Monday, May 31, 2010

No. Seriously. A Loop is Supposed to be Round!

From yesterday you know that we are all fed, rested, and ready to go on our 45 minute bike ride with the kids. This is where, if we were in a dramatic movie, someone would take our picture and the camera would linger on the photo just a little too long to signify impending misery...if we were a sitcom set on an island the song would start with " a 45 miiiiinute ride " instead of "a threeeee hooooouuuuuur cruuuuuuuise."

We are all set. Brand new map in hand and we are ready to go. We drove the nine miles into the park to get to the trail head, we parked, and that's when I saw the ranger. I told him I had found what I guessed was a hash pipe and he could have it, thank you. We talked a while about where we found it and where we were heading. He seemed to think it may be a little tough for the youngin's but we assured him they were tough. He left and we set out. About a third of the way up the first hill the kids both started to say they were tired and could we go back. I probably said something like "no we are going to have a good time even if you hate it!" Or something equally logical.

All of our moods improved when we got to the top and the riding was easier. We rode through some of the prettiest country there was in the park. The trail is an old railroad line so it was nice level ride. A little bumpy at times, but mostly level. We traveled along for about twenty minutes when we came to a gate with a number on it. Look at the brand new bike map...same number! I must be related to Magellan! The gate didn't really make me concerned since the trails near our house have gates to go through all the time. On the map the trail ahead looked a little more questionable, two dotted lines that come close together near the creek...the other side leading back to the parking lot. I thought it might have been indicating that it wasn't to scale. On the actual trail it looked the same as what we were riding on already. I looked ahead on the map, cross a stream, back to the parking problem.

On we went. About ten more minutes into the ride I stopped everyone to show them a coyote track along with its very distinctive scat. (Scat is a polite way to say poop). It was pretty easy to see since there weren't any other tracks around...paying attention?...NO other tracks. No Nike , no bikes, no Buster Browns, no pogo sticks...Nothing! (This is where I, being leader of the family - with Sylvia's permission- should have let Mr. Sajak know that I wanted to buy a clue) I dismissed it since it was a "brand new" map! The bridge over the creek should be just over the rise or around the bend. Lets keep going kids!

Well, around the bend, over the hill, we didn't see a bridge...what we did see sounds like a great topic for tomorrow's blog!

OK, I was just kidding, but it was tempting. I just am worried that the longer posts are a little tough to take. We were talking about what we saw next on the trail.

We now continue with our blog already in progress...There on the perfect pristine dry dusty trail was a remarkable set of bear tracks. The conditions showed that the bear had just been there...and it was headed the same direction as us. We'll be fine lets keep going. Ten more minutes, twenty minutes, twenty five...lets check that brand new map again. Bridge should be around here somewhere...but now we're pretty high up over the creek. Wonder where it is?

We're not worried though, all we've done is travel on the path, we're not lost. Turn around and we go back to the truck. But both Sylvia and I thought it was boring to go where we'd already been, lets press on. By now we are determined to complete our mission, nay our quest, to find the mythical crossover to the path leading back to finish the "loop." Lets go kids, we're fine! Ten more minutes...nothing. Beautiful country, still no bridge. Starting to lose faith in this brand new map! Sylvia and I keep talking and decide that since the trail is now going back down toward the creek we must be getting closer to the crossover and we should keep going a little longer. Besides wouldn't we feel foolish going back and then finding out that we had just missed the crossover.

Then the trail curved to the left...toward the creek...promising! Problem was, the creek then curved to the left as well. (Dirty word!) This is when we encountered the legendary man-eating cows of the OK corral! Now when we first encountered them we didn't know they were from the OK corral and only Kristiana knew they were man eating. In fact she was certain!

We happened upon a small herd of cows that wanted to see these new people and one mama cow who wanted to make sure we didn't get too close to her calf. I, as a rule, am not terribly concerned about the aggressiveness of cows but I didn't really want to get between a calf and 2000 pounds of overprotectiveness. I picked up sticks to bang together and we walked our bikes through the herd and wandered away down the path to a fork. Drat! Up to now we had been pretty safe. Turn around and we would be fine. Now we had a decision to make. Left. And this is when we stumbled onto the OK corral. I am not kidding. There was a sign hanging over an ancient trailer that read OK corral. Outside the trailer was a slightly less ancient truck and from inside came and elderly gentleman who, let's say, had been sampling a bit of the drink. We startled him but he was kind enough to tell us everything he knew about getting back to Big Trees State Park. His information consisted of, "Where?"

He told us he didn't know any Big Trees park but we were about nine miles from highway 4 and Dorrington. I knew that couldn't be right since Dorrington was WAY past Big Trees and we couldn't be that far off. Could we? He pointed past his trailer and showed us a road. Civilization! OK, now we're good. Except the roads around here are about as complicated as a bowl of spaghetti and I wasn't really interested in getting lost on the roads. Problem was that it was starting to get dark at this point and it had taken us a really long time to get to this place so going back would put us into the middle of the forest at nightfall...and didn't we see bear tracks somewhere along that trail?

Well here is the amazing part of the story. We had decided that road at dark was better than forest at dark so off we went to try to find the highway and get back to the park entrance when a large truck came by. They were loggers on their way home when they saw us. They were amazed to see anyone this far off the beaten path and they stopped to ask if we were OK. "NO!!" We asked if they could help us by pointing out how to get to the trail back to Big Trees. They looked at each other, then us, then pointed to a crest way off in the distance. "Big Trees ends on the other side of that ridge! You are about 9 miles from anywhere." (OK, so even a little tipsy, the cattleman was right) They started to tell us how to get back to the highway, but then asked if we would accept a ride.

And that is how we ended up with our bikes piled high on the back of a logging truck, Sylvia with the two kids on her lap in the truck, and the assistant logger and I sitting atop the fire box in the back of the truck clinging for our lives to the roll bar behind the cab. It took us forty five minutes of driving through icy wind to get back to the main entrance of the park. When I pried my hands off the truck I tried to pay them a few bucks, but I am pretty sure when God sends angels to the rescue he tells them not to accept money. They left us and we were relatively safe. At least we knew where we were.

We were nine miles of road away from the truck which was still parked at the trail head. While I was preparing to go on my own and return with the truck, the girl at the gate came over and asked if we needed help. She radioed the ranger on duty and he asked if we were the family in the white truck. Yes. "Be right there."

He gave me a ride back to the truck and on the ride explained that we had ventured into some fairly dangerous territory. He told me that the pipe I had found may have been supplied by people who "farm" up where we were and they really don't appreciate unexpected visitors. He also said that we were lucky enough to have traveled a place that less than one percent of people in the area had ever been. He wasn't wrong, it was beautiful. He then told me the true nature of the mysterious "Loop" for our bike ride. Apparently the makers of this "Brand new" map decided that the loop they were talking about meant that we needed to ride to the gate and turn around and come back the way we had come. Well isn't that romantic!

So on this camp out we survived the King snakes, the rattlers, the coyote and bear (prints), we even survived the man-eating cows! But we almost didn't survive the brand new bike trail map whose "loop" very closely resembled a line...and I should know, I teach kindergarten!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Loop = Circle (sometimes)

As we scream happily toward summer we are starting to think about plans for vacation and (lucky for you) think about things that have happened in our past vacations. You see, we tend to be much more adventurous on vacation and it shows in some of the adventures we walk into...or in this case, ride into.

A couple years ago we decided to camp fairly close to home and stayed just outside a fun little town named Angels Camp. The campground was an experience in itself but that was only the beginning of the fun. We started our camp out...and I feel the need to explain that we have tents, lanterns, and Coleman stoves (we can camp), but we also camp with microwave, air conditioning, and a queen sized bed in our 30 foot fifth wheel trailer. As I was saying, we started our interesting trip with the owner of the grounds coming over to greet us with the admonition, "Don't kill the King snakes that come through your site. They keep out the rattlers."

Um, excuse me? King Snakes? Rattlers? Check please! We'll be leaving now.

I'm kidding about the leaving but totally serious about this guy's unnatural affinity for his beloved King snakes. I mean heck, they keep the rattlers away! That's good, right? Well no sooner than he leaves on his golf cart we are greeted by the neighbor in the adjacent site. He invites the kids to come over and watch a movie that he projects on the side of his motor home. (It's still camping if we can see a tree right?) He set up his projection TV outside and projected the movie onto the large white flat side of his motor home for anyone to see. And this still isn't what I want to tell you about.

And here we go...One of the places near our campsite is Big Trees (wonder how they came up with that name) State Park off Highway 4. It's a beautiful place to hike and, as it turns out, ride your bikes. They have huge trees! If you happen to be reading this from a far away land I should mention that one of the stumps of one of the medium sized trees has been used as a dance floor. Big! 96 foot circumference. Huge! 325 feet tall. Enormous! The lumber from one of these trees could build 40 five bedroom houses. You get the idea! Along with big trees, the park also has very helpful rangers who work in very helpful visitor centers who sell very helpful bike trail maps. (If you were in front of me you could sense the sarcasm dripping from my smirking lips.) I'm not saying that the rangers are not helpful, wonderful, friendly, great, or anything but professional, but I am saying that the one who helped us find the "brand new" bike trail map needs to be dealt with severely.

