Monday, December 2, 2013

Family traditions

We decided to start a new tradition this year by cutting down our own tree for Christmas.  On a rather warm November day, we took the family truckster out into the country and found the tree farm we were looking for.
 
A short hay ride later, we were standing in the middle of a bunch of trees.  The girls picked out the one they wanted and, unlike the Griswold's, we had a saw to cut it down.  After hauling it back to "check out", we had it shaken, wrapped up, and tied to the top of the truckster.
Since we didn't have a root ball to contend with, we didn't look quite like this.
The tree is actually larger than it appears.
 Now, to get it in the house.
Getting there...it's still larger than it appears.
 Moving right along.  It was time to release it from it's bind.
 
If you're a Pirates fan, you'll get the reference.
Much better.  It still looks a little naked, but there stands our nine foot tree.


Ahh, that's more like it. 
Four beautiful, smiling ladies had a great time trimming the tree with Papa.
Fake tree upstairs, real tree downstairs.  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
No windows were busted out, no squirrels were in the tree, and all the lights worked. 
 






Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Odds and ends

Little Miss Ruby has officially started jabbering away.  Now, with four ladies in the house talking, I'm not sure when I'll be able to get a word in.  With that in mind, I thought I'd share some of the more interesting things heard around my house this week.

After telling Brynne to lay down, stop talking, and go to sleep, she replied - "Yes sir.  Papa, why are boys called Sir and girls are called Ma'am?"  That was a heck of a question, especially at 9 PM after a long day.  The best I could do was to tell her I'd find out and let her know in the morning...which I forgot to do, so I'm sure she'll follow up shortly.

When I got home from work, Hadley informed me "I'm so glad your home from work.  And I'm glad to have a best friend named you."

One day a few weeks ago, Hadley had to go to the doctor for a follow up appointment.  I took her and Brynne, then went to the office with them in tow.   Before bed that night, Hadley told me "it was a grand day" while Brynne said "today was an extra special day.  Thank you for taking me to work with you.  Can we go again tomorrow?"
Two worker bees, hard at work.
Every night before bed they ask me to tell them a secret, and every morning when I get them up, they repeat the secret back to me.

Mama set Ruby down in the dining room the other night as she had to go run an errand.  The girls and I were playing in the same room when Hadley suddenly yelled "RUBY IS DOING BIG ADVENTURES!"  Sure enough, Ruby was coming to us to play, by army crawling under the table.  You can read all about BIG ADVENTURES here and here.  The most common one is still to crawl under the chairs in the dining room. 

Following a long day with a short nap, Hadley was beside herself and not wanting to go to bed.  Tears were flowing.  Screaming and crying could be heard miles away.  When I asked her what was wrong she told me "I didn't get to hold you enough today."  That might have gotten her five minutes of snuggle time.

Ruby, with a large bite of pumpkin, applesauce, and cinnamon in her mouth, told me "BUH", and then I was wearing pumpkin, applesauce, and cinnamon.
When I get smile like this, I don't mind wearing dinner.
Random quotes:
Papa, you're a sweaty mess.
Papa, when you come in the house, you have to put your shirt on.
Papa, we don't wear shoes in the house.
I think she formissed us.  (Combination of forgot and missed).
Can we help you pick up walmuts? (walnuts).
Papa, here's a stick.  We HAVE to take it to the burn pile.
"Papa, we were being silly"

Friday, September 20, 2013

Over protective?

Mama had to run some errands, so Papa got to hang out with his three little ladies.  Being the multi-tasker that I am, I decided to go ahead and make dinner at the same time.  I fired up the grill and had just put the pork burgers on when the dogs started barking incessantly.  I checked on the girls and found the twins entertaining Ruby, so I went around the house to see what was going on. 

We had a raccoon in the yard a few months ago, which, according to Brynne, I broke...with a pellet gun.  I had to make sure we didn't have anything else potentially dangerous.  I got to where the dogs were and scanned the yard.  Nothing.
Ralphie and I both use pellet guns to "break" things.
I turned to head back to the grill and something caught my eye.  It appeared to be a bird that had fallen out a tree.  I started walking towards it, and so did the dogs.  The "bird" then struck out at the dogs, and was batted back with an incredibly quick paw.

So much for the bird.  It was a four and a half foot rat snake, coiled up and not looking pleased.

I put the dogs in their pen, trotted over to the barn to retrieve a shovel, and came back to find the snake right where I left it.  Five seconds later there were two snakes.  One was about three inches long and the other was four and a quarter feet long.

Both were still moving, but since the smaller snake had once been the larger snakes head, neither were harmful any longer.  I scooped them up and went back to the grill. 
To answer the question everyone is thinking, no, our entrée did not change.
After flipping the burgers, I brought the girls outside to see the snake.  Immediately, and not at all surprising, they tried to touch it, which I discouraged.  The body was still trying to slither away, though it was wrapped up in a rake and couldn't go anywhere.  It had left the head to fend for itself on the shovel.  The snake's mouth would open wide, then close slowly, only to reopen again.  Hadley thought it was funny that
"The snake is trying to eat Mama's shovel!" 
After watching it for a few minutes, we went inside to finish supper preparations. 

Mama came home and walked to the front door.  The girls and I were just inside, awaiting her return for two reasons.  First, so we could eat dinner.  Second, to see how she would react to the snake.  To say that Mama was not a fan of snakes would be an understatement.  We wondered if she would scream.  We had actually discussed that very question and were eager to find the answer.

To her credit, she never screamed.  As she walked up the front walk she looked to her left, did a double take, then shot up the stairs to the front door.  There was a barely audible "hey...hey...there's a...hey", followed by Mama nearly putting her fist through the glass door several times.

I opened the door smiling and asked what was wrong.  She pointed toward the snake, and finally was able to utter the word "snake".

I really hope this is the sign for snake crossing and not an indicator of the curve of the road ahead.
Once I pointed out it had no head, and she got over the fact that it was still wriggling around, she calmed down.  Not really, she brought it down a tiny bit, but was still keyed up.

