Category Archives: Kids

Family Game Night

One of the things I’m already enjoying about being “temporarily out of work” or “between jobs” or “finding myself” or some other such shit is the sense of peace and calm that has come over me.  A scant six hours after leaving my former job for the last time I endeavored to use this newfound tranquility of soul to my advantage.  Since I didn’t have to worry about answering a work phone, checking email, or trying to accomplish things that I’ll have time for tomorrow I thought a fun family game night would be in order.

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The Commodore (Cornelius Vanderbilt) would be proud. I think Lionel Ritchie would be too

I may have mentioned on these pages once or twice that my children have inherited from me some rather desirable traits such as a quick wit, stellar vocabulary, and devastating good looks.  OK, two out of three ain’t bad.  Armed with these gifts we sat down – Mommy, Daddy, and the two kids – to play a family favorite.  It’s called Ticket to Ride.  The board features a map of the US circa 1850 and lots and lots of “routes” between pinpointed cities.  Along these routes players build railroads by collecting and then distributing cards.  The player who successfully builds the railroads on his route cards typically wins the game except that there are bonuses.  For instance, a player receives a bonus for having the longest continuous railroad.  Why, you might ask, would anyone invent such a riveting game about antebellum transportation?  Clearly Parker Brothers had beaten them to the punch on their original concept – a board game about the triangle slave trade for players 8 and up.

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Can you believe people once traveled by tiny plastic?

About ten minutes into the game I had amassed a handful of cards with different routes on them.  My prospects looked good at completing a transcontinental takeover.  “I’m going to drive the golden spike!” I thought as I approached Salt Lake.  How fantastic…  My wife even encouraged me to use a little known maneuver and collect even MORE route cards.  “Listen,” she said, “You’ve already laid a lot of track down.  It’s very likely you already have completed routes that you could claim.”  Seemed like a good idea.

My son, meanwhile, was studying the map like a champ.  “Daddy,” he said, “I thought you said there was NOTHING in Kansas City.  Why would a railroad go through there?”  Perceptive, that boy.*

Looking across at my wife, my brow furrowed as I saw her suddenly begin to claim route after route in a rapid succession of turns.

“Daddy,” asked my daughter, “I’ve never seen that much white around your eyes!”

“Sorry, sweetheart,” I said.  “Daddy’s just been screwed over by Cornelius Vanderbilt,” I said as I pointed toward my wife.  None of them got the reference.

“Captain of industry?  New York Central Rail…, you know what?  Never mind.”

I looked at my cards.  There was still hope.  Not only did I have a few moves left to complete all of my routes but I remembered that this was only a game.  A game with tiny trains.  On a board.

On her next turn, as I was relishing the sweet taste of accomplishment at the thought of finally connecting Nashville to St. Louis, my daughter metaphorically punched me in the gut.  Placing two cards down she reached across the board and neatly positioned two locomotives between those cities.  Hey, she didn’t know.  She was just doing what made sense for her hand.

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She took my route!

“WHAT!?” I blurted out.  “Uh, um, you sure you want to do that?  I mean nobody goes to St. Louis anymore!”  “But Daddy, they’ve got that pretty arch and anyway it’s my only move left and then the game is over.”

My wife, realizing what had happened, stepped in and tried to persuade our little girl to make a different move.

Nothing doing.

I had to think fast.

“Sweetie, did you watch the news earlier this week?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“Well, it was very sad…”  I proceeded to tell her about the history of train derailments, demonstrating with her Nashville line by toppling her plastic engines off the board.

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Daddy just “derailed” your dreams, sweetheart.  Consider it practice for life.

Unfortunately, she continued the story by insisting that a crane had come in to re-position the trains.  Where did she get that from?  It’s like the time I played Battleship with my son and he figured out I had been moving my battleship.  “What, son?” I asked.  “My ship was under attack.  I would have been derelict as caption not to move her.”

And with that it was game over.

Next time we’re playing Trivial Pursuit.