He looked over our family, decided that we were at best novices at bike trail riding, and showed us a LOOP trail that would take us about 45 minutes to complete even if we took our time. Perfect! We figured out where we could eat our picnic lunch and off we went. While we were at the picnic benches I found some drug paraphernalia that I put into the back of the truck to turn into the first ranger I saw. Probably should have just thrown it in the trash but you will see how it worked out in our favor.

I would like to take another moment to mention that this kind of serendipity happens to me A LOT!! (Notice how I did wrote "a lot" with two words? That is the sign of a sophisticated writer...attention publishers!) I have no idea what I did to get this kind of special treatment. You know that saying that God only gives you what you can handle? I am fairly certain that God created me as a wimp because I lead a charmed life.

This becomes more evident as I tell more of this story...tomorrow. (Anyone out there on the edge of their seat yet?)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bravery Redefined

I have just witnessed the bravest act that I have ever seen! I have seen many acts of bravery in my life but this man's act was amazing. Crawling to safety from a car about to explode? Nothing. Plucking a stroller off the tracks with the train speeding inches away? Yawn. Telling the human gorilla that the tattoo on his face is spelled incorrectly? In a heartbeat.

This? Never!

And this act was so subtle, the untrained eye could have missed it entirely. I, becoming quite the observer, picked up on it right away. There was electricity in the air... The hairs on the back of my neck were on end... Time slowed down.... and then it happened. A male colleague of mine said, and I quote, "So, when's it due?" Let me end the suspense and say, he was right. Eight and a half months right! And still I was in awe.

I may have mentioned before that I consider myself somewhat socially inept. I seem to have a knack for choosing the wrong time to notice, comment on, or do certain things. As I grow older I am trying to live by the adage, "It is better to be silent and thought the fool, than to speak and prove it." I even went to a Halloween party some time ago where a person I had never met had the worst teeth I had ever seen. I did NOT say, "Whoa! Nice teeth!"

I am trying to go to the extreme in terms of keeping my foot out of my mouth. I mean I use that for eating! (my mouth, not my foot) With that in mind it should be no surprise that I will never, ever, ask the "when is it due" question!

I know someone who used to sell some crowds that may be a place to put a house. In this case, foundations is a fancy way of saying undergarments. Specifically women's undergarments. And now that I mention it, a foundation for a house is to hold it up...a foundation for a woman is to hol.... never mind.

Anyway, this woman told me a story about how she was done fitting someone into her new accoutrement and the lady started to pick out more of the same size but different colors. My friend, trying to be helpful, told her that it might be best if she were to save her money at this time. She explained that this one fits now and that would do, but sizes change and she should wait until after the baby to stock up on more variety. You can already hear it coming, right?

"What baby?" (complete with the iciest stare that I have ever heard described.)

No, No, NO! Not gonna do it. Not this cowboy! Never shall I mention "the baby" or it's impending due date. Not even with a signed note from my wife, not even with a sonogram in hand, not even with one of those t-shirts with the arrow that says, "BABY!"

I once told an unmarked policeman that I thought he was an ass for tailgating me and then giving me a ticket for trying to get out of his way. I once walked through a group of bikers to get into my car. I routinely stand in front of a group of twenty seven 5 year-olds who expect me to entertain and teach them daily! Even with all of my faux bravery, I will never match the bravery that was accomplished this afternoon! I am impressed!

Now, if I happen to see a woman, in the back of a taxi, and I hear what sounds like a baby crying from under her skirt...I will probably comment on what an interesting choice of ring tone she has, and call it a day!

Makes No Scents To Me

I have a peculiar ability. It isn't very useful in any practical way but it does come in handy from time to time. Interesting? Perhaps. Able to apply it in any productive way? Not unless I am writing a blog.
Wait, what?

This ability rarely comes up, but when it does it is impressive. Intrigued yet? I could present it like a friend of mine and have you guess for a while, build suspense, and then let everyone off the hook. One problem might be that no one would care and then there would be no guesses. Another, I might A.D.H.D. myself into another topic and there would be this "thing" out there with no conclusion.

No, I am going to blurt it out. I have a super sniffer. Not in form, but in function. Not ever going to be a nose model, but I am able to figure out what scent is in certain items.
"What's in this?"
"Wow! Jeff, you are amazing."
"It's a gift."

I am also able to compare, no matter how odd, two things that have similar smells.

The first time I remember impressing anyone with this yawn-producing parlor trick I was working at Orchard Supply Hardware. We were unpacking a box of rose feed that was also a fairly nasty bug killer when my co-worker commented on how much he hated the way it smelled. I said, "Really? I kind of like it. It smells like those orange marshmallow circus peanuts." He was amazed, after agreeing with me, and told me that he had never thought about it but I was right...and that he hated those peanuts as well! Another time, same place, OSH was great for smells, we developed an aphid problem out in the nursery where I worked. They called in a company to come and spray the entire place with an organic pesticide during the night. (try not to wrap your head around the fact that something is organic and also used for just causes headaches) Anyway, when I came in the next day the scent was still heavy in the air. It smelled just like glazed donuts! I couldn't believe it! The air was thick with poison that kept me out of donut shops for years. Now if they can only set up a noxious gas that is reminiscent of pepperoni pizza, I am good to go!

I didn't just wake up and think, I am going to write about things that stink today. It came to me
when I got out my new shaving cream. In the store I decided that "Pacific Rush" sounded like an exciting way to start my day. I'm in! Problem is, there was no rush and it smelled like it may have come from the Pacific. Specifically, the seashore of the Pacific, at low tide, on a hot day, if you were smelling it through a thick dust rag. There was no discernible rush. Color me disappointed. Much like the "Enchanted Orchid" soft soap that smelled exactly like Aqua Net hair spray.

I would like to think that someone in the company had come up with the name after being inspired to song, feeling the clean close shave, and heading into their day invigorated and somehow a better person. Now, I think they have a dart board with interesting words on them and they just toss two darts to get the name. It's a contest within the company. Bring in the most box tops and you get to heave a dart. Not very romantic but it pays the bills.

It could have been worse I suppose. I could have been shaving with "Passionate Intensity" or "Enthralling Effervescence."

Maybe next time I will talk about how they come up with ridiculous names for paint samples. Probably not, since I will forget...let me just say that I have no explanation for "politely purple".

Monday, May 24, 2010

Been nice knowing you...cough cough...

"teacher...teacher...teacher.... I want to tell you something."
"Ok, I'm here."
"NO, come here."
"I can hear you sweety. What is it?"
"OK, is it a secret?" nod... (why have you pulled me so close to your face?)
"I just threw up." COUGH!!!

All the non teachers out there just said, "EWWWW!!" All the teachers thought, "Oh, it must be a day that ends in Y." yawn. That happens more often than I care to admit. I just hadn't thought to write about it yet.

It seems it has been a little long since I have posted something...I mean, I skipped yesterday! But apparently Jennifer wants to hear something new every day. I am having so much fun doing this that it is usually not a problem. But yesterday was Kristiana's final performance in The Music Man and we were otherwise focused. Additionally, I have occasionally been getting "the look" from Sylvia for sitting at the computer for extended periods of time. I'm not saying it isn't deserved. I tend to lose myself behind the keyboard and I think I may have actually found the one activity that could make me forget to eat. THAT'S IT! I could write a weight loss book. Although I am pretty sure no publisher worth his weight in India Ink would print a book whose premise was, sit at the computer....the end.

So far since I have started this blog I have been keeping up with hygiene and daily tasks, like teaching, but I could easily write and write and then look up and wonder why it is dark outside...and why I need to keep brushing my beard off the keyboard. It's good to have a reality check...even if you can't cash those.

And speaking of checks, I told Jennifer that if I were getting paid for this I might be able to get Sylvia to give me "the look" when I wasn't writing! Wouldn't THAT be cool!
"Honey, cleaning the garage again? (drive by our house when the garage door is up and you would realize that this is the funniest thing I have ever said) Shouldn't you be sitting at the computer?!"

Are those angels singing?

Seriously, Sylvia has been incredibly supportive of my new hobby and only when I forget that the kids need to get up for church or school does it become an issue.

Anyway, it is one thing to say, "write more" and another entirely to say, write more about your class. Thanks for the idea. Which brings me to my lesson for the day. OK class, please pay attention. If you are sick, stay home! Thank you for listening. I'll be going now.

I am terribly sorry that you do not have day care, cold medicine, saltine crackers, an oral thermometer, the OTHER thermometer, Robitussin, Vicks vapor rub, chicken and stars soup, Seven Up, a dehumidifier, a humidifier, your favorite blankie, or the patience to try to deal with a sick child (I know this may be snarky. It gets to me sometimes) but this is one kindergarten teacher who is not interested in sharing everything! Crayons? Yes. Papers? Check. Pencils, toys, smiles? Yup, yup yup! Germs? Bzzzt! Sorry, you have lost the bonus round and you are not smarter than a kindergartner!