At dinner, the girls repeatedly asked:
"Mama, why did you bang on the door?  It was just a snake."  
When we were done eating, we were going to head over to the neighbor's house to visit.  As we got our shoes on, Brynne calmly stated:
"Mama, you can walk next to me and I'll hold your hand so you won't be startled if we see another snake."
So what do you think?  Is my Brynne over protective of her Mama?  Does this make her a helicopter child?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Well, that scared the $#!t out of me

It all started around bedtime.  I was getting the girls ready for bed and noticed the only clean pajamas they had were winter ones.  Instead of dressing them up in shorts and their regular shirts, I decided to just let them wear one of my old t-shirts as a nightgown.

Did I mention they were old t-shirts?
After putting them down, I headed out to my baseball game.  I got back home around 11:30 and, as it usually happens, I was unable to go right to sleep.  I tossed and turned for quite some time, hearing every click of the house, but not really paying much attention to them.

At some point, Mama sat up and asked me if I heard that noise.  I listened, but as I had already been wide awake and hadn't heard anything, I dismissed it.

I saw the clock turn to 2 AM, and then drifted off shortly thereafter.

SUDDENLY, Mama sat up, inhaling sharply and loudly.

This brought me out of my new found sleep and wide awake with the adrenaline pumping.  I could see the direction she was looking as her eyes were cartoonish in their size, and reflecting the tiny bit of light coming from the nightlight in the bathroom.  There should have been more light, was my first thought.  The nightlight is pretty bright, and serves to light not only the bathroom, but the hallway as well.

As I turned my head to look where she was staring, I discovered why the light was dim.
This is eerily similar to what I saw.

There, hovering in the door, was a creature of some sort.  It had no feet, and was clutching what appeared to be the remains of two dead animals.  I couldn't make out a face, and I wasn't sure I wanted to.  The hovering led me to believe we had ourselves a ghost.  Perhaps it was the little girl who allegedly fell into a cistern and died somewhere on the property. Perhaps there were other stories I didn't know of.  Perhaps it didn't matter what it had once been, it only mattered what it was now and what it wanted.

My senses were heightened.  Muscles firing, waiting for the instructions on what to do next.  Pupils dilating, trying to see as much as possible in the dim room.  Sweat glands in overdrive, creating a slick surface on my body so nothing could grab hold of me.  Brain processing every possible move I could make to keep my family safe, or to distract the creature so they could all get to freedom.  Nose flaring in an attempt to pick up some clue from smell as to a weakness I could exploit.  Ears so tuned in I could hear the slightest breeze blowing through the corn in the garden.  Fight or flight was not an option, only fight.

The ghost said nothing.  It did nothing.  It had no smell.  I couldn't make out any more details of it.  It made not a sound.  The seconds turned into what felt like hours as we each waited for the other to make the first move. 

Then it began to moan.
"Mama startled me!"

was all it could state before it started crying and gliding toward me, Frankenstein style with arms outstretched, dead animals hanging limply from each hand.  It was obviously coming to claw my throat.

Just before I started chanting and trying to exorcise the evil spirit in the name of Jesus Christ, my brain changed paths, and took my body from red alert to no alert.  Somehow, while my brain was analyzing all possible scenarios, a part of it made a connection - the ghost was actually just Brynne.

Let's take another look at that picture of the girls before bed, but with a bit of editing.

With the minimal amount of light, the grey shirt was accented, while her feet were shaded.  Her hair in the picture appears to be cropped, but it was just tucked in.  When free to fall wherever it may, it covers about 2/3 of her torso, which blocked her face from sight.  The "dead animals" were actually Eeyore and a giraffe, which she has in bed with her.

After a quick conversation with Brynne, she went back to bed.  I then changed our sheets and my undies and laid back down.  Sleep would not come to meet me for another few hours, as my friend  adrenaline had to leave first.

Friday, May 31, 2013

More travel fun

Yesterday, as I was walking through the Hilton Head Airport, I started wondering if the whole "get there two hours before you leave" rule of thumb still applies at an airport with one runway and only six or seven flights a day.

I asked the only two employees I could find, which I think were the only two working, and they said no.  They informed me all I needed to do was get there half an hour early and I'd be fine.  I confirmed this with a resident of the island and he said that should work fine.

This morning, I rolled into the airport and arrived at the ticketing gate 31 minutes before departure, just to give myself that all important extra minute.

There was another flier standing at the ticketing counter talking to the one visible employee.  He was extremely frustrated when I walked up. 

I informed the lady I was here to check in and she then said they had already closed ticketing.  She further informed me that I, along with this other gentleman, would have to pay the $200 fee to change my flight to the next available one.

The next flight was three hours later, would cause me to miss my connection, and would result in my getting home nine hours later than planned.

This was not acceptable.

I could tell the guy in front of me had already tried the approach of "I'm pissed, so I'm just going to get louder and louder until either you cave or I'm arrested".  It obviously wasn't working.

The better alternative, as I thought, was to go for sympathy.  I told her I'd really like to get on this flight so I could get home and see my wife and three daughters.  I asked if there was anything she could do.

She said she would check with the ticketing agents and see if they would make an exception.

While she was gone, the other guy informed me he was headed to his grandpa's funeral and needed to be on this flight in order to make it in time.  He arrived at the counter 10 minutes before me, and nobody was around.  He waited patiently, and when the lady finally came, she told him he was too late.  He asked the same question I did about someone else helping, and she said no.

Funny how your tone and attitude can change the responses you receive.

10 minutes passed and the lady wasn't coming back.  We were now about 15 minutes from the scheduled departure time.

A few minutes later, another woman came to the counter.  The first lady had asked her to talk to us.  I immediately jumped in, before the other guy could ruin it, and gave her the brief rundown of what I was told and what I was trying to do.  She said she didn't know if we could make it, but she'd try.  I thought this was a bit strange as I could see the plane behind her on the runway, but I was still a bit stressed.

Two minutes later, we both had our boarding passes.  We now had 10 minutes to get through security and onto the plane.

One and a half minutes later, I had cleared security.  15 seconds after that I handed my boarding pass, strangely enough, to the same lady who just printed it for me.  She told me to hurry to the plane and have a nice flight.

I didn't really feel the need to run to the plane, as it was literally 15 feet from her. 

Having one person issue a ticket, and then collect it from you 50 feet away, doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  Especially when there were four people working the luggage and five TSA people doing security.  You'd think one of them would be able to collect tickets, since there's never more than one flight at a time. 

