And Lived to Tell About It

Diane reminds me on a regular basis that I have a not-so-healthy affinity with my car horn, and I, in turn, remind her that she should mind her own freakin' beeswax. I should probably listen to my wife more.

I had to work a longer shift Tuesday night to cover a coworker's vacation, so I was driving home a little later than normal...like the roads-are-totally-deserted later-than-normal. As I was driving home, I came upon a slow-moving vehicle that, though it remained in it's lane, seemed to be drifting excessively within the lines. I kept my distance. We came to a stop light and both of us maneuvered into the left turn lane. The road onto which we were turning started out with several hundred yards of two lanes before merging into a single lane. Since I didn't want to be stuck behind this potentially impaired individual, I decided that I would pass him if I had the opportunity. The light changed, he meandered into the right lane, and I made my move. That's when all the bad things began to happen.

As I turned into the left lane and attempted to pass, I was abruptly cut off by
my liquor-imbibed amigo as he cranked the wheel hard to the left and shot out right in front of me. I jammed on the brakes to avoid hitting him, and yes, you guessed it, I instinctively reached for the horn and gave it a nice long blast, you know, just to let him know I was there. It must of worked because he over-corrected and shot back across the right lane and off the road, plunging my car in a cloud of dust before returning to the road. This pretty much confirmed my suspicion that this individual was indeed drunk, so I backed way off and let him go on his merry way.

I followed him all the way to my subdivision (oh great) where I eventually pulled up beside him at a stoplight. Why I pulled up next to a dude I knew was drunk is a question I continue to ask myself, a question to which I have no good answer. Probably the best one is that "I'm stupid", but the ones I've been going with are closer to "I was tired" or "I wasn't thinking", which is just a variation of "I'm stupid". Anyway, I pull up next to him, and he immediately confronted me. And since it was a pleasant Arizona evening, I had my windows down so I had no problem deciphering his message:

"HEY! YOU F***IN' HONK YOUR HORN AT ME?"

I probably just should have kept my eyes straight ahead and done nothing, but "I'm stupid", remember? I turned and looked and found myself staring into the glassy eyes of a behemoth of a man. He was stone-faced drunk and looking for a fight. At this point I figured I could do two things: I could ignore him and piss him off, or I could respond and piss him off. Guess which one I chose.

"Yeah, when you practically run me off the road, I honk my horn."

Well, that was enough for him. He started fumbling around at his gearshift on the steering wheel, then at his seat belt. Then he found the door handle and opened the door. "Alright, you! Get out of the car!" And he started climbing out of his car.

Now I'm a supposedly responsible, law-abiding, happily married father of two. I have a mortgage and own a minivan. I'm not supposed to get involved in street fights with chiseled, inebriated chuckleheads in the wee hours of the morning. I knew I needed to get out of there, pronto. But just when I thought my stupidity had reached its limits, I got stupider. I left him with a departing inquiry:

"Had a little too much to drink tonight, there, chico?"

And then I fled against the red light.

Before you label me as a racist, please allow me to try to explain myself. My high school Spanish teacher used to call us "chicos" and "chicas" (that's "boys" and "girls" to those of you not proficient in the Spanish language), and it stuck with me, especially under circumstances in which someone has pissed me off. On those occasions, these particular individuals, regardless of race, have become "chicos". It's not the best habit in our politically correct society, especially here in Southern AZ, but it's so fully ingrained in my vocabulary that it's going to be tough to break. Incidentally, "chico" also means "little" or "small", which is funny to me because this dude was huge. He was also white. I should have called him "Bubba".

So now I'm racing for home and trying to lose this guy. I had a good lead on him, but was reluctant to go too fast through a heavily populated area. I also didn't want this jerk driving his SUV into someone's bedroom, so I set a brisk, but responsible pace, the only level-headed decision of the evening. I monitored my rear-view mirror and finally spotted him FLYING up the road behind me. He blew right through a stop sign and came bearing down on me, eventually pulling in right behind me and tailgating me. That's it, I thought, I can't go home, so I slowed down and just kept driving.

He followed me for a couple of minutes with no sign of backing off, so I grabbed my cell phone, dialed 911, and headed for the closest police station. How the hell do I get myself into these situations? Well he either got tired or wised up to my plan because a few minutes later he turned around and went home. I sighed a sigh of relief, and when I thought it was safe to do so, I did the same.