This scene plays out quite often and with my bulletproof immune system plus all the precautions I take, I should be fine...I just wish my colleagues hadn't screamed "23-19!" (Monsters Inc.) while dousing me with hand sanitizer!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

You're Goin' in the Blog!

I no longer have the adult version of Justin Bieber's hairdo. Supercuts has come to the rescue yet again! I am now sporting the best hair cut fifteen dollars can buy! I am pretty sure that somewhere in my lineage is a patch of bamboo. "Grows like a weed" doesn't quite catch the essence of what happens on top of my head. And yet I am cheap.

I used to cut my own hair. Yes, I am that cheap. In fact I would still be doing it except Sylvia has requested that I "have a little style" on top of my head. I'll let others be the judge about how that turned out. On a long list of things that I worry about, "How's my hair?" is somewhat toward the bottom. When I was a teenager I used to tell my friend and neighbor, Kim, to cut it how she wanted. (She was licensed! I don't just go around asking random neighbors to perform grooming tasks...but Mrs. H used to do a mean pedicure.) Kim never would. Something about wanting to do what I wanted. Still today I told the hair cutter today "Cut it how you like. I don't have to look at it. Make it look like this but a lot shorter."

This poor girl kept asking me questions about, is this ok? ... and, how do want that...? I needed to finally ask her if she hadn't sensed the "theme" of this interaction. She kept talking about this and that and had a funny story about my Justin B. comment. She was very nice and eventually got through it. Shaky hands and all. It was all I could do to not say, "You're going in the blog!"

Of course that would have had the same result as when I blurt out my conclusion having had most of a conversation in my head...
"I know! He should have brought the other thing to show her."
(just a little glimpse into the fun that is Sylvia's life)

Anyway, I am finding odd things wherever I go. It's great! I am almost thinking I should be carrying a notepad around so I can try to remember all of it. As it is now people probably think I am some sort of high powered executive that needs to be in constant contact with his office. They would probably be disappointed if they knew I was typing, "Hair cutting Pizza parlor" or "but these are my hair braiding pajamas" into my phone. It'll just be our secret. Don't tell. shh

By the way, Hi Abbey. (I told her I would mention her in my blog if she became my even numbered follower.) She did, I just did, and then someone became my 15th the same day. It's ok though. My phone arranged followers in groups of 5 so 15 is symmetrical. And while I am on the subject...(wait, there was a subject? where? that was entirely accidental) doesn't everyone eat grapes in sets of two?

At this point my "this blog is going horribly and randomly out of control" alarm is blaring in my head and I think it is time to get out while I am behind. Thanks for listening and hopefully laughing a little. Laughter is the best medicine... unless you are trying to get rid of athlete's foot and then you should probably go with something anti fungal.

Rain, Rain... Go Away!

Those of you who live near here know that it is not raining today, but it just did California! Maybe I should be welcoming the rain because I am getting more followers here and many more comments. If the weather was nicer, people may be outside swimming, going to the ocean, seeing famous fountains, taking a walk along a babbling brook, visiting waterfalls, or maybe touring the Alhambra water bottling plant!

All right, I was trying to be clever but I fear that my very smart readers have seen through the ruse. I am a scientist at heart and rarely shy away from an opportunity to perform an experiment. Today's experiment revolves around some curious comments that have been coming in. I, apparently, have some sort of remote controlled, syntax stimulated, female bladder activator. (Women are telling me that reading my blog makes them need to pee.) If this is true, then it is perhaps the lamest super power I have ever heard of!

I mean really:
"Jeff the mayor needs your help! And this villain is right up"
(me, annoyed) "...female...right?"
"Yeah. Sorry. The mayor needs you to incapacitate her for 75 or 80 seconds while he comes up with a plan...or someone with a real super power."
"ok... I'll get my laptop."

I suppose I should register myself as urinary weapon.

I never knew that I had this ability. Not when we were visiting Niagara Falls, with its 150, 000 gallons of water falling per second. I didn't notice this ability at the synchronized swimming competition in the Olympic sized pool with its 600,000 gallons of cool, clear water. I didn't even realize it when we were in the hotel room in Tahoe...the one with the leaky faucet that just continued to drip...drip...drip...all night.

Originally it was just my sister who had mentioned this phenomenon and I figured it was just my sister being, well, my sister. But now the comments have spread to others. There may be something to this. I am not surprised that people are telling me this...I have one of those faces. I have since forever. And now, apparently, I have one of those blogs. Who knew?

Let me conclude by saying that I promise to use my powers for good and not evil... and also that I realize that with great vocabulary comes great bladder control!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Should I be worried about the rabbit?

We have a new member of the household. He is short, furry, and has obviously been involved in some sort of genetic engineering experiment designed to enhance both strength and intelligence.

This newest member is a mini lop eared rabbit named Goober that came to us for free. Let me take a moment here to expand on the term free as it pertains to our family. First there were the ten free rolls of sod (worth about 30 dollars) that ended up costing me a month and a half of work, a dump truck/bobcat rental, and about a thousand dollars worth of pavers. OK, so driving a bobcat was really cool but still! Then there were the free guppies that became several trips to the pet store to create the perfect living environment for massive overpopulation. It's getting to where I break into a cold sweat whenever I hear a commercial talking about something that is "free."

Our neighbor got this rabbit from someone who didn't want it anymore. Why they took it in, I do not know. They didn't want it. They had no plans on keeping it. What were they thinking? Knock knock knock....Oh, that's what they were thinking. So now we have a free rabbit and I am not so sure that is all that we got.

The rabbit, that we are only looking after for a few days (yeah right), of course needs organic bedding. I don't even have organic bedding. It also needed a water bottle, a play pen, organically enhanced brown pellets that are apparently food, and a litter box? Really? I never heard of anything so ridiculous. And then Sylvia put the box in the cage (with the recycled vegetable and fruit instead of sand litter). The rabbit hopped in did his business immediately. Well, first he looked up at her, tilted his head, and gestured toward the stack of magazines on the coffee table. That was my first clue that something was up. I hear from other possessors of free rabbits that this is quite common.

No one has mentioned that their rabbits do his next stunt however. Sylvia placed the wire mesh playpen around the front of the cage and left the door open, effectively tripling his run-around room. He is obviously interested in feng shui because he picked up the edge of the mesh wall with his teeth and carried it to a new spot, pulling it away from the cage. We fixed the wire mesh so he couldn't do that anymore, but he could still wander around a bit. Well this wasn't good enough for him. He looked at the top of his cage, three times taller than him, and hopped on up. Then he walked over to the side of the cage and did a double backflip with a twist to get off and into the kitchen. The German judge gave him a 8.9.

Well we can't have the free expensive spoiled rabbit roaming the house chewing on electrical wires, wait..., no, we can't have the rabbit roaming the house chewing on electrical wires. Sylvia grabs the furball and puts him back into his cage. Now that we have seen his escape attempt he is no longer free to use his play yard. Inside the cage he stamps his foot! Sylvia, not to be outdone, playfully stamps her foot.
Rabbit - Stamp
Sylvia - Stamp
Rabbit - Stamp
Sylvia - Stamp
and so on...and so on...and so on...

It was deliberate! This thing was communicating with Sylvia! I am now worried that this rabbit has escaped from someplace like NIMH and is capable of doing linear algebra! There is probably a black van roaming our neighborhood scanning the area for a sign from the rabbit secret agent. I'm keeping our blinds closed.

There was one more peculiar thing as well. It chewed out the words from the newspaper at the bottom of his cage and spelled out "Please! For the love of carrots, let me out of here so I can get to Washington and complete my mission! I've got to save the world!"

I'm sure it was just a coincidence.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is it red in here, or is it just me?

In preparation for getting rich and famous I wanted to release a couple of the skeletons from my closet. I figure if I do it now then I take away the power from those who wish me ill. If I don't get rich and famous then I suppose I am just embarrassing myself. Lucky for you!

In keeping with being a goofball (my affectionate name from Sylvia) when we were dating, I disclosed much the same thing before she came to a family dinner for the first time. She knew some of the family before (the "how we met" story is for another blog) but I needed to prepare her for the stories about me when I was little. I told her that my family sort of enjoyed teasing and, unfortunately, I had given them plenty of material to work with. My sister was particularly adept...and she would be there. I had to break the news.

I told Sylvia that she would hear a tale of woe about a poor elementary student who wanted to take a prized possession home. One Easter (right now you should all realize that my sister, reading this, is laughing hysterically!) my school decided to give every student who ordered school lunch a decorated Easter egg. This, of course, was before nachos were considered a meal and Salisbury steak was a treat. We each had our colored eggs along with the other food on the tray and I didn't want to crack mine open. Thinking back, this may have been the last time I didn't clean my plate.

