Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The mouths of babes

We had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend, with my Kansas-dwelling parents visiting from mid-day Friday to Monday night. Church on Sunday included a powerful and relevant look at the service our armed forces provide, and the rest of the weekend was full of cherished family moments.

I think the biggest treat for my parents was seeing how Jack, their 11-month-old grandson, is really growing up and developing his own irresistible personality. But not to be outdone, 3-year-old Samantha put on quite a show as well.

And here continues the semi-regular practice of documenting the interesting craziness that is spoken from the lips of my toddler daughter:
"At night... when I wake up... I pick out the boogeys."

"I saw a pink squirrel yesterday! She was hiding in the pink bushes!"

"Daddy, I have a secret for you (she leans close and whispers)... golf is open at the mall!" (One of our favorite daddy-daughter dates is playing glow-in-the-dark miniature golf at a nearby mall. Unfortunately our usual location shut down, but since then we've found another.)

"I go swimming at the pool and wear my green gargles (goggles) so my eyes don't burn."

"Wow, Daddy! That's uh-MAY-zing!" (I don't even remember what I said or did. But it must have ruled.)

"Anthony got in trouble at school. So he played with Christian. Then he didn't take a nap, and made noises, but he said it was OK so he hit me." (Your guess is as good as mine)

"That's a stinky poot!"


Samantha has also been on somewhat of a Strawberry Shortcake kick lately, since she has a DVD and a book of the character. What I didn't know, though, was that because of Miss Shortcake my whole family would receive new Shortcake names.

My wife Jamie is "Crepe Susette". Sweet and melodious, perfectly fitting.

My father-in-law is "Pancake". Hearty and multi-layered, again a fitting name.

My mother-in-law is "Angelcake". You can probably feel the sugar rush just from reading this.

What was my name? Daddy's name, the guy who takes out the monsters from the closet and opens the pickle jar? The guy who lifts weights, has a manly goatee and is a world-class flatulist (see "stinky poot" quote above)? My name was... wait for it... "Miss Brittney".

As you can imagine, after being called Miss Brittney for a few hours I had to make a clean break with that name. With much deliberation over what name could be both masculine and baking-related, it finally dawned on me. Inspired by the great classic movie "Top Secret", I am now known as "Chocolate Mousse". Awww yeah.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Travels are over... for now

I've been catching up from a four-day weekend golf trip to Myrtle Beach with 15 other guys, most of whom work in my office. We had a great time and I was blessed with good options every time the group wanted to do something I chose to avoid (bars, clubs, etc...). I was able to show that being Christian doesn't mean being boring, but it does mean making certain commitments to those we love (including God, our spouses and ourselves) and sticking to those commitments. By then end of the weekend I had their respect (they called me "Honest Mike") and we could all be considered friends. It was a great exercise for me in showing love and grace, without making excuses for behavior that I don't condone.

On the funny side, this is the first trip I've taken in a while that I didn't bring fire with me. You may have to read that sentence again as it may have sounded weird. That's OK, read it again. Now I'll explain:

Christmas trip to Kansas City -- our drive home to Houston was stalled and detoured due to massive fires ravaging Oklahoma and Texas. We could actually see the light and smell the smoke from many miles away during our night drive.

Business trip to California -- I went with our CEO and a salesperson on a whirwind four-customer visit over 36 hours. We nearly had to evacuate the hotel due to wildfires in several areas of California.

Business conference in Orlando -- While in a hotel outside Orlando, we weren't sure if we could get to the airport due to... you guessed it... more wildfires.

In all three cases they were formally declared states of emergency. Yikes, it sure was nice to go to Myrtle Beach and end the streak of fiery destinations. At the rate it was going, nobody was going to invite me to their house ever again.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Read my lips

At a conference this week I met this gentleman, an attorney who has studied physiognomy, or face reading, for over two decades. I knew I wouldn't have time to sit in on his presentation so I asked him to give me a 60-second sample by reading my face, and then I would buy his book.

He was right on some things, wrong on some others, so it was hard to tell how much of this is science and how much is hoo-hah. He sure nailed one thing, though, with this comment after about 45 seconds:

"You don't believe a word I'm saying to you right now, but you're listening very politely."

The book is interesting so far, and I can surely see the many practical uses if the accuracy is good.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Favorite fringe cartoon characters, Part 2 -- Samantha's generation

As promised, here's the last part of the mini-series on fringe characters from children's media sources, this time picking from the absolute glut of entertainment choices available to today's kids.