So what has this experience taught me? 1. Don't honk. 2. Keep my mouth shut. and 3. Take an alternative route home, especially if I fail to follow #1 and #2. Oh yeah, and never, NEVER, call them "chico".


Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Big One

I've always taken a certain measure of pride in the fact that I wed an older woman. There's a mystique to the older woman, a sexiness, a hotness, and an added layer of difficulty to the hunt. You see, I think it's fairly easy for an older man to score a younger bride, but you've really got to amp up your game to bag an older one. They're wiser. They know our tricks. And we'd better be pretty frickin' special if they're going to pass up their sugar daddy for us. Well I did it and I'm proud.

I also happen to be talking completely though my anus because we were stupid frickin' kids when we met and started dating, and our difference in age is a mere six months. But tomorrow that six month age difference will magically transform into a seemingly bottomless chasm as my bride ceases to be a 30-something. Yes, tomorrow is Diane's birthday, and it's a big'un. Tomorrow my bride turns 40.

FORTY.

4.0.

But that doesn't distress me at all. I, as a younger husband, think it's HOT. I get to sleep with a 40 year-old woman! What really bothers me is the knowledge that MY 40th is only six months away. Then I'll probably cry.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Perfect

We're back from what I believe to be the perfect vacation...lots of laying around, playing in the surf, drinking cervezas and margaritas, and eating ourselves silly. Here are some pics from the trip.


The view from our back patio...not too shabby, eh?


Our not-too-humble abode...six bedrooms,
five bathrooms, an elevator, and a hot tub
built for about 10.



Cousins...my girls hamming it up with my nieces. They
never made it to sleep before 11 pm the whole vacation.



Looks like a scene from Jaws...


Takin' a break, mugging for the camera...


Kyra, practicing her "surfing"...


Kailey, building castles with her cousins...


The fam...yeah, I'm the pasty white guy in the back...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Taking a Vacation...FROM MY PROBLEMS!!

Sunday morning can't come soon enough. Cause when early Sunday morning comes, we pack up our crap, jump in the van, haul our pasty-white butts to Tucson International Airport, pay an insane amount of money to check our baggage (stupid American Airlines), and board an overpriced/overbooked plane on our way to a connecting flight, where we'll spend most of the rest of our day in airports and boarding planes. But all of that doesn't matter, because we're heading to a beach house on the Gulf of Mexico with no plans other than drinking Dos Equis and margaritas, and relaxing on the beach for a week. And I. Can't. Wait. I'm also excited because we'll be meeting my Mom and my brother and his family there, marking the first time all of us have vacationed together.

This vacation is long overdue. Diane and I have both been stressed to the max from different work situations, and both of us are literally counting down the minutes until we get the hell out of Tucson. Yesterday, we went out and spent about a million dollars on swimsuits, and I didn't care a bit because we need this vacation.

Of course the week before vacation comes is always hectic, and this week has been no exception. I decided to take a summer class (History of American Cinema) and was pumped to discover that it was an online course. No travel! I thought it would be a nice little summer class taken from the comfort of my home to be completed at my leisure. Not so. It's turned out to be the workhorse class from hell so far. We've only been at it for two weeks and I'm already behind. And heading on vacation will put me further behind. But I don't care. I'm GOING on VACATION, and I'll get the work done when I get the work done. Fortunately, I'm enjoying the content of the class, so it shouldn't be too burdensome to catch up.

A couple days of work, a couple of loads of wash, some packing and tidying up around the house, and we're gone. Too bad we have to come back.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

To Kill A Mockingbird

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been, let's see, never since my last confession (I'm not Catholic), but I really need to get this off my chest. You see, I have murder in my heart.

No, no...it's nothing like that, although I wouldn't mind roughing up that jerk that cut me off the other day. I guess I need to confess that too, huh? But I digress. I feel kind of stupid admitting this, so I'm just going to say it. I want to kill a bird. A mockingbird. And since Atticus Finch told his kids, Jeb and Scout, that it was a sin to kill a mockingbird, I figured I'd better come clean before this business got completely out of hand.