Being the resourceful kid I was, I put that egg in the safest place known to little boys! The front pocket of my corduroy pants! You can see where this is going already, right? Well, I went through the rest of the day and honestly didn't think about it again. Didn't stop playing tether ball, didn't stay upright on the monkey bars, didn't rely on cootie spray to keep the girls away. And I didn't realize that eggs were not indestructible...much later. When I got home I reached into my pocket and pulled out the driest unassembled egg salad known to man. All in full view of my sister, who carries that story around like an automatic ego-deflator. I had to tell Sylvia all about this event before Sue stood up at the wedding when the pastor said, "Does anyone know any reason...?"

Now let's jump ahead to after Sylvia and I are married. I know, I know...I skipped a bit. I am writing a blog, not a Time Life 42 volume set. I need to be choosy. This story is a doozy in the red face department, and I have no youthful cluelessness to blame.

One evening we were shopping at Price Club, which was Price Costco before it turned into Costco, and Sylvia needed to do something at the front desk in front of the registers. As I was standing by the cart waiting for Sylvia she caught my eye and motioned for me to go over to help a woman. This woman had her back to me and she was obviously struggling with the packaging on something.

Let me take a moment here to make an appeal to packagers everywhere. Not everything in life needs to be hermetically sealed in three and a half pounds of explosion proof plastic. I'm guessing the solid steel dumbbell could withstand a little bump without too much harm.

Well I am always willing to help someone who needs it so I walked up to this damsel in distress and said, "Can I lend you a hand?"

Simple right? Nothing wrong with that. I cannot think of a single person who might think that I was being pushy. It was not a pick up line (my lack of pick up lines is a 58 volume set) not to mention that I am very happily married. No problem!

Until...this woman says, "Excuse me!?!" and turns around to show me a stainless steel prosthetic hand.

Now I have a size 14 shoe, but it slipped nicely into my mouth that day. It was probably easier since my 6'3" frame shrank to roughly the size of a dried pea in two seconds flat. I managed to feebly gesture to Sylvia and squeak something like, "she... say... help... you..." and I slunk away while mentally working out the final dimensions of the flux capacitor on my time machine. I definitely wanted to go back and try this event again...without tasting shoe.

So there you have it. Letting a little light into the skeleton closet and taking a little sting out of the "gotcha" television interviews from the future. Not that I know for sure that there will be any...but just for kicks, does anyone know where I could find some plutonium... or 1.21 gigawatts of electricity and a really long extension cord?

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's time to be serious.

I realize that I have been trying to be funny, written mostly about the lighter side of subjects, and treated everything in a somewhat glib manner, but the blog's followers have now reached the double digits and I feel it is time to tackle a more serious topic. I do not want to overstep my bounds and alienate a large portion of people with controversy but this may be the only time I am allowed to reach as many people as this forum does. I mean, 10 followers in one place! This is heady stuff. The shear magnitude, the impact, the implications. I hope I don't alienate any of my loyal readers with seriousness. I know that you have come to expect a certain tone and I do want to deliver, but this is a subject that begs to be addressed. I only hope I am not too late.

I may seem like someone who sees everything as humorous but there are two topics that really do not lend themselves to humor. Please bear with me as I delve into a more serious subject matter and try to prove that I am more than someone who only knows how to be silly.

The first topic that upsets me instantly is the threat of nuclear proliferation in an unstable region of the world ruled by dictatorial regimes that are bent on the systematic increase in their own unchecked power. The second, and I am sure you will all agree, is the poorly designed parking lots surrounding our local movie theater in the ironically named Union Landing shopping center.

This place is ironically named because a "union" implies a coming together, a marriage, sharing. A partnership! This place, conversely, was designed by six separate, developmentally delayed, anti-social...blind...ex convicts who feel that that the convenience of others is overrated. Seriously, the parking lots in this series of connected shopping centers are worse than the M.C. Escher painting of triangular stairs that go nowhere. There are five or six sections (no one knows for certain) that are all connected geographically but have never met as far as driveways are concerned. It is frustrating when you pull into one section and can see the place you are trying to get to only to be thwarted by ill conceived cement barriers. A driver can feel like Moses wandering through the desert, seeing the promised land but never reaching it. Before she passed, Mother Teresa was rumored to try to drive to Michael's from TGIFridays. The resulting profanity laden tirade was a YouTube hit for months!

"Landing" is also an ironic choice of name for this place where very little "landing" is happening. Landing implies settling down gently, becoming comfortable after a journey, to alight ever so gently on the self selected olive branch of peace. The landing in this shopping center is in short supply. In the section by the movie theater for instance there are (allow me to do some math) 25 theaters with many seats each, 8 restaurants, numerous shops, (let's see that works out to ... carry the 2... divided by pi... ) a lot of people. They have 34 parking spaces. I may have rounded up for dramatic effect but you get the idea. It has become a growth industry for people to go park in the lot early on and then sell their spot to a frantic dad with 5 teeny-boppers in tow.

"Psst. Buddy. You need a space?"

"Yeah, are you leaving?"

"For 100 bucks!"

"Come on pal, it's my daughter's birthday and she is going to be disappointed if we miss the previews that start in 3 minutes!"

"I see. Well the price of parking just went up!"

This is happening all over the place, probably, in this shopping center and I feel that we should try come back to traditional family values in terms of parking. Or go someplace else.

It is typically not a problem since we live in an area full of redundancy (and there are many similar choices too) so I can usually avoid this shopping center. But there are times when this parallel lined torture chamber is the only place that has what we need. It is fine as long as you plan on an extra 30 minutes to find a parking space, hire a Sherpa, and hike toward the place you want to go. We did just that and made it out of there in one piece. It was a beautiful thing. The next local telethon needs to involve money to hire workers with jackhammers to tear down those sidewalks!

I feel better getting that off my chest. Thank you for listening.

I have also decided that my goal is no longer to make millions writing this blog. I will settle for a personalized parking space in the Union Landing parking lot....after all, I could sell that for billions!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Did Anyone Guess DIAPER CAKE?

Yesterday, I told you that you would never guess what I was making. Again, I had something that I didn't want to share until it was time. I didn't want to give away the surprise and Matt and Cari are both Facebookers. The shower is over and I, yes I, made a diaper cake for the youth pastor at our church. He has a thing about diapers and I am codependent. OR...he and his wife are going to have a baby and this was a useful and adorable decoration for the shower.

Now when I say that I made this cake, I really mean that I rolled up diapers, tied them with ribbon, then tied the ribbons together to make the shape of a three layer of cake. The decorating and ribbon choice was all Sylvia. I had no idea they were doing a ladybug theme. I also wouldn't have even known that the shower was today, or that everyone (read guys too) was invited to come. I went.

Sylvia has a clever way of tricking me into doing these things. She'll say things like, I am not even sure how to make one of those. Or, Can you figure out how they made it look like this? She knows I love a challenge and if I think I am figuring something out, I'm all over it. I'm a crossword puzzle, sudoku, Rubik's Cube, kind of guy. I like to work things out. Turns out the thing that I was working out today was how to make two boxes of diapers look like a three layer cake. No problem! I'm on it!

I mean it is the most natural thing in the world to make a cake out of diapers, right? Doesn't everyone do it? I'm sure it has been happening for eons. But seriously, who was the first person to think, "They are going to be used and discarded (at arm's length) why don't I wrap them with ribbon?" Or maybe it was simpler than that. "Let's see, we're going to have cake...and I'll need diapers...cake...diapers...cake..diapers...Hey! I have an awesome idea!!" I realize that it is cute and designed to make women say, "Awwwwwwwww" but you know it wasn't thought of by a man. All I can think is, there isn't enough milk in the world!! No, no, NO! Not even for a triple dog dare!

Jake was really helpful in the morning as we were getting ready to bring it to church. He decided to take a picture of it with the camera on his phone. He likes to play around with the settings and do weird it was negative mode. So he took a picture of this white cake and it turned out black...or dark dark brown. He showed it to me and said, "Look dad, chocolate cake."

Now think about that for a second. I'll wait. No,'s OK. Take your time.

Chocolate...cake...chocolate...cake...chocolate...DIAPER cake.

I know, I didn't like it either. See what I have to put up with around here!

So we made it to the shower, a fun time was had by all, and people enjoyed the diaper cake. I think it is funny that I now have the capability to make a cake out of diapers. Maybe now I will use that as an answer for whenever people try to barge into a conversation.
"What are we talking about?"

About writing the blog.

I am enjoying being able to let everyone know about these weird things. It is just what the doctor ordered to put off a trip to a rubber room. I think I may be a few weeks from that particular happening. I mean, it's not like I have completely lost it.

Now, begging your pardon...I need to go make some underwear muffins.

That's Just Wrong!

So there I am dreaming about nothing in particular...probably about sleeping...when I was awakened in what could be the rudest way imaginable! I don't want to go into particulars or give away the punchline just yet, but let me say that I either need a taller bed or a shorter dog!

I am a nice guy. I let the animals live in the house. Food, water, shelter, every day! Is it too much to ask for a tiny amount of respect or even a little common courtesy? If I were sleeping and a person took a large wet sponge and ran it across my face I would be less than pleased! So why is it that when the dog comes and greets me with his big wet tongue, I get up and give him food? Who is training whom? (I threw the extra "m" on "who" to make me seem smarter...or British. I think I may have reversed the order of how "who" and "whom" are supposed to be used. If so, that was on purpose too.) Back to the doggie in the bedroom.