One last factor to support my thinking: the plane had 9 rows of seats, so there should never be much of a bottleneck during any part of the boarding process.

Oh well.  Next time, I'll get there 45 minutes early to be safe.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

All Star Hide and Seekers?

I'm not sure where the girls heard about hide and seek, but they asked me to play the other day, so I obliged. 

They don't yet fully grasp the concept of the game.  This became abundantly clear very early on.

The first time they hid, I found them under the miniature trampoline, giggling raucously.  The second time they hid under the trampoline, again, and I found them giggling raucously, again.  The third time they hid...wait for it...under the trampoline and I found them giggling raucously, yet again.  At this point, I decided to count right next to the trampoline. 
"Hiding" under the trampoline.
As they started to crawl under the trampoline, I told them I could see them and they'd need to find a new spot.  Off they ran, giggling raucously.

I gave them additional time to find a new spot.  No sooner than I yelled "ready or not, here I come", I heard them yelling back, and giggling raucously.  They were yelling "we're behind the couch Papa!".

I found them, as you might suspect, behind the couch. 

They then hid behind the couch, under the trampoline, and behind the couch again.  Yelling at me each time to let me know where they were.

Even when Mama helped them find a new spot, they gave away their positions instantly.  Every time they hid, they hid together, which was pretty cute.

We worked on this a few times, with me helping them hide and Mama doing the seeking.  The last time they hid, I made them go to their own spots.  As Mama started to seek, they each yelled out their positions, and she found them. 

So they've yet to perfect hiding, but I'm glad to say the last time they hid they did take two or three seconds before giving themselves away, so we're making progress!





Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Never think you've seen it all

There comes a time in every man's life when he sees something that totally amazes him.  Unfortunately, that seems to happen to me a lot.  The good news is I get a blog topic.  The bad news is it stays with me.

As of today, after a wonderful experience, I am officially done visiting the Burger King in Brentwood, Missouri.  Every place is going to mess up an order now and again. Charging for cheese and not adding it.  Forgetting to include something with the order.  I can accept that.  But not what happened today.

Once a month or so I run to Trader Joe's during my lunch break to pick up some items we need.  Typically on those runs, I swing into Burger King and get a fish sandwich.  This is about the only time I actually eat fast food, so they won't miss my business that much. 

As I pulled into the parking lot I saw a gentleman working on his car.  He was wrapping up as I walked past.  Had I stopped to talk with him, I probably could've gotten a nice second hand high from the joint he was smoking.

Perhaps the King encourages this after all.
Yep.  Standing in the parking lot next to a very busy road and smoking a joint.  Almost every time I stop in there is a cop in the parking lot, but fortunately for him, not today.  This guy was either full of confidence or lacking in intelligence.  Oh well.

I proceed inside.  At the counter I place my order.  Mr. Mechanic comes inside and then walks behind the counter. 

He heads back to the cooking area.  Next he takes off his jacket, looks up at a screen, and starts making a sandwich.  The sandwich is wrapped and tossed in a bag.  A small order of fries goes on top of the sandwich.  Napkins are thrown in next.  I'm looking for a person with a manager tag to say something to.  Finally I see one.  She grabs the bag and carries it toward the counter.  I'm just getting ready to say something to her as this guy went straight from working on his car to making a sandwich WITHOUT WASHING HIS HANDS!
"Need any general dentistry done while I'm at it?"
Before I can say anything, she says:
"Would you like any ketchup with your order?"

He made MY sandwich.  MY sandwich will be infused with the alluring combination of weed, oil, grease, and fish.

I informed her I would like a different sandwich.  Puzzled, and a bit angry it would seem, she asks why.  I tell her the gentleman who just made MY sandwich came in from working on his car to make said sandwich and never washed his hands. 

She drops the bag in the trash and yells back
"Remake that last fish sandwich order!"
Mr. Mechanic grabs another bun, and reaches for the fish.

I tell THE MANAGER if the same guy makes that sandwich without washing his hands or putting some gloves on at least I'm just going to ask for another one as I don't think that's very sanitary.

Maybe she was just an assistant manager, or something else, but I actually expected her to do something more.

She hollers back at someone with a name I didn't understand and tells him he needs to make the sandwich.  Mr. Whatshisname takes the sandwich out of Mr. Mechanic's hands and goes to put the finishing touches on it.
"Excuse me," I say,  "Ms. Manager, I don't want to be a pain, but I also don't want to eat contaminated food. Can you just have the second guy make a whole new sandwich since the first guy already got that sandwich dirty too?"
"MR. WHATSHISNAME, MAKE ANOOOTHER FISH SANDWICH." was what she said to him without taking her eyes off of me.
 
Clearly, I was in the wrong to ask her for a new sandwich and she made sure I knew (by the tone of her voice, the arms folded across her chest, and the contorted face she made) how horrible of a person I was. 
 
He made it and wrapped it.  She brought it to me, dumped it on the counter (just the sandwich, not even in a bag), and started to walk away.
"What about my fries?"
I half expected her to grab the bag out of the trash, but she didn't.  Instead, she yelled at some other poor employee, Miss Whatshername, to finish my order. 

Miss Whatshername was very nice.  Finished the order, asked if I wanted any ketchup or anything, and apologized for what just happened.  She even offered me a free desert if I wanted it.

As I walked away, I heard the person in line behind me say
"Ummm, the second fish sandwich he made was just put in a bag and it looks like it's going to be served to someone in the drive thru.  Also, the guy that still hasn't washed his hands just made my sandwich too.  I'd like another one."
I wanted to break into a little EMF right then and there.   

For the sake of anyone else who had to deal with her later in the day, I hope the manager lady went out to Mr. Mechanic's car and took a few hits from the joint herself.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Local Toy Store "Saved"

This post is going to rub some people the wrong way, locally at least, but that's okay.  If you're not from around here, this may not mean much, but it might still be educational. 