Normally I have nothing but admiration and respect for all of God's creatures, except pigeons (I'd like all of them dead), oh, and spiders, I don't much care for spiders, but desperate times call for desperate measures. My neighbors have a large mesquite tree in their backyard. And in that tree lives the aforementioned mockingbird, the subject of my ire. He sits up in that tree and sings, and sings, and sings, which is fine. He has a beautiful voice and is usually very entertaining. Until the sun goes down and I want to go to sleep. But he's up there in that tree just singing his fool heart out. I don't know when the damn thing sleeps! I've woken up way too many times in the middle of the night only to be greeted by his gleeful song that keeps me awake for hours, and nothing I do returns me to my blissful slumber. I'm at my wits end! I need my sleep!

So while I know and understand that it's wrong to kill a mockingbird, what's your take on hosing him down a little bit?


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You Gotta Love A Guilty Conscience

We were enjoying a nice family dinner together when Kailey excused herself to go to the bathroom. As soon as she left, Kyra, suddenly overcome by a melancholy funk, set down her fork and grabbed her stomach. Our immediate thought was something along the lines of "SHE'S GONNA BLOW", but it turned out to be something completely different.

"Does your stomach hurt, Sweetie?" Diane asked.

"No, it's just something I pinkie-swore Kailey I wouldn't tell," she mumbled.

Diane and I shot each other that "parental" look. You know the one. The one that says, "Oh brother, here it comes."

"Why did you even bother pinkie-swearing if you're gonna just rat-out your sister?" I asked.

Diane shot me the parental look. Then she turned back to Kyra. "What did you do?" Kyra just whimpered. "Did you girls go into the wash?"

Kyra looked up with big, sad, droopy puppy dog eyes and nodded. "Mmmm hmmm."

Our community was built with a series of washes, or channels meant to collect rainwater. Here in the desert, a decent rain means the washes can fill in an instant. And it doesn't even have to rain in our community for the washes to fill. It can rain in the mountains and that rainwater will drain down into the city. Bottom line: it is not safe to play in the washes, especially for 7 and 9 year-olds.

The problem is that the girls' best friend lives right next to one of the outlets, and she has an older brother who likes to play in the wash. So they go down to play at their friend's house where everyone is playing in the wash that we have strictly forbidden the girls to enter. I have to admit that it would suck to be sitting outside the wash when all of your friends are playing IN the wash, the equivalent of going to Disneyland but denied access to the rides. But it would suck even more to be swept away in a flash flood, so we're sticking to our guns.

It was about this time that Kailey returned to the table, and when she realized that her little sister narked on her, her eyes blazed and practically ballooned out of her head. "Ky-RA!" We reiterated the evils of the wash and I tried my best to scare the hell out them with horror stories of being sucked down the wash by raging floodwaters. A little over-the-top, I know, but sometimes you do what you gotta do.

"At least she has a conscience," Diane reasoned.

True. And I'm choosing to cling to that positive character trait, because the thought of raising a stool pigeon just kills me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The End of the World...Finally!

OK, this is it...I promise. My final "Final Project" from my video editing class. I chose to make a two minute music video to REM's It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) where I basically pulled a bunch of the craziest video clips from You Tube I could find (you know, people falling down, throwing up, getting hit in the nuts, dying in horror and disaster flicks, MASS HYSTERIA) and threw them together to make a video. Diane's response when I showed her my "masterpiece"?

"Oooo-kaaay?"


Some people just don't appreciate good art when they see it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bucket-Trained

Puke patrol is one of the downsides and necessary evils of parenthood. Kids get sick. Kids hurl. They need to be comforted. And someone to clean up the mess. That's where I come in. I have traditionally been the one to mop up, sop up, and rinse out the barf, because if I didn't do it for the girls, I'd be cleaning up double barf doses after Diane hurled from smelling the hurl. Yay me.

When kids are young, they have no concept of rushing to the bathroom when they're sick. If you're fortunate enough, they'll at least notify you that their tummy's aren't feeling too good, giving you the opportunity to rush them to the can. In the middle of the night? Forget it. You're alerted by their wails after the fact. You rush into their rooms to find their pajamas, sheets, comforters, stuffed animals, walls, and anything else within range soaked with barf. Once you get everything cleaned up and changed, you set out a bucket and put your child back to bed with these specific instructions: "OK, if you feel the need to throw up again, go to the bathroom. If you can't make it to the bathroom, I am placing this bucket (show them the bucket) right next to your bed (show them the placement of the bucket). Please, please, please, please, oh please use it." And an hour later you're changing the sheets again.