These are based on my viewing of three-year-old Samantha's cartoons and books. Here we go!

#1 -- Lowly the worm (from Richard Scarry books, such as "Mama Cat's Busy Day")

Who he is: Lowly is the ultimate fringe character in many of Richard Scarry's books, which existed in my childhood but have had quite the resurgence in recent years. In fact, a bookstore close to my house has an entire Richard Scarry section! Lowly is a worm, and almost never has a single line of dialogue, recorded action, or even the tiniest role in the plot. But he appears on every page, often hidden in a sorta "Where's Waldo?" fashion.

Why I like him: He's mysterious, the children's fiction equivalent of a secret agent. What's he doing living in a house with a bunch of cats? Was he adopted? Why doesn't he ever talk? Do the other characters even know he's there? Is he a genetic mutant with secret powers yet to be revealed? Nobody knows... and the enigma is fascinating.

Why he's weird: He's a worm, but he wears clothes. Not like a sock or sleeve, but a full set of clothes, the kind that usually require limbs to wear correctly. In the picture below, he's wearing a bowtie but has no neck. Shirt but has no torso. Belt and pants, yet no legs. And finally, he caps it off with a single shoe on his... well, you can see where he has to put it. Imagine taking off your shoe every time you went to the bathroom. Weird enough?

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For choking worms, try the self-Heimlich balloon. Accept no substitutes!

#2 -- Grumpy old troll (Dora the Explorer)

Who he is: As far as I know, he doesn't have a name and is only known as the "grumpy old troll" (I will henceforth refer to him as "the GOT"). The GOT is a guard that protects bridges, rivers, and other passageways from tresspassers. Especially dangerous girl-child explorers who travel with talking monkeys. Which means he's always trying to keep Dora from getting to her destination unless Dora can pass his test, which is ususally a riddle.

Why I like him: There's more than meets the eye to the GOT. He may seem a simple octogenarian with a penchant for trickery, but you just know that he's a retired military general who's living a whole new life. I think of him as Gandalf without a purpose. Or a fellowship. Or a magic staff and immortal horse. OK, maybe's he's not like Gandalf, but I like him anyway.

Why he's weird: His very name includes the word "grumpy", but the crazy loon is always smiling! What's with that? Back in my day, if a character was supposed to be grumpy, then he was downright acidic. Oscar the grouch could have used a large dose of Wellbutrin. And I swear that someday Pooh and Piglet will find Eeyore in a bathtub with open wounds above his hoofs. But oh no, let's call this guy "grumpy old troll" and put a permanent smile on his face. Maybe it's an ironic joke, like calling an armless man "lefty", or a midget "big man".

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You shall not pass! You shall not pass the Prozac, that is.

#3 -- Trash Gordon (Sesame Street)

Who he is: A new character this season, Trash Gordon appears at the end of every episode of "Elmo's World", which is a spinoff of Sesame Street. New characters, spinoffs... Sesame Street was the original "Law & Order", I guess. Trash Gordon is a hero who saves the day with every appearance. Exactly what he does, who he saves and what he saves them from, I have no idea. It's a new gig and I'm a little slow on the uptake in PBS land.

Why I like him: Based on my brief exposure to Trash, he absolutely cracks me up. I'll save the costume description for the next section, but his attire rocks the house. And his attitude is one of total confidence and calmness. Besides, Samantha now thinks that Trash Gordon is the original, and Flash Gordon is the remake. If she ever sees the movie released in the 80s, though, she'll realize that nobody would ever remake a character just to turn him into a big, dumb, feather-haired brute who uses luck and ignorance to vanquish an egomaniacal alien monarch, all to the tune of a kickin' soundtrack by Queen.

Why he's weird: Sesame Street has always been a low-budget production and that's a major disadvantage in creating the image of a superhero. The real-life, everyday Gordon is a regular character on Sesame Street, so how do they turn him into a superhero? Easy, with a cape, a dramatic voice inflection that hints of William Shatner, and a big, bushy unibrow. Not just some fuzz that connects the brows, but a full-fledged ridge of fur that could double as a pair of sunglasses at high noon. Unfortunately, this character is so new that I couldn't find any pictures of him to post here, but trust me, the man is freaky-lookin'.

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Eye fur more impressive than mine, you say? Destroy him!

This has been fun! But now onto other things, as this world's strangeness goes far beyond cartoons and toys. Check this story in case you need proof.