 

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Riff

I’ve been wanting to write again for some time but couldn’t find the energy to get started.  It’s not that I couldn’t find the motivation, mind you.  Every day, countless things come into my life to inspire, challenge, and humor me.  I figured they might have a similar impact on you, too, my faithful readers.

So I went with the old tried and true Daily Post and its writing prompt.  Tonight it is the simple word “riff”.  Here goes…

First I want to ask your prayers for someone who is dying.  It could be anyone.  In my mind he is a very real young man with a family and he will open his eyes into eternal life very soon.  I’ve been thinking of my own mortality lately.  I’ve always been rather fatalistic.  Starting in childhood with the death of my twin sister at the age of 4.  In the past two years I’ve lost my oldest brother and my father.  I think about these pages and the banal things I’ve committed to cyber paper and I hope that my beloved son and daughter will be able to patch together a glimpse of their old man when I’m gone.  My wife already knows me well so I hope she’ll be able to smile when she reads my posts again and remembers the craziness that was our life together.  I love them so much and I’m glad God gave me a brief moment in this life to spend with them.  Pray.

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Pretty sure the car should be up there, not the driver.

Second I wanted to give thanks.  Every day there are numerous things for which we can thank God if we only look around us.  Last Thursday night my 13 year-old Honda died in the parking lot of a Walmart while I tried to start it after a brief shopping excursion.  I could have cursed life for the horror of being stranded in a Walmart parking lot.  Instead here’s what happened.  I called a friend of mine.  “Hey, my car died…” I said before being cut off.  “Where you at?  I’ll be right there,” he said with enthusiasm.  THAT’s a friend.  He gave up his evening to come pick me up, drive my wife to a meeting, take me and my kids to his house so he and I could work out together (motivating me to push harder in the process), lent me his clothes after I used his shower, and drove us home.  I may have looked silly in his duds but I was clean and dry and happy.  Two days later my mother-in-law’s neighbor – who’s legal name is actually Bubba – gleefully accompanied me to the parking lot, changed out the battery with me and then drove with me to an auto parts store to buy a new starter.  Imagine.  The battery and the starter both died together.  How serene.  If only it wasn’t in a Walmart parking lot.  The first friend’s wife (he was already out of town celebrating his brother’s 40th birthday) came with me to wait for the tow truck.  She has AAA and I don’t.  I told you.  I have a Honda.  The tow operator didn’t have a clue what he was doing.  He was in training so it took a painfully long time.  Within an hour of getting towed back to my mother-in-law’s house, Bubba called me to tell me he had worked on it, changed the starter, and it was fixed.  Wow.

Finally, I want to celebrate life.  I’m turning 40 myself pretty soon.  As my brother-in-law, a trauma nurse, once told me “Today’s a good day.  I got out of bed unassisted, didn’t need any help getting dressed.  I ate breakfast not through a tube…”  You get the point.  I haven’t even reached the age my dad was when I was born yet I feel like I’m getting old.  My best friend just turned 40 last week.  He’s an amazing guy.  I always tease him by asking him to give me the “22 day rundown of what it’s like being a year older”.  Truth is he could run circles around me in every way.  But I want to mark this milestone as another year God has given me to serve him, another year with my wife and kids, another year to write.  I think 40 will be fun.  Even if it’s not; it’s just a number.  I’m still going to live regardless of what my birth certificate says.  How’s that for irony.  One of these days I’ll be able to do something spectacular like travel the world or have someone throw me a huge party like all my friends have done.  I should mention here that another good friend did throw me a party recently.  True, he knows I abhor surprise parties.  I just can’t get past the deception that goes into planning them.  A lie’s a lie even if it’s for a good cause.  And I often think that someone would only do something nice like that for me out of pity but I’m still glad he did and I enjoyed myself.  Even if I did enjoy the steak he cooked a “second time”…  But even without those things life is beautiful because it simply is and it deserves to be celebrated.  And that man who’s dying?  His life is beautiful at this very moment because he is one step closer to God.