This week I think we experienced a major breakthrough in the area of nighttime puke cleanup. Diane had gone to bed and I was up putzing around when Kailey walked out to the family room with tears in her eyes. "Daddy, my tummy hurts," she cried. I escorted her to the bathroom where I asked her if she felt like she had to puke or just go to the bathroom. She said the latter, so I evacuated the premises while she did her business. She felt better afterwards, so I tucked her back in bed before getting ready for bed myself. I was brushing my teeth when I heard all hell breaking loose.

"AHHHHHH! I DON'T WANT TO FEEL LIKE THIS ANYMORE!"

I rushed out of our bathroom and into the girls' to find Kailey hunched over the bowl and Diane violently rubbing her back and willing herself not to join her at the bowl. Kailey was in full freak-out mode, cursing heaven and earth and everything in between. "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!! retch. I HATE PUKING!!! cough, cough, sputter. I WANT THIS TO BE OVER RIGHT NOW!!"

She finished up and Diane got her back to bed, puke free, while I went to fish the bucket out of the garage. I returned to her room and gave her the bucket spiel, fully expecting to be rinsing out sheets in the not-too-distant future. I went to bed and, despite my anxiety of impending puke patrol, fell quickly to sleep. I was awakened an hour later.

"AHHHHHHH!"

I shot out of bed and ran into Kailey's room where I found her sitting up in bed clutching the bucket to her chest. I grabbed the bucket and guided her into the bathroom, and she finished emptying out the contents of her stomach. To my amazement (and slight disgust), Kailey had used the bucket. Rinsing out a bucket is SO MUCH EASIER than rinsing out sheets. For the first time ever, we escaped a nighttime barf-o-rama without having to change the sheets, something I consider a major accomplishment. And for once I'm GLAD my girls are growing up.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Along Came A Spider

We were in the process of getting the girls ready for school yesterday morning when a blood-curdling scream erupted from Kyra's bedroom followed by the worst words in the English language, "THERE'S A SPIDER IN MY BED!!"

Spiders.

I HATE spiders. The way Indiana Jones hates snakes.

Arizona has tons of spiders. They're huge too. I've even had the pleasure of being visited by a tarantula...right in our guest bedroom. Oh sure, Mr. Tarantula, make yourself right at home whilst I introduce you to the bottom side of Mr. Flip Flop. It wasn't a big tarantula, only about four inches long (legs included), but still, a four inch spider in your house is no laughing matter. I didn't sleep for weeks after that one. Now that we've been in Arizona for about five years, I'm getting used to disposing of spiders around the house. I don't freak out near as much as I used to, but I still don't like it.

Diane and I rushed into Kyra's room (Diane first, thank God) and we began prodding through the pile of covers on the floor. Kyra was making her bed, and for her that process means pulling all the covers off the bed, then replacing them. That's when she found the spider on the top sheet. She reported that it was black, about an inch long, and fast. Gives me the wiggles just thinking about it. Diane and I took turns grabbing sheets and blankets and shaking them out, but to no avail. The little sucker was nowhere to be found.

"It's OK, Sweetie," Diane comforted. "Daddy will wash your sheets and vacuum your room. He'll find it."

I shot her a look that said, "Thanks alot." I didn't know when all this was going to happen since I was already slated to spend the day volunteering at Kailey's third grade luau, but since Diane promised, I now needed to make the time. Besides, the thought of a spider in my little girl's bed, potentially feasting on her was now pissing me off, and I wanted it dead.

After school the girls went down to a friends house to play, and I decided that it was time to go spider-hunting, roughly eight hours after it was originally discovered. I really didn't expect to find anything, but thought I'd give Kyra's room a good cleaning anyway (as though that would repel spiders). I stripped her bed and threw her sheets in the wash, then returned to start picking up a bit. Kyra has about a million stuffed animals that should go on her bed but spend most of their time on the floor, one of which is a massive stuffed horse, big enough for her to lay on. I picked it up to toss it on the bed when I saw a tiny black blur scurrying like hell from under it toward the bookcase/headboard of Kyra's bed.

