Monday, October 29, 2007

Magic man

I feel that one of the most important, most fun parts of the role of "Daddy" is the responsibility to create magic. Magic during the holidays, magic during vacations, even magic in that precious time between bath and bed. It doesn't just happen -- somebody has to create it. That responsibility is a high priority for me.

This year Halloween has already been a magical time, and we're still two days away. On Saturday we went to "Zoo Boo" at the Houston Zoo. The entire place was transformed. The carousel became the Scarasel. The lizard/snake exhibit was all spooked out with fake 70-foot pythons.

We went with another family from our church, and the husband of that family (Craig) has the exact same sense of humor as me. Yes, there's another one out there. We both hit that perfect comedy sweet spot that's too smart for toddlers, yet dumb enough to drive our wives crazy. As long as nobody appreciates it, we're good.

Craig got the Halloween spirit started off early in a conversation with Samantha.

Samantha: Let's go see the bunnies!
Craig: Those aren't normal bunnies. They're Bunnies of Death.

We decided at that point that every animal was now capitalized, and had the words "of..._______" at the end. We could make anything scary to our kids:

Samantha: I want to ride the monkeys on the carousel!
Me: It's a scarasel. And those are Monkey of Terror.
Samantha: So can I ride them?
Me: Sure.

Samantha: Let's go to the petting zoo so I can see the goats!
Me: You mean the Beasts of Oblivion?
Samantha: Can I?
Me: I guess so, but that's too scary for me. You're on your own.
Samantha: Goats aren't scary!
Me: The Beasts of Oblivion wield the Horns of Retribution. I can't be messin' with that. I'll be over by the Cows of Melancholy -- they're more my speed.

We kept it rollin all day. At one point Craig had a little girl convinced that meerkats work in teams, and are capable of ganging up on children and eating them whole. That's daddy magic right there.

After the zoo we bought two pumpkins for carving. Samantha and I sat down at the table and got to work on some potential designs. She made the choice of shape for each facial feature (circle eyes, square nose, gently-sloped mouth, thin eyebrows) and then helped draw the outline on the pumpkin. She left the scooping and carving to me, but did enjoy sinking her hand into the pumpkin meat. Jack O' Lantern #1 was complete.

#2 was for me. More magic. I'd seen the "vomit pumpkin" on the internet a few times and figured it was time the Wilson family made one. The kids have been loving it and visit it on the porch a few times a day.

Monkeys of Terror and the Vomit Pumpkin. Can't wait to see what magic Christmas brings!

Pictures below with captiony goodness (clicking on the pics won't show anything, so don't bother):

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Wagon ride into the zoo

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I held an imaginary pole on the Scarasel. I was riding an imaginary Steed of Vengeance, naturally.

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Jack warily approaches a Beast of Oblivion

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Samantha and her friends Luke and Nathan. Both Raphael ninja turtles. Must have been some kinda ninja turtle cloning experiment gone awry.

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Jack claims this rock in the name of poop and Capri Sun!

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Samantha creates her own Vegetable of Pestilence.

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I have no idea who these people are.

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The project begins.

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The project, uh... continues.

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The family allergists role-play a Snickers binge.

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Night view.

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Light view.

Monday, October 22, 2007

You can't hear Jimi

My friend Bob and my other friend Bob have been writing about music lately. Besides those two Bobs, I also have two uncles named Bob. So if you're reading this, and your name is Bob, and you're not one of the four previously mentioned ones, then I can't be your friend. Sorry. I'm just plain full up on Bobs in my life.

Anyway, back to music. They've been posting about what they're listening to, and I'd like to join in. A while ago my wife and kids got me a $15 gift card for iTunes, and it's taken me forever to pick some songs and make myself a CD. I haven't bought music in a long, long time, so it took a while to figure out what I really wanted. I finally did it, with the following results. Looking at it has made me realize that each person's musical tastes are almost like fingerprints. Everybody is different:

1) Smashing Pumpkins -- Rocket
2) Smashing Pumpkins -- Geek U.S.A.
3) Disturbed -- Prayer
4) Disturbed -- Land of Confusion
5) Puddle of Mudd -- Drift and Die
6) Buckcherry -- Everything
7) Linkin Park -- What I've Done
8) Linkin Park -- Shadow of the Day
9) Stone Sour -- Bother
10) Silverchair -- Straight Line

Below is the video to song #10. It's by far the least "Rock"-sounding song on the list, and it's quite a departure from Silverchair's old, crunchy sound I've always loved. The lead singer now looks like some sorta lovechild of Justin Timberlake and Freddie Mercury. If he wasn't married to Natalie Imbruglia (one of the few female singers I truly think is hawt), I'd swear he was a flaming homosexual.

So to sum up that song: it's softer than I usually like, the lead singer is going some weird direction with music, fashion and facial hair, and the lyrics seem to be complete nonsense. Yet I still like it. Go figure.