I suppose I went on a bit of a riff there…  Oh well.

True Love

This afternoon I had occasion to drive a few blocks away to pick up my daughter from a friend’s birthday party.  I didn’t feel like going because a cold front had moved in and it was windy and it’s Friday and I’m tired.

I got to the house and knocked on the door.  I’ve done this before.  It usually goes down like this.  A frazzled mom answers the door, half-crazed from running after a house full of little kids all afternoon entertaining them with crafts and games.  She might have frosting from a cake she slaved over smeared on her shirt.  She invites me in to “wait while I get her” before disappearing somewhere into the frenzy.  I wait around twiddling my thumbs for five to ten minutes until my daughter appears and tells me she’s just been having so much fun she NEEDS another five minutes.  I give in and wait around a while longer.  The whole process take an hour or so until I’m back at home watching the news.

Today was different.

The mom answered the door right away with a very little girl in tow.  The young lady couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3.  Her mom had no cake smear and did not appear the least bit stressed.  “I’ll get her for you,” she said as she calmly walked toward the kitchen with a smile.

Before I had time to wonder if I had stepped onto the set of Stepford Wives the little girl who had been following her ran toward me with open arms and the biggest smile.  Her head was slightly cocked and tilted a bit downward yet she was looking right into my eyes.  She ran toward me so fast I didn’t have time to think. about what was happening.  She threw her arms around my legs and said “Hi!” as she gave me the warmest hug.  And she almost didn’t let go.

I knew right away that something was different, indeed something was special.  This little girl has Downs Syndrome.  I don’t know why that should occur to me or even enter into what I’m describing except that I was immediate aware of how much the problems of my own world don’t matter and how much love, true love, this angel was showing to me at this moment.

In an instant my heart stopped as I was caught up in the moment.  She was so immensely filled with joy and happiness and it was all because I was there.  I can’t recall anyone ever greeting me like this before.  She took my hand and made me stoop down to the piano bench sitting next to us.  She motioned toward the bench.

“Do you want to play for me?” I asked  “Yeah!” she said and she scampered onto the bench.  She played so beautifully for someone who can’t play.  I know because I play; so I offered to play for her.  I stood behind her stooped over the bench so I could touch the keys, my arms encircling her.  She put her head back on me and looked up as I played.  She didn’t touch the keys, just listened lovingly as though I was playing the most beautiful piece ever written.

And she loved it.

And she loved me.

And I love her.

My daughter came around the corner and I had to say goodbye to my new friend.  She smiled and waved and gave me another hug.

God is so good to give me just a moment of His love and that family is so blessed to have such a treasure.

May you also be blessed to experience His love.

A Debt of Gratitude

Miss me? Don’t answer that. Instead, say a prayer or two for me. I could use them right now. But enough about me…

A few weeks back a friend of mine was going out of town for a week. He posed a request to me. 

“Could you pet sit for us?”

I didn’t even honestly know he had a pet.

He doesn’t.

His little girl has a bunny rabbit. My motto is, if it doesn’t jump into your lap showing the affection of a hyper caffeinated child, it ain’t a pet. Also, if the slightest noise can cause it to have a heart attack and die, you might want to consider a dog. 

But we had a bunny when I was a kid. OK, we had about ten bunnies over the years. After Mom accidentally cooked Thumper I would have thought we’d learned our lesson. More on that later. 

Lepus: Latin for messed up.

Maybe it was the way he asked. He seemed genuinely embarrassed. He’s a pretty manly guy – the kind who exudes confidence that he could take on anybody in a brawl he’s that well built. To observe  this jacked dude lower his head and almost whisper the question “Think you could, um, take care of my daughter’s rabbit while we’re gone?” was quite comical. If it were up to him and he had zero regard for his little girl’s blatant admiration of her old man I think he’d let the critter starve. 

But I have a little girl too. More to the point I have a friend and here he was asking me a favor. 