Let me just start by saying our family does shop at the toy store, and we do love it.  This is not an attack on the owners, or people who donated to the store, or anything like that.  I have no affiliation with the bank (I don't even know which one it is) or the store.  It is just an observation, and perhaps a little education for those who don't have any experience in the business world.  I certainly don't have any inside information on this, I'm just going by what I've read/heard from other people and the owners.  I intentionally waited until the campaign was either successful or time expired on it before posting this so as to not sway anyone away from contributing.  If you made a gift based on your desire to see the store remain open, then that's great, I'm not making any judgments - Mama donated.  If you made a gift because you thought you were helping fight some sort of injustice, I'm sorry I didn't post this earlier for you, but now you know, and...
The first time I read anything about the store having to close its doors was when I read a Facebook post by a friend.  The post (paraphrased) said the big bad bank is forcing this business to close by calling their loan five years before it's due. 

Then I saw a flier posted which said "The bank has called our loan and wants their money now" (I can only assume the use of the word "our" attributes this quote to an owner) and "We all love these stores and find it appalling that a bank is calling their loan 5 years before its up!".

Call me crazy, but I don't think it's appalling.  If I lend my car to a friend for the week, is it appalling that I want (or need) it back after three days?  No.  It's my car, not theirs.  They are just borrowing it.  Even if we have a contract where the friend is paying me to use the car, there are things my friend could do to breach the contract and allow me to legally get my car back, such as failing to pay me.

So let's start here.  Banks do not operate in the "Not For Profit" arena.  They are owned by investors who expect some sort of return on their money, or at the very least the return of their money.  Some are publicly traded while others are privately owned.  Regardless of that, the bank and the Board of Directors have a duty to the investors first and foremost, not to their customers.

As noted by the owner in the above statement, "The bank...wants their money".  Yes, it is their money, and if the risk they are taking is not worth the reward, they have every right to call the loan.  The bank loaned them the money at a point when the risk they were expecting to take was justified by the return on the investment, but things don't always go according to plan.  The bank also could simply have underestimated the risk and made a loan they shouldn't have.  They screwed up, so they're trying to make the best of a bad situation.  Who knows?   
It's capitalism.
Maybe they don't want to call it, but are being forced to.  Bank regulators can put pressure on banks to raise capital and reduce the risk of their portfolios if they believe the bank itself is struggling or could be exposed to more risk than they should be.  This could result from bad loans, a bad economy, or just bad luck.  Whatever the reason, they can't reduce their risk by calling the loan of someone who has made all their payments and is running a financially viable business.   

If a bank looks at the underlying financials of the business it lent money to, and sees only losses and other debts, they may call the loan to force the business to liquidate assets and repay them what they can.  If the business files bankruptcy, the entire debt may be forgiven and the bank loses.  From the bank's perspective, getting 40% of what they are owed is better than nothing.

Again, I don't know if that is the case here or not, but I think it is.  On the fundraising page, this quote is posted right under the update which shows $21,023 has been raised: 
"If $75k is raised, the plan is to use a large chunk of those funds to satisfy the bank.  The remaining funds would be used to pay toy vendors who are eager for their money". 
Obviously, there are many creditors here, not just the bank.

In summary, I think it's great that the community pulled together to save a struggling business they love.  It would appear from the rest of the quote on the fundraising page that the owners are doing what they can to stay afloat and are not the ones who initially started the campaign, and I applaud them for their efforts.  Other local businesses got involved and either did matching gifts or offered to donate a percentage of their profits for the day. 

SIDEBAR - What a great move on their part!  It's a great way to bring in income for their business that they may not have otherwise had and build goodwill in the community, but if someone really wanted to give to the fundraising efforts, it would've been more effective to give 100% directly instead of 10% of profits.  Why?  Simple.  If the company making the 10% of profits gift only operates at a profitability margin of 20%, spending $100 at their business puts $20 in their pocket and of that, $2 goes to the campaign.       

You have to wonder, though, if the business can't get a loan from any other bank, and hasn't been able to raise private equity from any investor, how viable is the business?  And next year are we going to see the Second Annual Save the Toy Store campaign?

Comment as you see fit.  I won't edit or delete anything unless you're inappropriate or vulgar.  Anonymous posts will be deleted, no matter their content, so if you have something to say, make sure you claim it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What a great service

I got a call today from our health insurance carrier, or rather, someone they contract with.  This company offers health coaching.  It is included in my plan so there is no additional cost.

What, you may ask as I did, is the benefit of having a health coach?

The coach can help you with any questions you may have.  It could be living a healthy lifestyle, smoking cessation programs, reducing stress, access to a dietician, tips to improve your total health and reduce your overall medical costs.
Maybe we could get this coach!
You name it and they can do it!

Sounds interesting, and it's free.  The only thing I had to do was confirm the year in which my daughter was born. 

Ruby, that is.  They were offering to coach a newborn to better health.  I should've put her on the phone.

They were so concerned with the health of my family they wanted to get my two month old to stop smoking, eat better, exercise more, and maybe, just maybe, cut down on her medical expenses.

That's interesting.  I'm not exactly sure how they were going to keep her from catching a virus and being admitted to the hospital, but apparently they were willing to try.  They "work with people of all ages". 

HA!
I assume they've called Mama as well, since she blew through her deductible three days into the year giving birth.  Birthing a child, in case you didn't know, is something you can avoid with a healthy lifestyle.  But you'll need a coach to do that.

I'm not a candidate for a health coach currently, even though I am probably the unhealthiest member of my family.  Guess I'll need to come down with an expensive illness if I want to be considered.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The art of negotiation

Brynne is a fantastic negotiator.  When I make an offer, she is quick to counter with her own terms.  In working through the actual negotiation she is concise and clear with what she wants.
I don't make her wear a costume, but I have offered her door #2.
Unfortunately for her, she doesn't understand the basic principle.  Follow along here and see if you can find where she goes wrong.  Brynne in red, me in black.

Please finish your chicken.

I don't want to eat chicken, I just want a cookie.

If you eat two more pieces of chicken, then you can have your cookie.

No.  Three more pieces.  (She also holds up three fingers, just to make sure I see her terms).

You drive a hard bargain, but I agree to your demands.  If you eat three more pieces of chicken you can have a cookie.

Okay. 

She then eats her three bites of chicken and gets a cookie. 

For those of you not seeing what went wrong in her process, I'll shed a little light on the art of the negotiation.  Typically, when negotiating, the goal is to give up less in order to get what you want, or at the very least, get more for the same amount you're offering.