DON'T LET IT GET BEHIND THERE, I screamed to myself, grabbing the first thing I could find, a roll of wrapping paper, to relieve the spider of its life. Why there was a roll of wrapping paper in Kyra's room is beyond me. Just another indicator that her room was in dire need of cleaning. But I was so glad it was there. The spider slipped into the four-inch gap between Kyra's headboard and dresser and was resting up against the wall. To miss meant that it would retreat behind either one. I measured my blow and struck. And watched as the little bastard slipped behind the headboard. FOUR LETTERED EXPLETIVE THAT RHYMES WITH TRUCK!!

Now Kyra's bed is not easy to move. The base of the bed is one big wooden storage unit with several compartments that happen to be loaded with, what else, books. That unit backs into the headboard which is a bookcase. Why, oh why do we encourage our girls to read? I dropped my wrapping paper weapon and tugged at the bed. It wouldn't budge. So I ran over to the storage compartments and heaved handfulls of books out onto the floor until I was able to move the bed. I pulled the bed out about two feet, then worked on the bookcase. This spider is long gone, I thought to myself, but after pulling the bookcase out about six inches and peering behind it, there he was. Thank God spiders are stupid. But at this moment I was seriously pondering which one of us was stupider. I picked up my trusty wrapping paper roll and once again measured my blow. If you miss, don't, DO NOT, let him go to his right and get behind the dresser. I struck. I missed. He ran behind the dresser. SON OF A FIVE LET...oh, you get the idea.

I pulled the dresser out, which was considerably easier than the bed/bookcase combo, and I now had plenty of room to operate. I also found tons of lost stuff: scrunchies, missing pieced to games, puzzles, toys, etc. Against the wall lay an unused tissue. I picked it up and there he was with nowhere to hide. This time I struck and the wrapping paper found its mark (notice I didn't use the tissue? wuss). I crushed the sucker, then used the tissue to clean up its carcass. Yes, I am bad ass. I then spent the next hour cleaning up my mess. Kyra's room has never been so clean.

And that spider? It was only about a half-inch long.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It All Starts Here

Kyra's trek toward stardom commenced Wednesday afternoon at her school talent show. I don't know how she felt, but I was ready to puke for the both of us. I wanted to ask her if she was nervous before we went on, but thought twice about it because I didn't want to make her nervous. This is the same girl who was shy about performing in front of ten people at her birthday party. Now she was performing in the school multipurpose room in front of the entire school. The place was packed from wall to wall to wall with kids, teachers, and parents. I just wanted her to have a great experience and I tried in vain to push all the negative imagery out of my head.

Please don't let her freeze up.

Please don't let me forget the chords.

Please let me quit worrying about whether or not my fly is down.

We performed third (thank God), so my worrying was short-lived. They announced Kyra and we took the stage to generous applause. As soon as I came out from behind the curtain with guitar in hand, the applause died. Holy crap! What does that mean? Kyra grabbed her microphone and waited patiently until I got situated. Then we went for it.



I could just be a proud papa talking smack, but she nailed it. She was poised, confident, and sang out strong...and with hand motions, too! Hell, I wish I would have had her confidence when I was seven. I'd like to say that I can take some of the credit, but I can't. The only thing I really did was practice with her and let her do what she wanted to do. We're all so proud of you, Kyra!

I guess this means that I'll at least have one yearly gig from here on out, possibly two if we can get Kailey up on the stage. Now my only struggle will be to wean them off of Hannah Montana and onto Death Cab for Cutie. I don't see that happening any time soon.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Kyra at the Bat

I haven't written too much about the girls' softball games this Spring because there really hasn't been much to write about. Aside from Kailey making her pitching debut and a few defensive plays here and there, their season has been unremarkable. I think they've had about five hits between them all season long, quite a turn around from last season. I'm primarily to blame as I haven't taken had the time to work with them, and I feel badly about that.


This past week has been one of the crappiest of recent memory. I had final projects due in both classes, Kailey was sick, my boss was fired, creating turmoil in my department, and I spent way too much time talking with pushy mortgage lenders as we investigate refinancing the house. When we found out that Kailey woke up with a fever, meaning she would miss today's game, the last thing I wanted to do was go to watch Kyra struggle through the game on her own. Boy was I wrong.