Aside from already being awake, getting up has something to do with self preservation. Fudge, our chocolate lab, (fudge...chocolate...get it! Aren't we clever!) has certain behaviors...he lacks an ability...he is sort of... Let's just say he has issues. If I don't get up he gets upset. If he gets upset he takes it out on himself and mopes, sticks to us like glue, and stops going to the bathroom outside. Not that he starts to go inside. He just stops going. Until his dog-sized bladder hits maximum density and starts to leak. Poor thing. Then it is a big ordeal to get him back to a normal pattern again. All in all, better to let him out when he wants.

Well this morning was a little extra special in the wake up department...but first let me tell you that I am allergic to cats. A kitten once climbed across my chest (I was in college and needed the money) and poked its claws into me on accident. That's what kittens do. I swelled up at the tiny little poke spots and it felt like someone had placed radioactive sand in my eyes. Awful!!

So our cat's name is Friska...getting a sense of the hierarchy? Just kidding. Apparently I am allergic to kittens and multiple cats in an enclosed space. Seriously, I'm fine. No need to call A.P.S. (children's protective services for adults)

Our cat has issues as well. I mentioned before that the cat will stay hidden all day. At night, the cat comes out. She lets us know when she is out and especially if we have altered her routine in any way. Friska likes to sleep in our bed, all night, on Sylvia. Help yourself cat. Not trying to get "cat bed" added to my job description.

The cat also provides a valuable service as far as the dog is concerned. The cat is the keeper of the special box. (stop reading now if you are squeamish, eating, or just want to) You see the disgusting dog seems to think that the special box is full of Almond Roca (Guess there's one book sponsor I can kiss goodbye!). We have to watch him like a hawk to keep him out of there. At least it is not outside where Fudge seems to think Eau De Cat Poop is THE scent to have! Usually just as we are about to load him in the car for a lengthy trip. Apologies, but I did warn you. So now the dog and cat have a symbiotic relationship. It's a beautiful thing.

Now we come to this morning again. I wake up to a cold tongue on the face (refer back to previous paragraph...eww!) so I roll over and the dog starts to roll on my pillow that has fallen on the floor (given his usual choice of rolling item, I find this particularly insulting). When I face Sylvia, I greet the cat, sort of. The cat has gotten up and is now saying hello to Sylvia. Let me lay this out. Sylvia, asleep. Cat between us giving Sylvia kisses. Me, trying to get my face away from the dog turn to greet the end of the cat that does NOT give kisses! What was it that Rodney Dangerfield used to say? I don't get no respect. Do you feel my pain?!


OK, it's time to start getting ready for church. Today is a special day and I have made something for somebody. If I were to give you a million years and a million monkeys with typewriters you would never type out what it was. You could, of course, recreate this drivel with one monkey in about an hour. Not that I know this for a fact!

Hey!...did I mention that we just got a monkey? (he sleeps in our bed)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Focus, Focus... oh look pie!

I know it is a little premature but I have come up with the first line of my future book. This is quite a coup and it may seem a little weird to only have the first line, but that is usually how I start these posts. When I start to write these I have one idea, I start to write, and hold on as I go sliding around on the greased water slide that is my brain! I rarely know where it is going to go.

What do you mean "No kidding!"? Should I be insulted? No offense taken.

It's strange, I have always been able to just make up stories, but usually found that real life was at least as hilarious, so I can just tell about that.

I used to have the kids tell me random things, colors, animals, imaginary words, whatever...and then I would make up stories to tell them. This was a fun way, for me, to amuse them on some of our marathon drives across the country. Luckily the kids were too young to try to trip up dear old dad. "OK, tell me an animal."

"Woolly Mammoth."

"Tell me a job."

"Quality control specialist in a artificial Christmas tree factory."

"Ok, now tell me a color."

"That special shade of purple that happens in the Arizona desert just before sunset but before a rainstorm."

"ummmm....Who wants to play I Spy!?"

In my college writing classes I used to love the assignment that gave us opening lines and then told us to "GO!!" In fact I think it would be fun to get first lines from people and then write blogs, but using the lines. I could get people to send them in from all over the world. I mean, I now have 6, count them, 6 followers. At that rate I should be set to take over the worl...I mean write a book... in no time!

Let me take this time to talk about the word "follower" for a brief minute...Well it may be brief, I am not sure how fast you read...But I digress. What's up with "follower"? Having followers implies that there would be a leader. I'm not sure I am qualified to lead anything but a long line of kindergartners to an assembly. Picture a really tall mama duck (yes, I said mama...I think dad ducks are absentee, but I could be wrong) waddling around a school with 27 little ducklings wandering around behind. So anyway ("anyway", by the way, is my mental equivalent of shaking my head and hearing the cartoon sound effect "boyy yoyy yoyy" as I try to remember what I was talking about. Ah Yes, "follower." Let's jump ahead to next week when the movie about my life, (The Late Phil Hartman will play me) has won an Academy award and they call me up to the stage. What am I going to say? "I would like to thank my followers." I think not.

And while I am on this subject, does being a follower do anything but let me know you are there? (thank you by the way) I signed up Sylvia to be a follower just to see if she got e-mails or something when I posted something on here. As far as I can tell, bubkis! My sister wrote to me to let me know that as well. I can't figure out how to make it send something automatically from here...maybe I could set up an e-mail list that I send out whenever I add something, and you (you know who you are) could send me a message asking me to add you to it.

ANYWAY!!! Oh yeah, my writing and story telling is all over the map. At our last disaster drill for the school, I was responsible for watching two classes, my class and my buddy class ('wassup Tamiko'). It was trying to rain and not really succeeding at that but it was succeeding at soaking the grass. We all moved to the blacktop. Picture an expansive cheese grater designed to shred knees and elbows. Running games? Not this cowboy. After a few (yawn) walking relays I saw that I was going to lose a significant portion of the classes. Everyone sit, let me tell you a story. Give me a nonsense word....

By the way Tamiko, if any of your kids turn in a story about a magical bathtub that takes a little boy and girl to a land where you can hear colors, I get 50% of their A+++.

There you go, a little look into how I come up with these blog posts. As my friend Val told me, she feels like a cyber stalker who knows what I am thinking. So if you see me wearing a replica of the metal helmet from Xmen, you'll know why.

To recap...I have talked about ducklings, stories, car trips, woolly mammoths, cyber stalking, Xmen, magical bathtubs, followers, cartoon sound effects, Academy awards, and greased water slides And in case anyone is interested...Ilanga elimndandi kuwe! is how you write Happy Birthday in Zulu....Does everyone see why Sylvia rarely asks, "What are you thinking about honey?"

The only thing I didn't write about was the first line of my book...and here it is.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times;" Yeah, I know, taken. But wouldn't it be hysterical to see the Final Jeopardy answer for famous quotes from literature...

"Why yes Alex,
What is Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities OR Garrett's Teacher! Teacher! When I Fart in the Bathtub It Makes Bubbles."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pardon Me? Part two!

...And Fonzie skids into the chicken stand...

A brief recap...we are in a cheesy hotel in the middle of Texas and I am on the hunt for a feminine (ahem) item for Sylvia, who is watching the kids at the hotel while I go about 10:50 P.M. In my memory it always gets a little darker, there's a little more lightning, and I am pretty sure there were eight or nine ninjas with orders to destroy at all cost. In reality it was a beautiful night and I figured it would be a quick trip, even without the best navigator I have ever driven with.

And then I started trying to get directions from the English impaired male front clerk. This is where you need to imagine me pantomiming and gesturing about driving to WalMart because; a) they are everywhere, and b) they are open 24 hours a day, right? I mention that the clerk was male so I can comment on another phenomenon I have observed. Let's say a woman is in need of an (ahem) item. All she needs to do is give the secret signal and the (ahem) item appears for her. I haven't caught the full signal but I have seen Sylvia disappear to the back of the house by someone merely saying her name with a special tone. The government is currently studying this. Godspeed gentlemen.

Well the clerk and I were able to work out a plan to get me to Wally World and I was off. I never said that I had a plan to get there AND back but I wasn't going to worry about that now. I'm off!

Onto the crazy freeway/roadway/thoroughfare that you could exit but had to fight like mad to get back on. To get to the discount shoppers' paradise I needed to go a couple miles, make a loop to go the other way, and then go the five miles back to the store. At this point I was signalling appropriately, had my arm out the window, and probably was listening to Willie Nelson give beer to his horses on the radio. It was a relatively quick trip and I was happy when I saw the glowing W off to the side of the road. I was feeling pretty smug as I drove into the parking lot and didn't even notice that it was almost completely empty. The lights were on, they never close...right?