She could've asked for one bite of chicken to result in the receipt of a cookie.  Conversely, she could've asked for two cookies in exchange for two bites of chicken.

For now, I'll let her negotiate this way, but as soon as she starts dealing with a third party I'll step in and give her a lesson or two.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Potty mouth

So I had a very interesting discussion with one of my little ladies last night.  She was walking around, in obvious need of some potty time, but not willing to do it.  Her words are in black, mine are in blue. 

Do you need to poop?

No, I pooped today.

Really?

No, I pooped last night.

Really?

No.

Do you want to try and poop?

No.

What if I tickled you until you pooped, would that be okay?

No.  It would get all over my pants, and we don't poop in our pants.

That is true.

And the carpet.  We don't want to get poop on the carpet.

Also true.

AND THERE ARE BOOKS ON THE CARPET!  THE POOP WOULD GET ALL OVER THE BOOKS!

Point taken, I won't tickle you.

AND RUBY'S TOYS ARE ON THE FLOOR!! WE DON'T WA  Who wants to play Hungry Hungry Hippos?

ME!

Hippos, the ultimate distraction.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Go ahead, fire it up

Our new house has four chimneys, two fireplaces and a wood burning stove.  The stove is the only functional one as the rest are not lined.  Our last house had one fireplace, which we used to use regularly.  I think we stopped using it right around the time the girls were born.

I want to start bringing in wood (which is stacked outside, just waiting) and using the stove to help heat the house (since our electric and gas bills have been astronomical with the cold weather we've been experiencing while the temperatures are in the 20s).  Mama claims it's too dangerous as the girls could easily burn themselves.  Others have advised even if they do burn themselves, it'll only happen once and they'll learn from it.
We don't have this much wood, but we do have enough to last for quite a few fires.
Not sure how I feel about that, but my argument is we can teach them: 

1 - how to build a fire (inside, without smoking everyone out of the house or burning it down)
2 - to respect a fire and the heat it provides
3 - to not touch the stove
4 - to love the aroma of (properly aged) wood burning  
5 - there are other ways of providing things you need in lieu of paying for them

Even when I recommend using it only AFTER they've gone to bed, I get a negative response.  I realize they can't learn much if they're asleep when I build and maintain a fire, but I thought this might get Mama more comfortable with having one.  It didn't, obviously.

We just had it cleaned and inspected, so it is ready to be used. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts whether you think a fire should or should not be allowed.



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

LEAVE ME ALONE!

I get flooded with magazines at the office.  In a given month I get probably 20 magazines, all of which are related to my industry, but only a few of them are close to what I actually do. 

At first, I thought they'd eventually stop sending them to me, so I just recycled them...but they don't.  One particular magazine has had a warning on the front cover telling me "this is the last one I will receive unless I renew now", and it's been there for six months!
I don't get FitPregnancy, but it's the only picture I could find like this.
I get about a call or two a week from their "renewal specialists" informing me all I need to do to renew is to verify some piece of data, so if I just tell them ________ (insert private and possibly confidential information), they'll keep the magazine's coming.  When I'd tell them to cancel my subscription it never got done.
This guy got promoted from door-to-door sales to an office job!
Strangely, I never gave them any information to begin with, so I'm not sure what they are verifying!  They just started sending me magazines and asking for it.

I used to get two or three emails a week asking me to confirm, or giving me their online version of the magazine.  Early on, I started using their unsubscribe feature, which resulted in me getting five to ten emails a week.  I can't remember who I've unsubscribed and which ones are new.

Recently, I've started doing something different.  Here is the transcript of a recent phone call, with their words in red, mine in blue, and funny side notes from me in black:

Hello Mr. Janakis, this is Blah, calling for Blah Blah magazine.  Your free subscription is just about to expire.  In order to continue receiving Blah Blah magazine, we just need you to verify the month you were born.

California. 

It might be childish, but at the same time it's rewarding to hear the long pause, followed by them asking the question again. 

Mr. Jankin, could I have the month you were born?

Oh, sorry, I thought you asked something else.  Broccoli.

Another long pause, followed by

Mr. Jankis, that is not an option.

Oh, sorry, I guess I don't understand the question.  What are my options?

Another long pause.  I can't tell if the guy is frustrated or doesn't get it, but he persists.

We need to verify the month you were born so your magazine service is not interrupted.

Hmmm.  That's a tough one, and I'm not too good with history.  Let me see if I can find the answer to your question and I'll call you back.  Sound like a plan?

Mr. Junkees, all we need to continue your magazine subscription is to verify your month of birth.

I know.  Don't you see what's going on here?  I'm not going to give it to you.  According to the statement you've made at least three times, if I don't give it to you, you can't verify it, and you'll stop sending me a magazine I don't read.  Correct?

Yeah, I guess. 

I know you don't work for the magazine, and are just trying to do a job for a company they've hired, but I've tried to get this magazine stopped at least half a dozen times, so I'm a bit frustrated with the whole process.  Can you stop the subscription or tell me what hoops I have to jump through to do it?

Certainly.  I'll take your name off the list.  Based on the magazine subscriptions you currently have there are several other magazines you may be interested in receiving.  Would you like to hear about them?

Seriously?

Yes.

No.  Can't you just tell me to have a nice day and hang up?

No.

Well that's rude.  I hope you have a nice day and better luck with your next call.

No, er, I mean, uh, have a nice day.  I can't hang up on you.

Seriously?

Yeah, we're not allowed.

What do you think is worse, hanging up on me or telling me your company forbids you from hanging up on me?

I don't know.

Well, let's see if we can get a rule changed.

What?  Hello?  Hello?  Hello?

I was prepared to fight this corporate bureaucracy (that's a lot of vowels for one word) for as long as it took to change a rule.  Exactly five minutes is all I had to fight.

So now I don't know if he lied about not being able to hang up on me, is a rebel and did it anyway, found a clause in the employee handbook which allowed him to hang up, or if his boss made one of those tough decisions only good leaders can make.

Guess I'll find out next month when he calls back.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hello there, DCFS

Children say the strangest things.  Sometimes they just conjugate poorly and sometimes they simply just use the wrong words. 
I think this says it all.
Mama took Hadley to the pediatrician a few weeks ago as she was struggling through a nasty cough and fever.  The night before, she had been coughing so hard I had to take her to the guest bedroom, prop her up on some pillows so she could breathe easier, and lie there with her so she wouldn't wake up in a strange room and be totally freaked out.