The girls' team has thirteen players. Everyone bats, and in a three-inning game with a three-run limit per inning, only the first batters are assured of hitting more than once in a game. Since Kailey and Kyra have been sucking it up at the plate this year, they've been hitting at the bottom of the order and averaging only one at-bat per game. This morning only eight players showed up. There would be multiple at bats for all.

The girls spent the night with my in-laws, so my father-in-law got Kyra to field before the game. Diane and I arrived about fifteen minutes before game time where we met her coach in the parking lot. "I pitched batting practice with whiffle golf balls, and Kyra hit every single one," he told us. "Let's hope she does it in the game."

We'll see, I thought.

Given her impressive BP display, Kyra was slotted to bat second. The first batter struck out, and Kyra strode confidently into the batters box. She looked good. The pitcher threw four consecutive balls which brought out the coach to pitch. It seems like the only time I pray these days is when the girls come to bat. "Please, Dear Lord..." She swung at the first pitch and missed, strike one.

"That's OK! Good swing, Kyra! Watch that ball all the way to the bat!"

She fouled off the next pitch, strike two.

"Good job, Kyra! You got a piece of it! Now straighten it out!"

Coach held up the ball, made sure Kyra was ready, then sent it spinning toward the plate. There was joy in Mudville today, though. The mighty Kyra hit the ball. Fair. A high pop fly that dropped right between the pitcher, third baseman, and shortstop, who all looked at each other expecting someone else to try and catch it. It wasn't pretty, but Kyra got on base. We went ballistic.

She batted twice more, crushing the ball both times for doubles. She scored three times and the Vipers won a hard fought game 9-5. Better late than never, I guess.

After the game, her coach asked her what she had for breakfast.

"A cinnamon roll."

Breakfast of champions.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sometimes It's Just Too Easy

Last night at dinner the girls engaged in a game of "Can You Read My Mind?"

Kyra: "OK, Kailey. Guess what I'm thinking."

Kailey: "I'm stupid?"

Game. Over.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Joy of Sax

Here are the girls channeling their inner David Sanborn, laying down what they believe to be some smooth jazz licks.



In reality, it's a bit more like the mating call of the Canada Goose.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Swell Season Indeed

Well, adult night out did not disappoint in the least as Diane and I thoroughly enjoyed the opening leg of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's Swell Season tour at the beautiful Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix. The event transcended the mere concert experience. It was more of a celebration of Glen and Marketa's achievements through the movie Once, with a thousand of their closest friends in attendance. The movie has had such a profound impact upon so many people, and this concert setting was the perfect opportunity for audiences to give back to it's two main characters. The energy in the theater was unlike anything I have experienced in a concert setting before. Glen set the intimate tone by coming out solo to the very front of the stage, sans microphone, and performing Say It To Me Now, recalling his gut-wrenching street performance from the movie which starts in a long shot and slowly zooms in to the song's conclusion. The theater was deathly quiet, taking in every moment of Glen's performance until he paused to ask, "Am I doin' OK?" The place exploded.



Marketa then joined him up front, to thunderous applause, for one more unplugged song before they retreated to their microphones. They were joined by three members of Glen's band, The Frames, on bass, electric guitar and violin, and the music they produced was amazing. The rest of the evening played out like a VH1 Storytellers episode with Glen telling long and often hilarious stories of many of the song's origins and fielding questions and comments from the audience. Some of his more interesting stories included leaving his worn Takamine guitar with a complete stranger for repair, standing in a grave he bought for his goth girlfriend's birthday to impress her, and lying drunk and freezing in a field in the middle of the night. It's amazing what life experiences will inspire good music.



Calexico opened the show and were amazing as well, performing as a duo with Joey Burns on vocals/guitar and John Covertino on drums. The concert was just what the doctor ordered. Our lives have been so hectic lately that it was good to have a little road trip to enjoy time with each other, great music, and some much needed laughs.