Literally, as I drove up to the first parking spot by the door the lights turned off. Ghost town. Maintenance crew. Locked doors! The clock in the truck clicked over to 11:00 at that moment. (dirty word!) Really? So they close here in Texas? Who knew. I walked to the door not believing what was happening. I even peeked in the door to see if I could flag down a woman who would have pity on me. They were all very adept at avoiding eye contact with poor pitiful husbands. I was impressed.

What to do now? The desk clerk said something about another store that I could try if I didn't see Walmart. OK, I'll try there. Back on the road away from the hotel and like a moth to a light I was looking for any signs of civilization. I would take the all night store, the Quik-E-Mart, a gas station...anything would do. To the next exit...nothing. One more...nada. One more...I need to start thinking about going back and try the other side of the freeway because there were no signs of life here.

I managed to get turned around and I started to go back toward the hotel on surface streets in hopes of stumbling across a 24 hour gas station. ANYTHING! Then I see it. A gas station...with a store! (Are those angels singing?) Now you are not going to believe this but as I pulled into the gas station the lights went out. Too much. You aren't buying it. I don't blame you. If I was watching this on a movie I would be laughing my butt off...the problem was I was living it! The clock in the truck clicked to 11:30 (I had been at this a while) and now I am only beginning to realize I have a starring role in a nightmare. At the door I see a girl fussing around in the shop. YES!! Female!! Surely she will have mercy on me. Not thinking it through, however, I didn't foresee that a middle aged man, at 11:30 P.M., tapping on the window, and bent over to say, "TAMPAX" into the mail slot of a mini-mart might be a little disturbing to a teenage girl in Texas.

So she scoots away from where I can see her, and I decided that I should leave before the police come.

At this point I started to take stock of the situation. I am slowly going through the city under the freeway. I am on a mission for my wife. I am far away from the hotel. Places keep closing as I drive up to them. The San Antonio PD may very well have an A.P.B. out on me for my misguided stunt at the Gas-n-Sip window. And the sand is slowly running out of my sanity bag. I know! If I get into the truck and drive really really fast I can beat the next place to closing time.

Back onto the freeway, flying (but driving especially safely all of you new drivers out there). I was partially hoping I could get stopped by the police so I could have a valid excuse for failing or I could at least ask where I could find an all night store. No such luck and I am rapidly approaching our hotel's exit. I decided to get off one exit early to see if I could stumble onto a gas station. As I exited I saw a gas station with most of the lights on...good. It had another truck in the parking lot...better. The clock in the truck clicked to 12:00...CRAP!!

I am not proud to admit it but I skidded to a stop right outside the door, I jumped out of the truck, and I lunged into the store before they had a chance to lock it! So there I am panting, pumping my fist into the air, and, yes, maybe even giggling a little. I was in! And there were some of the toughest looking characters I have ever seen shooting the breeze with an equally tough looking clerk. But now they are looking at me and probably wondering if they are on a hidden camera show.

"Just glad you're open."

"24 hours. You need something?"

"Uh. I'll find it." Hadn't thought about that. It's not a big store. At this point I gave up the pretense of pretending I was buying something else..."Yeah, I'll take that 3 foot beef jerky, those magazines, a couple quarts of oil, how'd THAT (ahem) box get there? Yeah, I'll take it...the guys at the poker game will think it's funny. HA!"

Nope, not me. Walked to the shelf. Picked up the box that looked the most like the one on TV where women are riding horses, dancing, wearing white....and walked to the counter and slammed it down.

Then I thought...This has really been an ordeal. I would like to have a little something to perhaps calm me down a bit. I would like to purchase a beer. Now this is an occasion for me. Before my father-in-law passed away he brought a case of beer over for a party one time. He has been gone for a number of years. I still have some of it on the shelf. Not a big drinker, but I wanted one now. I wanted it more than I have ever wanted a beer before. Something for me. I turned around and walked to the refrigerators at the back of the store. When I grabbed the handle and pulled. Clung clung. Huh? Clung CLUNG CLUNG! What the heck? CLUNG CLUNG CLUNG CLUNG!!!

From the front counter..."Hey pardner. This here's a dry county. It's after midnight, they are locked until Monday."

SAN ANTONIO PRESS..."California Man Arrested for Beating the Snot Out of Refrigerator at Local 24 hour Gas Station"

Perhaps next time I will suggest, as we are packing to go on a trip, that Sylvia put a few (ahem) items in the suitcase. Just in case. Oh wait...I did that in Texas.

I Love You Honey!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pardon me? NEVER MIND!!

Did you ever hear part of a conversation and think, "I know what they are talking about but I wish to be certain so I don't embarrass myself..." Of course you didn't. No one does. Who thinks like that? My wife was talking to a group of friends the other day and I thought she was talking about a shared experience we'd had. So I said, "What?" (having an interest in your spouse is a good way to obtain husband points) Sylvia, in her ever honest state, turned to me and said, "Gynecologist."

"uhhh....errrr......that isn't what I thought you....COMING! Sorry the kids are calling." (I refer back to a previous post where I mention that I am a raging introvert.)

Luckily Sylvia is used to me being somewhat clueless and partially inept so she let me slink away, tail between my legs, feeling foolish. The funny thing for me is that now if someone wants to barge into my conversation I have another answer for, "What are we talking about?" I used to say, "14th century French poetry." but Sylvia's answer will work now too. And she wasn't even trying to be funny! That is what cracks me up.

You would think that I would learn about these things but it happened again the other night while we were out dancing. As an aside, let me explain that I have "partial hearing loss due to noise" and a ringing in my ears at all times. Put me in a noisy room and I am mostly deaf. Put me in a nightclub and you better be looking at me when you talk or prepare for disappointment. (It's ok though, I teach kindergarten and those rooms are notoriously quiet...HAH!) So anyway, this time the ladies were talking and they kept looking at me. I assumed that I was supposed to be joining in so I said, (say it with me) "WHAT?"

The answer?

"TAMPONS!" (I know this is getting tedious but I feel I must explain that I am not normally fixated on things reproductive, and female. Purely a coincidence.)

They then shouted through the noise that their husbands had collectively purchased the aforementioned items (ahem) maybe 3 times. I then promised that I had a story, but I couldn't do it there. I would write about it in the blog, with Sylvia's permission. Well she is on the phone in the kitchen and I am too tired to get up. Here goes.

On one of our many trips across the country we left the trailer parked at a friends house in Texas and drove around the state from hotel to hotel for a few days. We were having fun (Schlitterbahn) and it was very informative (NASA) but on the way back to the camper we were getting a little tired. We decided, in the days before smart phones, that we would stop at the first hotel that looked a shade above the Bates Motel and didn't have chalk body outlines on the sidewalk outside. It was a bit of a challenge because the freeway, interstate, goat trail, torture route...was easy to get off but nearly impossible to get back on. We had already decided, choose wisely or perish!

Econo, Comfort, Motor, vacancy done! We're off the freeway and, after a bit of coaxing the sleeping children out of the truck, in our palatial/nondescript room. The kids in bed, the TV on, my feet up on our bed, and Sylvia comes out of the bathroom sheepishly. " started...and I don't have anything." To clue you in (in case you haven't been paying attention), that means that she has been visited by mother nature. She is also wearing her pajamas and headed to her side of the bed to lie down. To be fair, after we have been married this long she knew that I wouldn't dream of sending her out, alone, into an unknown city at night. She could do it. She's very capable. It's just a thing of mine. I don my superhero persona and walk to the front desk to get (ahem) an item. At the front desk I learned how hard it is to speak in euphemisms to someone who was learning English as a second language.

"My wife Tampax?"

He points to the vending machine with gum, sewing kits, hair rollers (seriously?), and two blank white boxes about the right size and shape. He points to the one on the right...I put in my 5 quarters, turn the knob, and I am now the proud owner of a brand new condom. Rats! What happens next is one of my favorite stories to tell in person...let's see if I can do it time!

Don't you hate that? To Be Continued...!

Just picture The Fonz in the air in front of Arnold's on his way to crash into the chicken stand. (Do NOT picture him in the air over the shark in Hawaii...that episode sucked.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Elaine? Is that you? It's me! Your dance instructor!

So NOW I can talk about it! It's about time! I have been sworn to secrecy by the most important and most secure methods of silence known to mankind...the surprise party invite. I have been living with this for quite some time and I felt like I was going to burst. Not because I wanted to tell Angelyn that she was going to have a party...but because I wanted to vent about my lack of dancing ability!

By now I'm sure nearly everyone has heard the embarrassing stereotype of the "white guy dance." I have seen countless comedians make tiny little hopping movements while moving hands jerkily side to side. Fans of Seinfeld have seen the Elaine dance. Her dancing was aptly described by George as a full body dry heave. I cannot laugh at those jokes. I am those jokes. I, actually, aspire to become as good as people who can dance like that. (well maybe not Elaine)

Don't get me wrong, I have rhythm. I can keep a beat with the best of them. I was once voted "most likely to be caught playing air drums on the steering wheel." During a song at a concert I am not the guy whose hands are together when everyone else's are coming apart. I just have a minor problem with communication. The signal from the music center of my brain does not make it to the proper appendages at the proper times. At least not in enough time to do anything meaningful. Picture the brontosaurus. Paleontologists have said that the brontosaurus' brain was so far away from its tail that one end didn't know what the other end was doing. I, unfortunately, can relate. My brain is similarly distanced from my tail. I once maimed a woman in an Electric Slide incident.