SIDEBAR:  If you've ever slept next to a toddler, you know you don't actually sleep.  When I wasn't wide awake from the fear of rolling over on her, I was being assaulted by her amazingly strong and accurate "jimmy leg" kicking.

At one point, I had her propped up length wise on the bed, with the wall serving as her support on one side to keep her from falling out of bed while I was on the other side.  Somehow, she managed to turn herself so her head was facing the support wall and the rest of her body was lying width wise across the bed.  She's 40 inches tall, so on a standard full size bed this left little room for me.  I was now trying to avoid her dangerous feet while dangling over the side of the bed.

Back to the main story.  While sitting in the pediatrician's waiting room, she not so quietly mentioned to her Mama
"I slept in bed with Papa last night and he didn't have any clothes on." 
Fortunately, there was nobody else in the room.  Can you imagine the reaction you might have had if you'd heard a three year old make that statement?  If someone had heard that, I can only imagine how long it would've taken before there was a knock on my front door from someone with a clipboard, standing next to a large police officer.

This is what comes to mind when I think about what she said.
This might be too much information, but for the record, I do not sleep in the nude.  I don't wear a shirt, but I hardly think that constitutes not having any clothes on.  Guess we'll have to spend a little more time on definitions going forward.

Friday, February 22, 2013

More words and phrases from toddlers

I love hearing the new words and phrases my girls come up with.  Since I love it, I know all of you will too!  Therefore, I've decided to share them with you.  Enjoy!

I'm sick. 

     I'm SO sick! 

     I want to go straight to bed.

     I want to sleep in Papa's bed!

     This bed is too hard, I want to sleep in my bed!

     I need to spit the water out.  (aka vomit)
    
Shall we buy some pretzels?
What do you need when you're thirsty?  Keep reading to find what Brynne thought.
     Papa, do you need more brandy?

Where did the workers go?

     There they are.  Papa, I see the workers!

Where did your beard go?

     Did you throw it in the trash?

     Did you shave it off?

     I love your beard.

It's Sunday, let's go to church!

Papa, the computer doesn't work.  I'll get the tape and hammer.

I want to take a nice, hot, wubbly, bubbly bath.

Oh, that's nice.

     That will be so nice.

     That sounds like fun.

I'm a healthy growing girl!

Don't eat the snow, you will be chilly.

You're silly Papa.

Did I get any Tigger mail today?

You have to put on your shoes before you go outside.

Brrrrrr!  SNOW!!!

I could go on and on, but I think this is probably enough for now.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fury and Fun, Part 2

If you didn't read the first part of this, you'll need to go back and do that.  Now, the rest of the story.

Part of my frustration that evening had come from little things I noticed.  A basket of laundry needing to be folded and put away.  A load of wash needing to go to the dryer.  Another load waiting to be cleaned.  Yet another load in the dryer, waiting to be removed.  The dish washing machine's red light on, which meant dishes were clean and needed to be put away.  Dishes stacked on the counter, waiting to be loaded into the washer.  Toys scattered everywhere in the toy room.  Trash can overflowing.
This is not our house, but gives you an idea of what I was seeing.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm not throwing Mama under the bus for slacking on housework.  This just happens when you have five members of a family and only one of them can keep the peace at home during the week.  She had her hands full, and I could tell with just one look she'd done everything she could not to explode that day.

I really wanted to spend some time with Ruby and Mama that night, just hanging out and relaxing.  That couldn't happen if one of us spent the entire evening doing chores.  And then it hit me.

Let's make a game out of this!

I knelt down next to the girls and asked if they were ready for a BIG adventure, to which they instantly replied YES!

So we did.
"Our first big adventure, is to crawl under the chairs in the dining room.  GO!"

We raced to the dining room and all of us crawled through the chairs and under the table.  They made it through easier than I did, but I still made it through.

"Our next big adventure is to tickle Mama's feet.  GO!"

The girls raced to the plant room (we call it a plant room instead of the TV room due to the ginormous plant Mama has there.  Plantzilla has been known to eat small animals, which is why we never leave Ruby alone near it) and informed Mama we were there to tickle her feet.

As I started thinking of another adventure, I realized the girls didn't care what it was, they were just happy to be doing something different.  So I took a chance. 

"Our next big adventure is to empty the dishwasher.  GO!"

We dashed to the kitchen and unloaded the dishwasher.  As we were wrapping up, Hadley started reloading it, so we crossed those two items off my list.
Dishes are done, dude!
The rest of the adventures, if memory serves, occurred in this order:

Going behind the couch and jumping up, yelling boo!
Putting the clothes from the dryer into the laundry basket, the washer into the dryer, then reloading the washer.
Covering ourselves with pillows from the couch.
Picking up the toy room.
Going to stand in the downstairs shower.
Tickling Mama's feet.
Taking the clean clothes upstairs and putting them away, room by room.
Getting under the covers on Mama and Papa's bed.
Getting ready for bed.
Hiding in a closet.
Getting in the upstairs shower.
Going back downstairs to give Mama a hug and a kiss, as well as to tickle her feet.
Crawling through the dining room chairs.
Going to bed.

By the time we got to bed it was after their bedtime, but that was fine.  We read their bible, prayed, and they fell instantly to sleep.  I got to spend the night relaxing with Mama and Ruby, and even got my brandy.

Since then, we've done the BIG adventures a few times, but not too often to make it lose the appeal.  The girls have started coming up with their own ideas.  Brynne's eyes get wide as can be, while she tells me
"The nexxxxxt biiiiiiiiig abenture isssssssssssssss....to tickle Mama's feet!"
She's usually off and running before completing the sentence.  The other night, she even came up with her own original adventure...to go outside and look at the moon and stars.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fury and Fun, Part 1

Mama had battled the girls all day since they didn't sleep well the night before and failed to take a nap.

After a long, sleepless night, I had battled through a long, sleepless day at work and a commute that took twice as long as it should have.