Please forgive my crappy photos. My PowerShot A530 didn't like being zoomed in in a darkened theater from 19 rows back.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Trailer Trash

Alright, another installation of shameless self-promotion. This is my latest video editing project: producing a fake movie trailer. We were given a bunch of raw footage from the movie Saturday Night Fever and challenged to transform it into a trailer promoting a completely different film. My submission? I present to you Becoming Father Vinnie.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Little Adult Time

Tomorrow Diane and I are going to take a little midweek respite from the organized chaos that is our lives to enjoy a little one-on-one adult time. It's OK. You can think dirty here. I can't wait, and not just for the dirty part either. We're heading up to Phoenix to see Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, of Once fame, on their The Swell Season concert tour at the Orpheum Theater tomorrow night. Once was one of those movies that stuck with me for days, and I found myself constantly humming or singing Falling Slowly, this year's Academy Award winning song. When I found out they were coming in concert, I jumped at the chance to get tickets. I'm stoked.

We're going to spend the night in Phoenix, sans children, and after the concert the sky's the limit. Perhaps we'll go out and have a few drinks, do a little salsa dancing, sing some karaoke, and generally party 'till the cows come home. Yeah right. In reality, we'll check into our hotel room and fall asleep watching Leno. We're becoming old souls in our not-so-old age. Oh well, at least we're getting away.

Enjoy the clip!




Monday, April 21, 2008

Bad Dreams

This is the interaction I had with Kyra last night at around 9:30. She does this all the time where she wakes up crying, we take her to the bathroom, she pees, we get her back to bed and coax her back to sleep. And she never remembers any of it. It's kinda freaky.

"What's wrong?"

Kyra, sitting up in bed, holding her stomach, rocking back and forth and crying: "I want you to be in my poster."

"What?"

"I want you to be in my poster."

"You want me to be in your poster?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because then I'll know you're OK and I'll feel better."

"OK. I'll be in your poster."

"Thank you, Daddy."

And with that she settled into her pillow and immediately began snoring. I covered her and crept out of her room, happy to know that in her eyes I am poster-worthy. I also slept with my door locked.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Grounded

I crossed into a new frontier of parenthood earlier this week when I dug deep into the archives of disciplinary action and plucked up this gem: "KAILEY, YOU'RE GROUNDED!" Up until now, grounding had no effect seeing as how Kailey had nowhere to go or no one to play with on the block. But now that the girls have discovered a friend down the street, grounding is back in play!

We've had a rough time getting through to Kailey that hitting is not an acceptable form of venting her frustration. The girls get into an argument, Kyra doesn't do what Kailey wants her to do, Kailey whacks her a good one, and I lose my frickin' mind...for the millionth time. I've tried just about everything to curb this behavior, including letting Kyra hit her back (moronic, I know).

This happened, again, on Sunday afternoon...in the van. I should have known better. I usually don't let them sit together in the same row for this very reason, but they had been getting along really well, prompting my momentary lapse of sanity. As we were driving they started arguing because Kyra wouldn't play Kailey's game. I pulled up to a stop light and told Kailey to get in the back row, and as she did, whap, she slapped Kyra in the head. I watched her do it in the rear view mirror. I summoned the strength within to postpone my breakdown until I was at least able to pull the van off to the side of the road.
Then I lost my mind. Right there. In the van.

"WHAT DO WE SAY ABOUT HITTING!"

"No hitting."

"THEN WHY DID YOU HIT HER!"

"Because she wouldn't play with me."

"WRONG! TRY AGAIN!"

"I wanted her to play a game and she was mean."

"WRONG! TRY AGAIN!"

I could see people slowing down and reaching for their cell phones while trying to decipher my license plate number.

"WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN KYRA DOES SOMETHING YOU DON'T LIKE?"

"Use my words?"

"WHICH MEANS?"

"Tell you or Mommy?"

Yes, we've been through all of this before. Then I said it:

"KAILEY, YOU'RE GROUNDED. THERE WILL BE NO PLAYING OUTSIDE WITH YOUR FRIENDS, NO TV, AND NO TREATS FOR ONE WEEK!"

It's official. I've become my parents. I threw the car in gear and got the heck out of Dodge before the police could arrive. We completed our errands and returned home where Kailey's punishment commenced.

I've since come to wonder who grounding punishes more, the kid or the adult. TV and playing outside gets the kids out of your hair for a period of time. Taking it away means you have to entertain your kids (like that's a bad thing). Kailey fought her punishment at first, acting all mad and pouty at me, but she eventually embraced her fate and the two of us were actually able to enjoy some one on one time while Kyra played outside with friends. Whether it will end her hitting habit remains to be seen. And I'm still waiting to see if the police are going to show up at my door.


 

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