Of course I said yes. And I meant it. The fact that I’m only writing about it now indicates how it truly was nothing to me because I was just helping a friend and fellow dad. 

And Fluffy and I had some good times. For a week straight I’d drive over, let myself in, watch some Cinemax, toss some hay at the rabbit, drink their wine, and leave. After five days I realized they don’t have cable and don’t drink. Once we got that straightened out I stated going next door where I encountered an emmaciated bunny. Also Cinemax has some weird titles. Fluffy and I frolicked together in the yard. I read him a few bedtime stories. Wilt Chamberlain: My Story seems to be a favorite. Every night without fail as I was putting the book down Fluffy would roll his eyes and say “Eh, I’ve got better numbers” before crawling into my lap and saying “I love you Daddy! and drifting off to sleep in my arms. 

Tonight I stopped by my friend’s house for a few minutes. It’s nice to catch up. We live a few minutes apart but see each other very sporadically. As I was on my way out the door he handed me a paper bag. “Just a little thank you for taking care of the furry little guy.” How did my brother Paul enter into this?

It was a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, and a big one at that! It was totally unnecessary but I accepted with great delight. He then added the compliment that he could tell I’ve been working out. Before you get all “that’s weird” on me, know that this man has borne the brunt of my insane desire to get in as good shape as he is for years. That compliment was very much appreciated. 

So, children, learn this lesson. When a friend asks a favor always say yes. Who knows? There might just be gin in it. And if you’re lucky you might just have a good friend who knows you like gin (and who understands how insecure you are about your body compared to his). 

Raising an Exchange Son

My little bundle of alegría is getting bigger every day.

Nearly two weeks into his stay in our life forever, Sylvester – that’s my foreign exchange son – is already holding his head up on his own, walking erect, and babbling.  He might be expressing high level thoughts in a language not my own.  Who can say?

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One day we will teach you all about where you came from, son.

It dawned on me while I was brushing my teeth tonight that I should have asked him to call me “Big Daddy” as I called my father before me.  That would have been nice.  I suppose there’s still time; though he is growing like a weed.  He’s already over 5 feet tall, the little gremlin.  Someone got fed after midnight…

I’m already planning next year’s “Gotcha’ Day” festivities.  My wife says we may have to move them up to sometime in the next week.  “He has to go home,” she says.

“Honey,” I replied, “this is his home – his forever home.”

She mumbled something about delusions and international law.  I reminded her about our “passports and .45’s” discussion of the other day.  Ooh!  And my son, the biological one, picked up a nifty fu manchu-style fake mustache the other day!  I’ll bet one of us could use that at some point.

Our neighbors next door host a family get-together every weekend.  We sometimes walk out onto our porch late on Saturday night just to hear the authentic music and smell the grilling of fish.  Our neighbor on the other side calls it their “la familia parties”.  He says it with the thickest Texas accent and it sounds quaint.  We don’t mind because it’s all family and I think it’s neat to see how they celebrate that.  I’m from a big family too and we like to party.  What an unusual world we’ve brought you to, Sylvester.

Last Sunday my wife asked him how he could possibly sleep with the mostly mariachi-sounding music in the driveway outside his bedroom at 3AM.  “It’s OK,” he said.  “Maybe they are Mech-ican?”

Indeed, son.  He’s already learning so much about culture.

Took the lad to the batting cages yesterday.  He’s never swung a bat before but he did the old man proud.  Once he got into the swing of it (no pun intended; and note to self: begin working in more Dad jokes) he really knocked it out of the park.  Also note to self: stop using baseball metaphors when talking about baseball.  After a fastball came screaming down the line from the pitching machine, my little Spaniard knocked that mother back to the black hole it came from.  “Yay Sylvester!  White Daddy is so proud!”

Maybe I’ll get him a gun rack for his next birthday.

I Hesitate to Tell You that My Life is Bizarre

Being a writer is tough.  I know.  I asked one once.

Sometimes your mind spins in a million directions throughout the day as you take in one seemingly improbably event after another.  You think to yourself: “Damn, this is gonna’ make a great blog post when I sit down to write it!”