When I walked in the door, all I wanted was to change clothes, grab a glass of brandy, and relax for a few minutes.  By the time I got halfway to the door, I realized that was not going to happen.  I could hear the cries of the little ones and knew it had probably been going on all day.  I did my best to put on a happy face, but it quickly faded.
When screaming blows out a window, you know you're in for a rough night.
The girls could only fuss, whine, and cry from the moment I walked in the door at 5:05.  They wanted me to pick them up.  There was nothing I could do to appease them.  Dinner was more frustrating than I can ever remember it being in the past as they continued their exhausted antics.  I'd made their favorite foods and they were rejecting them. 

Almost nothing was eaten.  We had several discipline issues.  An entire cup of milk was "accidentally" spilled on me and the floor.  They finally left the table, only to start fighting with each other as I tried to do some clean up.  Screaming, pulling (and tearing) clothes, and more tears were all I saw and heard as I walked into the room.  Fortunately, I was just in time to prevent one of them from biting the other.  This hadn't been an issue for quite some time, but here it was.

I snapped.  I raised my voice louder than I needed to, but I wanted to stun them as I made my way over to the open mouthed one.  I grabbed them and pulled them apart.  They both got disciplined for their part in the battle.  The spilt milk was still on the floor, so they were given the ultimatum:  sit here quietly and read, or suffer the consequences.

It was only 6:30.  I didn't know how I was going to make it until 7:30 without losing my cool.  As I was on my hands and knees, trying to get all the milk off the floor and sop it up from the gaps between the wood planks of the floor, Hadley patted me on the back.  She and Brynne were standing there, with big smiles. 

They were disobeying again, and seemed so pleased to be doing it.  Walking into the kitchen, and right through the milk, was not what I told them to do.  I began to stand up and begin the discipline process, when Hadley spoke up
"Papa, can we help you clean the milk?"
My heart melted.  Until this point, I hadn't seen the wad of Kleenex in each of their hands.  I'll never know which one of them came up with the idea, but I don't care.  The anger/fury/whatever you want to call it which had been building inside of me since the moment I walked through the door was gone instantly.  We finished cleaning the milk and I decided we needed to make the best of the remaining 45 minutes we had together tonight.

The usual actions of reading books, doing puzzles, or playing with toys weren't appealing to me, so what did we do?
Come back next time to hear all about it.  It might just be the best thing ever.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Did you really fall for that?

It's Friday afternoon and I'm getting ready to head home after a long week of work.  As I approach the elevator, a co-worker of mine is standing there waiting to leave as well.  We have little in common, so we engage in the typical small talk one normally finds in these instances as we get on the elevator.  He's red, I'm blue.

How are the kids?

Fine, yours?

Fine.  Got any plans for the weekend?

Not really, you?

Nothing major.  As he walks away he says enjoy your weekend.

The smart ass in me wakes up at this exact time and takes the conversation over.

You taking a long weekend?

No.  I'll be back Monday.

I'll probably see you tomorrow then, but still have a good weekend when it gets here.

He stops and turns slowly.  I can hear his mind working, but barely.

Where will I see you tomorrow?

If you're working too, I assume I'll see you here.

Tomorrow's Saturday, I'm not working.

I give him a puzzled look.  It has been a long week, but today is only Thursday.

Again, his mind starts working, but only a little.  All day I've been thinking today was Friday.  Are you serious?  What is wrong with me?

It happens.  I've been off a day this whole week too.  Must be the weather.

I guess.  Well, have a good night.  I'll see you tomorrow.

Okay, you too.

I let it go at that.  I'm not sure how long my trickery lasted, but as he was walking away I saw him pull out his phone.  I hope he checked the calendar and didn't come into work on Saturday. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Car troubles

It's a beautiful, crisp Saturday morning.  I let Mama know I'm headed into town to run some errands by myself.  I love saying "I'm heading into town", it makes me feel so country.  The car starts fine and as I head out, the radio is playing a song I like, but I have the volume low as I'm just enjoying the morning.

As I turn from one country road onto the next I must have hit a pothole, as I now hear an unfamiliar  sound. 

click, click, click
This is in my future, I'm sure of it.
When I change speeds, the sound neither picks up the pace or slows down. 

click, click, click

I listen intently, trying to find the source of the sound, but it sounds as though it's coming from everywhere.

click, click, click

Since I'm starting to become concerned, I pull to the side of the road and listen.  Switching the car to neutral and then to park doesn't change the sound.  Reverse does nothing either.

click, click, click

I put the car back into drive and decide to head to my mechanic, just in case. 

click, click, click

Perhaps I could hear better if I roll down the window.

click, click, click
It may not be "the most annoying sound in the world", but it was close.
No difference.  The radio was already playing softly in the background, but I decide to turn it off, in case that helps me hear better.

silence

The click is gone.  While I do enjoy the silence for a second, I turn the radio back on, thinking maybe there's a short in the radio or something.

click, click, click

There it is again.  It takes me a few seconds to realize what an idiot I am. 

Do you know why I'm an idiot?  Please don't post comments about why I'm an idiot in general, just why I am in this instance.  I think blogger would shut down if everyone posted comments about my idiocy.  The right answer is:

click, click, click was part of the drum beat in the song on the radio.

At least I got to start the day with a good laugh, even if it was laughing at myself.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The high shelves



 
As I wrote a post the other day, I began thinking about the high shelves.  You know, the place you put things that, while you only use them once or twice a decade, you just can't throw them away.  The second you do toss something out, you realize you need it and have to either borrow it from someone else (which requires them to get the ladder out, drag it down, dust it off, and get it to you after checking to make sure it still works) or go buy another one.
 
I thought I'd share with you some of the exciting things I found on our own high shelves.  Keep in mind that we just moved and had every opportunity to toss this stuff out, but we didn't.  Since they've been neglected for so long, I thought I'd make them part of the family by naming them.  In no particular order, here they are: 
 
1 - The margarita maker
 
Neither Mama nor Papa drink tequila.  Yet here she is, Maria the Margarita Maker.  The funniest thing about this item is we still have everything needed to make margaritas, but it's been at least six years since we used it last.  We even have a container of margarita salt, and since salt is a natural preservative, it won't ever expire.  That being said, when I took the lid off the salt, I found it had coagulated into one solid chunk of salt.  While it may still be salty, it is not in a form in which it can be used without much work, so it has been retired.
Yes, I intentionally went with an Hispanic name for her.
2 - Meat grinder/finger masher

While it looks innocent enough, it can destroy anything which enters the tube of death.  I think I used this last about two years ago when making ham salad.  We've never made our own sausage, and I don't foresee that being something we'll do in the near term, but nonetheless, here it stands, in all its glory. 