Let me know what you've been listening to lately.

p.s. -- Bonus points if you know the movie where this post's title came from

Monday, October 15, 2007

Crazy eights

Just three short months ago, my sister-in-law tagged me for a blog topic, where I would list 8 facts/habits about myself, then tag another 8 people to do the same. I was gonna wait 8 months and 8 days to post it, but figured I'd be an overachiever and do it now.

No taggie, though -- if any of you readers want to tag yourself, feel free to do so and let me know in the comments section. Then I'll read your own version of crazy eights and heckle you accordingly.

The items below may not be revelations to you. I'm already a pretty open book in this blog, but it'll be fun to find new ways to embarrass myself.


1. I haven't watched a TV show (sitcom, drama, documentary, etc...) in several months, maybe even a year. We don't get cable (that's right, no ESPN, HBO or Cooking channel) and we're not really available during prime time shows due to kids' activities, bathtimes, bedtimes... you get the idea. The time I would use watching TV, I instead use to read, write, browse the internet, talk with Jamie and watch movies. It's not for everybody but it works great for me.

2. Being a father is far more heartwrenching than I ever thought it would be, and not always in a warm and fuzzy way. It has revealed levels of selfishness and impatience I never knew existed in me. Left unchecked, these traits started to show up in my kids because they were watching me. That'll wake you up faster than liquid nitrogen in your boxers.

3. I enjoy nearly all aspects of my job, but I'm not really passionate about the work or the industry. What has kept me in it is the people I work with and the impact we have on each other. If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to tell them what my dream job is, I wouldn't have an answer. For an introspection nutjob, this is extremely disturbing. I fear that while I'm good at my work, I'll never be great unless I work in an area I truly love, but I don't know what that is. I also suspect most men feel this way but never share it. To sum up, I guess I'm saying that I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

4. When I think about baseball, the first things that pop into my mind are 1) Watching it and 2) Coaching it. Not playing it. Bizarre. Especially since I've never coached.


1. I still chew my fingernails and cuticles.

2. I only shave every other day, because it's easier on my skin and I'm lazy. But I like to think it's to save money on razors.

3. I wear shorts to work almost every day during the summer (part of the job I love as mentioned above).

4. When I change the volume on our sound system, I have to put the volume on an even number. Never odd.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Detour of the week

As you can see, I've been doing some redecorating around here. I was getting tired of the 1999 blog look, so I've upgraded to late-1999. May not be totally done yet, but it's allowed me to add some new features on the right side of the page, as well as expand the reading area. That means pictures will also fit better from now on.

But that's not the topic for today.

Detours. As a father of two children under the age of 5, nearly every week we experience some kind of family detour. Plans that were made and have to be changed or scrapped. Directions that have to be shifted due to new roadblocks that were impossible to foresee. Last night was our detour of the week.

I was at work at 4:30 pm yesterday, nearly done with a half-day of training for a new software program our company is using. I had taken a quick break to get the power cord for my computer (training had 30 minutes left, my computer had 4 minutes left before shutting down). On the way, I spotted some leftover sandwiches in the company kitchen. I asked around and heard that they were chicken salad. Don't think I've ever eaten chicken salad before, but I love tuna salad, so it works for me. Grabbed a sandwich and headed back to the training room.

I was on my second bite when the familar feeling hit me, a feeling I haven't experienced more than once in the past decade. I was allergic to something in the sandwich. My tongue and mouth started to itch.

I immediately left the room (again... can't you tell I was the star pupil), went back to the kitchen and opened up my wallet to get the Benadryl dissolvable strips that we kept there for emergencies with Samantha's food allergies. They were nearly impossible to open -- requiring a very sharp knife and the removal of three of the package's four edges. Seemed overboard for a medicine sometimes used to halt or lessen an allergic emergency. I took two strips since they were Children's strength.

Went back to training, and that lasted for about three minutes before I realized my stomach wasn't feeling so great. Left again, this time for the bathroom. The next half-hour is a blur of unproductive heaving (from the gallons of mucus my body was producing, and dripping down my throat) and constant back-and-forth in my head on whether I should leave or stay. My nasal passages had become completely blocked and my skin was hot, but I could still breathe through my mouth. Eventually I left the bathroom and went back to my office.

Called Jamie and explained what was going on, and she said she was coming right away to pick me up. She instructed me to find out who else was in the office and to make sure they would watch me until she got there. I complied and then sat back at my desk.

Shut down the computer. Then slapped my head and turned it back on (the computer, not my head) -- the whole internet is at my fingertips! I can look and see if perhaps my dose of Benadryl was too small. Sure enough, it said I could easily take 100mg or more in case of an allergic reaction. And with the way I metabolize medicines (near legend status, I tell you), I could probably exceed 100mg and still be just fine. I dug up the third and final Benadryl strip from my wallet and read that it has... 12.5mg. So I've only taken 25mg so far. Oops. I downed the third strip and then went to the kitchen to see if they had any Benadryl pills. They did. I took two. Up to 87.5mg now. Suck on that, allergy.