But hours later when you sit down to write it you hesitate.

You’re not sure if you can’t prioritize or perhaps you’re thinking back and realizing it only seemed funny to you.  Sure, that cat who was minding its business on the couch in the waiting room of your doctor’s office should not have been slapped by that child who should not have been there and is probably a satanist.  Wait a minute, that actually is funny.  You think back again.  Perhaps you hesitate because you can’t remember and you start to feel like Julianne Moore in Still Alice.  If you haven’t seen it, don’t worry.  Spoiler alert: she battles Alzheimers Disease throughout the flick.

Tonight I hesitate for one reason.  I don’t know that you’ll believe the things I’m about to share.  But hesitation is only good for a moment then it becomes angry and spiteful not unlike Christina Aguilera.  Oh well, here goes…

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I cut the cord!

Our microwave broke right before Thanksgiving.  It was three weeks outside of the warranty.  Lowe’s wouldn’t touch it.  An appliance reply lady said it would be cheaper to buy a new one.  We’ve been using a borrowed microwave from my wife’s aunt.  The woman actually has at least two of everything you could ever need in her house.  She lives alone and does not know how to use most of her things.  I contacted General Electric where I received some of the best customer care I’ve had in a long time.  A service rep informed me that they would essentially pay us for the full cost of that microwave.  All I had to do was peel a sticker off the inside.  Oh, and I had to provide proof of purchase.  Done and done.  Oh, and I had to cut the cord off the microwave and send a picture of it.  Rachel at GE did not explain this one to me very well, nor even exactly what kind of picture she wanted.  I experimented before settling on the picture you see here.  On closer review, perhaps I was not supposed to pose with the cord?  Why bring this up now?  Well, after emailing the pictures to GE I got another reply from them that they had not received the pictures.  Turns out the email was still in my drafts folder.  No, I did not take new pictures.  Yes, the check is on its way.  Go GE!  You bring good things to life.

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Limey, you’re a terrible friend.

I had friends over this past Saturday and decided to get creative with my bar.  Say hello to Mr. Limey.  He’s British, naturally.  I thought the evening went beautifully until my wife informed me after our guests had gone home that I was a little drunk.  Limey was supposed to see to it that I kept it classy.  Bastard.  He hate me because I’m also Irish.  The next day my wife changed her words a bit to say that I wasn’t “drunk just talkative”.  I’m not sure which is worse.  My apologies to my guests that night.  I thought we had a good time.

My workout is going very well (I think).  I’m on week 3 of BodyBeast.  This is the first phase and it’s called “Build”.  The next six weeks after this are called “Bulk”.  Then the final three weeks are called “Beast”.  I don’t like to brag – because there’s precious little I can honestly brag about – but somehow I was blessed with calves the size of Howitzers.  Think I can skip leg day and continue to work on my pathetic chest?  I think that’s a distinct plan.  Seriously, though, calves?  I only know one person who says “Man I wish I had calves like yours” and he’s a trainer.  I’m also never sure when he’s pulling my leg.  No one walks around saying “Gotta’ get huge calves!”

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Thanks, God.  Couldn’t have made this my biceps?

Finally, it is Ash Wednesday.  Or at least it was until an hour and five minutes ago.  At midnight on the dot, this Daddy went straight to the fridge.  As a Catholic, Ash Wednesday is one of our two fasting days.  I’ve gone days in my life where I’ve eaten less.  But when someone tells you that you can’t eat; that’s when you want food.  Also, I’ve been up around 3000 calories a day on this BodyBeast diet.  To drop down to almost nothing really was painful.  Thank God a day is just a day.

And thank you for reading this far.  I’m off to bed.  I’m sure there are many more bizarre events to happen for me tomorrow.  Don’t hesitate to share this post with others.

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Dental Sprite Skeptic

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This girl’s going to be the death of me.  I haven’t pondered what “drastic measures” means but I’ll get there.