We actually have two of these beauties.  One we received from my grandma, and the other one, pictured below, which mysteriously showed up on our doorstep one morning.  It needed a good home, and I had a sudden craving for ham salad, so Gary the Grinder has been with us ever since.
Meat Gary.  You see what I did there?  I used "meat" instead of "meet".  Classic.
3 - Non functional bowls

You know those bowls you can't put in the oven, the microwave, or the dishwasher?  Of course you do.  They're the same ones that instantly feel as hot or as cold as the item you put in them.  The very same ones that might break even if they're only being used to hold bread.  We have several of them.  I think we last used them as decorations four years ago, but they've been replaced for whatever reason.  Probably because they were hideous before, and we only put them out when the person who gave them to us came over to make them happy, but soon realized they probably just re gifted them and were laughing at our horrible sense of style.  We'll call them Bubba, Bubba 2, Bubba 3, etc.  I don't know any Bubbas, but I imagine if I did they'd be useless too. 
Just in case you gave us a bowl as an honest gift, I didn't want to hurt your feelings, so none are shown.
4 - "As seen on TV" stuff

I'm sure you're using your slap chop every day.  Or the bacon wave.  Possibly even an automatic jar opener/slicer/dicer/storage thing.  Maybe you got suckered into buying lids for soda cans.  I don't know what you might of bought, but odds are, it's on the high shelf if you've been too ashamed to admit you wasted money on it and chuck it. 

We don't have any of this stuff.  If we did at one point I don't remember.  Maybe I'm suffering from a very specific form of amnesia, but I can't recall ever buying anything I've had to call to order...except the Total Gym, which I have owned since 2000 and actually used recently.  I've named it Charles.
I'd say something about the outfit, but I value my life.

5 - Fondue Pot

I did used to love fondue.  So much, in fact, that as a child, this was my request for a birthday meal every year.  I know you can do pseudo healthy things now, but the thought of taking a very sharp item, stabbing pieces of meat with it, then putting that in a vat of bubbling oil while trying not to spill any out, then taking said skewer out and realizing the meat fell off so I now have to root around the bottom of the pot with the skewer for some remnants of meat which are most likely now the density of a rock, all while the scalding hot cauldron of pain sits inches from two curious toddlers as the cord on it is not long enough to place it anywhere else on the table, is surprisingly no longer appealing to me. 

My cholesterol is actually going up just thinking about it.  Fon-don't seems like a stupid name, so I'll go with Jed.
This guy knew how to do bubblin oil.
6 - Iced tea maker

I actually did used to use this quite a bit.  Until one day when I came inside expecting to have a nice pitcher of tea waiting for me and instead I found a very large puddle of brown water soaking into everything.  You see that little notch on the bottom in the middle?  The broken one?  That's where the front of the pitcher is supposed to sit.  You see where a knob should be in the middle on the top?  That's where you would adjust the rate at which tea flows out.

Ted the Teamaker has been mostly retired since a gruesome accident left him partially disabled and, therefore, unable to perform the main duties of his primary occupation.  If he ever gets his lazy butt off the high shelf, I have to stand there holding the pitcher in place while trying not to burn my hand as tea the temperature of lave comes flying out. 
I know I should put him out of his misery, but I just can't bring myself to do it.
7 - Good China

We, again, don't actually have any of this.  Long ago we decided we'd rather not take up valuable high shelf real estate with something we might actually use once or twice a year.  We then decided the lowest and middle shelves were already full of things we used regularly.  That didn't leave anywhere to put it, so we opted out. 

Perhaps someday we'll decide to spend a lot of money on something fancy we'll break a piece of every time we use it and then have to replace it only to find they've stopped making that pattern and now our set is incomplete so we have to use it for random things and spend even more money on new dishes, but today is not that day.
When I Googled "Good China" this came up.  That's the only reason it's here.

There you go, pretty much our complete list.  What's on your high shelves?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Happy ending at the new house

You may be disappointed with this post after reading the title, but oh well.  I needed an attention getter and thought that might work.  Even if you were looking for some other kind of story, feel free to read on.

Probably none of you (except possibly Mandy) reading this will recall the post I did about our old house making parts of toys disappear.  You can go here to read it, if you want.  Actually, you should probably read it first if you don't remember it as the rest of this might not make as much sense.

I wanted to give you two updates on the post. 

Update 1: 

When we were moving, we found the missing pig magnet piece under some puzzles.  I think the house was trying to bribe us into staying around a little longer by giving us this back.

It didn't work, obviously.

Update 2:

Brynne and I were playing in the living room a few weeks ago when she suddenly exclaimed
"LOOK PAPA!  THE RING!"
My first thought was to grab her and run from the house screaming.
I never saw the movie, but the trailer still spooks me.
 My second thought was "Crap, now we have to head for Mordor".
My precious!
Before I could get to my third thought, she was jumping up and down, yelling
"I found the purple ring!  Look Papa, I found it!  Hooray Brynne!"
At this point Hadley joined in the celebrations, congratulating her sister for her huge find.  We immediately took it to join its friends on the stand where it belonged.  There was a big party, lots of wooden pieces crying and hugging each other...so glad to all be back together again.  It was really a touching moment.

The ring could only provide minor insight into where it had been and the wonderful adventures it partook in.  I speak a little German, a little more Spanish, and no Wooden Ring, so the broken bits I was able to translate using the "Wooden Ring to English" app on my phone led me to this conclusion:  as far as I could tell, it had been tucked into the cushions of a baby swing (by two or four tiny hands) we had packed the swing away over two years ago. 

Either that, or the house magically teleported the ring back from the depths of the old house's Bermuda Triangle as a house warming (or self warming if you're thinking from the house's perspective) present for us.  As I said, my language skills combined with the ring's lack of skill at Charades makes this part a bit fuzzy.

At least one thing is for certain:  the new house doesn't have any biases against toys where the number of parts is evenly divisible by 13.

Hooray!