Now all of this does not mean that I don't like to dance...feeling uncomfortable is miles away from don't like to. I can break through the fear if certain conditions are met. First, darkness is key. The darker the better, obviously, but I can deal with a little mood lighting. A single candle in the far corner is best. Second, there needs to be many, many people. Now remember I am 6' 3" so loads of tall people is ideal but a minor throng is what I am looking for. Third, I must have the song memorized, or at least the tune. Knowing where the song is headed is the only way I have a fighting chance of not ending up in the emergency room dying of an acute case of embarrassment. Last, I must be with my wife. On this there is no negotiation. There are so few times that most of the criteria (or at least enough to get me on the floor) are met I wouldn't dream of going dancing with anyone else. The opposite is true of most of the women I know. Their thinking is that if "the stick in the mud" (that would be me) won't dance then I will go on the floor with the girls. I'm good with that. It's also nice to have a group of guys who have something in common to talk to. We can also be seen congregating outside dressing rooms in department stores...35% of us will be holding purses. My super power is putting down roots and becoming an immovable force when someone tries to grab my arm and pull me onto the dance floor. I am not above locking myself to a chair with handcuffs (Jake has a pair I can borrow).

So back to, gulp, dancing. Last night was the perfect storm, rhythmically speaking. We went to a place nearby called ShBooms. It called itself "a nightclub for adults." Read: Old people welcome. The first clue...they opened at 6:00 P.M. Nuff said, right? There were other clues like the TVs were all playing old ads for things like Nesquik chocolate milk powder and some really embarrassing ancient beer ads. They were probably more embarrassing due to the fact that I remembered some of them. We showed up at 6:20 for the surprise that was happening at 6:30...sorry Sean. (I drove really really fast to beat you there.) As we were waiting, I was surprised to hear so many songs that I recognized. (old) It was great. Potential! A little later a set of 6 foot blonds twins walked in. Nobody looking at me. Check. If only it were a little Now if only they would play a song that I had heard a million times before...wait a minute, Journey? Here goes...
"Sweetie! Would you like to dance?"

So that's how it happened. I was doing the closest proximity to dancing that I could muster and Sylvia was happy. I didn't even stop after the one song. I was on a roll and didn't want to lose momentum. I don't want to brag (yes I do) but Sylvia was first to suggest we go off the dance floor first (body mass and inertia will be covered at a later time). And the reason we went to sit down for a breather was we finally came to a song that Sylvia didn't like...not because she couldn't stop laughing. It was great to be able to make Sylvia happy like that. We may have to go back there again.

So Angelyn was celebrated, Sean raised the birthday party bar impossibly high (we need to talk Sean!) we all had a great time, and I danced...see you on YouTube! (if you are drinking milk while you watch you may want to put plastic wrap over the keyboard)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kristiana = Awesome

Today is Kristiana's 14th birthday and I thought I would, if you will allow me (and even if you don't), dedicate a post entirely to her. I should probably have cleared it with her but as long as I leave out embarrassing stories about her I should be ok...

So anyway when she was a baby she destroyed a diaper, an outfit, and most of a stroller with what has come to be known as the nuclear bomb of baby outputs! I mean it registered on the Richter scale! They diverted airplanes to avoid the west coast. The Alameda County Fair emergency response team earned their money that day!

For those of you keeping score, I will pay for that and she may even force me to edit this. Read fast!

Sylvia and I were so excited to find out we (well she) was pregnant. I still have the penny I found walking to the store to buy our first pregnancy test. It was heads up if anyone is interested in that sort of thing. We came home and Sylvia "did her thing" and we waited. Being the ever delicate and sensitive husband that I am, I announced to anyone who would listen, "Sylvia peed on a stick and it turned pink!"

So now the score is Sylvia - 1, Kristiana - 1, Jeff - 0. This may be a good time to inquire about rooms for rent.

We were thrilled. I was mostly petrified and counting on Sylvia's vast experience working in a nursery to get me through. 9 months later in the delivery room the doctors told us that they were not going to have her cry right away because they needed to clear her mouth and throat. As soon as she arrived she announced her strong-willedness with authority as she screamed like I had stuck her with a pin. (OK, I had a pin but I swear I didn't come anywhere near her!) She was beautiful, and perfect, and had the cutest ears in the known universe. It sounds weird but they were both equally wrinkled and looked like there were tiny little butterflies on the sides of her head.

And...she liked me. That sounds like a "gimme" but when I said I was petrified to become a father it was not without cause. I felt like I was still a child having a child even though I was (... let's see carry the four... minus... to the third power..) older than average when we had her. I also had never held a baby that hadn't cried...ever! The only thing that kept me from retreating to a fatherless cave was something my cousin Bev told me as I held her crying baby girl, Rachel. She said, "Don't worry. It's different with your own child." Truer words were never spoken. It was different. I was even able to turn her crying into quiet! My method of balancing her over my shoulder caused the nurses to have stern words with me, but hey, I was in heaven.

For three solid months if her eyes were open she was screaming. The only things that would quiet her down was to be carried around in backpack or for me to sing White Christmas at the top of my lungs...bear in mind, her birthday is now! May! This little sweet screamer grew to be one smart cookie. She was amazing. She was three when the chicken nugget incident happened. She asked us if she could be done eating and, being the smart alec I am, I asked her how many she had eaten. She looked at her little tray and said, "I don't know. How many did I start with?"
"Then I ate three. Can I be done?"
That fast. And she was right! I think I walked around for an hour with my jaw hanging open. She revisited this giftedness when she was in the first grade. She announced that she wanted me to take her to see the first Harry Potter movie. I, smart alec again, told her that I would as soon as she read the book by herself. She sat her determined little bottom down and read that book cover to cover...and understood it! It was a good movie though.

This wonderful, cute, beautiful, smart, little girl has turned into someone whose heart matches all of that and more. Unlike her dad, there isn't a baby born that won't seek her out and have a blast doing it. She loves to take care of the wee ones. As we are a full year into teenagerdom I am looking forward to many more wonderful milestones to come. It is exciting to see her grow into the great person she is today and I am so hopeful about the wonderful things to come...although I am not terribly anxious to experience driving.

I realize that I skipped from baby to now rather quickly. Indulge me, I need to be able to write more about her later...and I have already been told that I "have a lot of words" in my blog (that I shouldn't have since I am so old).

Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Driver's Licenses for almost 14 Year Olds!

As I pry my eyelids open to take Kristiana to an early rehearsal for her part in an upcoming production of The Music Man, it came to me...Let's give driver's licenses to almost 14 year olds! Then I could still be sleeping instead of waiting for my body to realize that I have had enough sleep for the night...I have had enough sleep for the night...I have had enough sleep for the night. If I keep saying something I may start to believe it.

I also wish (not really) that I drank coffee. This seems to be a morning where someone who feels like me would relish the idea of paying 4 bucks to go to Starbucks! I understand the desire. I do not, however, understand the craving. I am not part of the coffee club. I have nothing against caffeine, I am not worried about the cost (yes I am), and I get that there are things that people enjoy to a craving level. But I do not understand that people who have noses can put this hot bitter liquid to their lips and drink. I am sure the drinking part is more desirable than cleaning out the filter but not too much more. I get Sylvia's coffee ready for her at night and set it to start brewing early in the morning. That reminds me...I'll be right back.

Had to prepare it for her and bring it to her in bed. No seriously, ask her. Anyway, where was I. Oh yeah. Cleaning out the filter is just about the worst job in the house. I can imagine the first coffee makers...I think it was the Cappuccine monks...talking about that first pot.

"OK Brother. We have burned the beans from this plant. We crushed them and filtered hot water through them. I have an let's drink the wash water."

"Yes! And now I have a sudden desire to charge copious amounts of money for this."

"Yes, Yes! And what exactly is Half Caff No Whip?"

Seriously though, when I empty the coffee grounds out of our environmentally sound reusable golden filter it lets me experience exactly what it would smell like if a skunk were to spray into a dirty ashtray. Or is it just me? I mean tastes differ so I suppose smells can too. I understand. I would like to announce (so I don't alienate any future sponsors of my million-making blog) that I fully support Fourbucks, I mean Starbucks and appreciate all they do for the economy.

In addition to this rambling about coffee, as my brain begins to clear, I would like to announce that I have another "follower" of the blog! Thanks Craig! It never occurred to me that all I needed to do was mention people by name and they would start to follow. That gives me an idea. I would like to do this systematically though. So Aaron Aaronson, today is your lucky day! So there you go. It may take a while to get to your name but I will try...(I would also like to give a shout out to Bill Gates, Donald Trump, and the entire staff over there at Random House Publishing!)

Monday, May 3, 2010

What am I thinking? I'm wondering what YOU are thinking!

I have been told that I have a face for radio! I am pretty sure they meant voice instead of face. But it was a photographer that said it. No I'm sure they meant voice. Yeah, that's what I'm pinning my hopes to. I had officially stopped trying to get people to pay me millions of dollars for writing all of this nonsense...for a while. As I was driving home I realized that I have entirely something else to offer! When the book comes out I will be able to read it into the books on tape myself (actually CD - but I wanted to give a hint into my age). So that is something to consider everyone who has millions for me...value added!

Anyway, I have always been terribly shy. All during school I would just dread times when a teacher, an adult, another student, my mirror...would pay attention to me. Also, I was not the most confident reader in the world. I pretty much stuck with Richie Rich comics and Mad Magazines. Not a lot of challenging text there. I did, however, learn how to spell many sound effects! Schlorrrp! For example, is the sound of your foot stepping into a giant mud puddle. My least favorite days in school were the round robin days where everyone read a paragraph or two, OUT LOUD, so the teacher was sure that everyone had at least been exposed to the words in the book. I was exposed all right, I spent a large portion of my time counting first people, then paragraphs, then minutes to see if I would really need to do it today! If yes (DRAT) then I would read my section a few times so I wouldn't turn beet red while reading because I stumbled on a word. It was a great system! Great, that is, until the teacher gave out tests that didn't pertain to my particular paragraph! I didn't realize until much later that no one cared about me, not being mean, they were just equally worried that THEY would make a mistake and get embarrassed. So that pretty much sums up what I experienced in high school.

After I decided to go back to college, and had a few successes under my ever lengthening belt, I was far more mature and far less likely to get embarrassed if I made a mistake. Something else happened too. I got to choose the classes I wanted to take! I decided to take a few creative writing courses (I'll wait for the screams of "Go Back!" and "Get your money back!" to die down)...and the teacher insisted that we become published. To her, publishing meant for other people to read and/or hear your writing. Three things happened. I got more comfortable reading out loud, people wanted me to read their papers to the class (apparently they thought I had a soothing voice), and the other students laughed when I read papers about my life. Talk about an ego boost! Now they couldn't shut me up. In fact, the teacher implored me to keep a journal of all the funny things that happened around my life.

Fast forward many, many years later and I am finally getting around to it. I think my teacher may have had the first idea for a BLOG back before there was anything like this. At this time you could keep a record of your work on only two or three disks that were 5 inches wide and it took only a little over a day to download a large picture. And heaven forbid if you got a phone call in the middle of anything. I suppose this will be my generations equivalent to walking 5 miles in the snow to get to school. "Why when I was a boy, our game system had only two options! Large paddle, small paddle!" You see youngsters, when PONG came out ... Commodore 64... Pacman... Record player... 8 Track?!! Sorry about that, I got stuck in a time warp.

So here I am, keeping a record for my kids that they, hopefully, will laugh at in the distant future. Telling stories of little pieces of what is happening and what was happening in our lives. Also, when it comes down to them wanting to have me committed I will have proof that I have always been like this! Hah! Take that judge!

OK, so I apologize for not starting sooner (or starting at all -depending on your point of view) in keeping track of the things in our lives. I am a bit of a procrastinator. I will write a blog about it someday...when I get around to it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sylvia gone for an hour, and I have a date!

It happens every time Sylvia goes away. My brain turns to mush, I forget to feed the children, I wander aimlessly through the streets mumbling to my shoes. Well that seems to be the perception among "The Omas" according to their sudden, and frequent, appearances.

"The Omas" are my mom and Sylvia's mom (Oma is German for Grandma) and they are always willing to help out, especially when they sense their darlings are in danger. The most common danger these days is when Sylvia goes to a friend's house for a night. Typically, as I am gathering ideas from the kids about dinner we are visited by one, then the other, then the two of them together. "Just to check in." They do come over when Sylvia is here, but they pay a little extra attention when she is gone. I started to feel that they didn't think I could handle things alone.

It always seemed that they were particularly worried about the children, but yesterday they proved that they have been worried about me the whole time! The school district lets me watch 27 kids at a time, you'd think I could watch two who share my DNA. You see, this weekend Jake was gone helping younger scouts earn their beginning badges and Kristiana went to a birthday party out of town with Sylvia. I was all alone and planning to sit in front of a pizza, whose toppings were not negotiated, and watch several things blow up on TV. This plan was altered when I got calls of concern from Sylvia's mom. It came to her that I was alone and didn't have anything in the house to eat so she would take me out to dinner. Ok, so it was Sylvia's mom that was driving the worry van all along. Or so I thought...My dad and mom called a short time later to see...if I wanted to go to dinner...of course.

I don't know how I got the reputation of being helpless. I have been dressing myself for years...two to be exact. I am almost completely potty trained. And if needed, I can find my way home again from the store that is over Half a block away! I mean I have skills! Furthermore, it is an exceptionally rare occurrence for me to miss a meal! Sylvia works so hard that at dinnertime she will say, "Ooops. I forgot to eat today." Tee hee. (twitter added by me for effect). I am aligned closer to the comedian who said, "I could be bleeding out my eyes and I wouldn't forget to eat." In that regard I have mad skills.

So instead of sitting alone and eating a pizza for dinner, breakfast, and lunch...I went out with Sylvia's mom to a new Italian Bistro here in town. Good food and we had a good time, but we didn't get to see anything blow up.

To recap the weekend. Nobody was injured and I certainly didn't starve to death. I managed to make it to Sunday evening alive. I picked up Jake from scouts on time and he has all of his fingers and toes...and they are clean (now). There is a path of clean leading from the garage to the house so Sylvia and Kristiana can come in easily. I would say that I managed things pretty darn well.

Now if someone would kindly Google Web MD to see how I could remove a corkscrew from my eye I would appreciate it...I tried making cold cereal this morning and things went horribly wrong.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hello. Nice to meet you. I'm your husband.

My wife is a nine...I am a ten! I am not talking looks (I lose that comparison hands down) I am talking personality. Not that I have more personality than her...I...uh...oh bother (yup, huge Winnie the Pooh fan) I just mean... Let me start at the beginning...and remember to have Sylvia read this while she is away at her friend's house this weekend. She likes to punch me in the arm when I have done something like this.

When Sylvia and I were searching for a church to attend, 10 years ago, we happened upon a few that didn't seem to fit. Then we were invited to come to a church by friends of ours. We went a few times and they seemed to be just what we were looking for. One thing they did was an all family retreat up to the Santa Cruz mountains. The next time the retreat rolled around I summoned up all of my courage (you'll see in a minute) and went.

It was a great time of food, worship, food, hiking, and food. Oh yeah, there was also a husband and wife team of speakers who gave four lectures throughout the weekend. All of their lectures were based on the Myers Briggs personality test, and one in particular, was very important to us. The Myers Briggs test is designed to find out how you tend to react in certain situations and where you would be the most comfortable. The first area dealt with whether we were extroverted or introverted. Simple right? Here is where it gets interesting.

On this questionaire there were 10 questions. Questions like, would you rather, "go to a party or read a book?" Or choose, "I feel energized after a party." or "I feel tired after a party." Something like that. You get the idea. Well, as we were going over the answers as a group Sylvia kept peeking over at my paper to see if we matched. Each time her eyebrows grew a little closer together as her confusion met consternation. At the end of the test, the speakers told us how to score our individual results. Each question, of course, deals with being an introvert or an extrovert and this is when I found out that Sylvia has scored 9 out of 10 on the extrovert side. I, no surprise to me, scored a perfect 10 deep inside the stronghold that is, introversion. It's a nice place, my stronghold, it has wall to wall carpeting and is fully stocked with Dr Pepper, back issues of Mad Magazine, and every movie ever made by the original cast of Saturday night Live.

Now those of you who know me are probably saying something like, "Introvert? Yeah right!" Let me just say, that being introverted doesn't mean that you never talk to people, comb your hair over half of your sullen face, and paint primarily using shades of blue. It does mean that you are more comfortable around people you know well rather than people you are not familiar with. At least it does for me. It just isn't my natural tendency to seek big crowds of people. Sylvia was shocked! I have no idea why! It took me seven years of waving 'hello' through the window of the nursery she worked in to get the courage to talk to her. On the other hand, once I get to know someone, it is typically easier to get a pitbull to let go of a frisbee than to get me to shut up. Especially if you happen to laugh at my jokes! I guess I thought she knew. I knew Sylvia was an extrovert on our first date. It was wonderful, and I knew that she could be someone who would keep me from living in a cave, by myself, eating large Togo's roast beef sandwiches (you thought I was going to say fruits and berries didn't you!? - not gonna happen).

So from then on we have added a new level of knowledge about each other. I understand that when she is talking about a decision to be made, out loud, with me within means that she is thinking, out loud, and others happen to be in the room. As long as I remember that she may not be asking for my help and may be thinking out loud, we avoid confusion.

I have it easy though. She has to figure out why I am sitting and staring into space while I have quiet down time...and worry about the neighbors describing me to the media as a "quiet neighbor."