Very interesting things were happening to my skin. My arms and legs were getting very red and splotchy. My stomach and chest were the same. My face and neck were very, very hot and itchy. I filled a ziploc bag with some ice and put it on my face and neck. Every few minutes I would still have the dry heaves, but it seemed to be happening less often.

The skin thing was just freaky. It was so pronounced that you almost couldn't tell what my natural color was. Like a zebra -- is it black with white stripes, or white with black stripes? I couldn't tell if I was a white boy with red splotches or a red boy with white splotches. I was admiring my new hue when Jamie came into the office. We chatted for a second with my fellow employees and then headed down the elevator.

Why is it that whenever you are very sick, and holding a barf bag, the elevator is guaranteed to be completely full of people squashed around you?

We got to the van and Jamie asked if we should stop by the hospital on the way home. Memorial Hermann hospital is less than a half-mile from the office, so I said "yes". I was 90% sure that I was getting better already, but boy I'd feel dumb if we drove home and then my head exploded or I suddenly obtained the ability to be a handyman. Some things just aren't worth the risk.

Got to the Emergency Room and Jamie parked the car while I went in and started with triage. Holy crap that was slow. Dozens of questions and insurance checks. At one point, holding my bag, I almost said, "Look, lady. There has to be a different process for people too sick to go through all of this. Can we switch to that process now and do the paperwork later?" But she finally finished and a nurse started taking my vitals (blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels).

Those readings came out fine, except that the blood pressure cuff couldn't get a reading on my left arm, even after four rounds of squeezing and attempted measurements. The nurse took it off and tried a different one on my right arm. For some reason I wanted to look at the old cuff and say, "That's right! Don't bring that stuff in here unless you can handle the muscle!". That means my dark humor is still alive and well, albeit a little inappropriate. At least that was all inner monologue and not actually said... I think.

The doc checked me out quickly and said he'd give me a shot, and some medicine to take home for the next several days. It was about a 30-second visit -- he'd probably seen this a thousand times and could tell I was already on the rebound. We waited a few more minutes.

Another nurse came in with a syringe, saying she'd be giving me a steroid shot. Steroids.... awww, yeah. I'm gonna be hyoooge! I stood up and lowered my pant line a little (the shot goes in the hip), and she counted, "One, two three."

I thought she would go, "One, two, three, poke", but she poked on "three", which suprised me a little. Reminded me of this classic scene from Lethal Weapon 2 (the countdown starts at the 7:50 mark, but the whole scene is one of my favorites). Remember that it's Lethal Weapon, so there's some language, if kids (or their parents) are reading.

The nurse asked if I was OK, and I said, "Yeah. It's just been a while since I shot steroids into my rear." She laughed. Another score for dark humor. Over the next 90 minutes we left the ER, filled my prescription, made a stop at Chick-Fil-A and headed home. By 9:30 last night I was passed out in bed. Up at 4:30 this morning and haven't been able to go back to sleep.

That was our detour. Time to go take my steroids. I'm thinking about eating chicken salad every three weeks or so, to add some muscle during the off-season. Think the hospital will figure it out?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Family profiles -- my mom

A few weeks ago I began what will be a series of postings about my family members. For my father-in-law, I wrote a couple of stories to illustrate the man. Stories wouldn't work quite as well for my mom, so I'm going to use bulletpoints. This allows me to give you lots of little snapshots in bite-size morsels:

--She has been married to my dad for more than 35 years. That gave me stability.
--She worked as a secretary until I was born, and then she stayed home to raise me and my younger brother. That gave me her presence.
--She was (and is) her sons' biggest champion, always sticking up for us through troubles in school, sports or life in general. That gave me support.
--On the topic of sports, she never missed a practice or game. Most of the time she was the official scorekeeper, team mom, or filled some other volunteer role. She always thought I was the best player on the field. In baseball this was usually true. In basketball and soccer... not so much. That gave me healthy pride.
--She was very funny, but mostly only when she wasn't trying to be funny. When that happened, she was able to laugh with the rest of us at her unique way with words. That taught me humility.
--She has never met a stranger. You hear this cliche all the time, but I mean, she really hasn't met a stranger. Family members, professional athletes, mentally disabled people, foreigners, flaming homosexuals in a Busch stadium parking lot... she has no hesitation to speak to all of them as if they're closest friends. That taught me universal love (alas, I am still a slow learner on this one).
--She turned our home into a haven for my friends, and my brother's friends. Many of these guys had homes that were uncomfortable, unloving, or even downright violent. They came to our house and were always treated as family. Most of them would rather hang out at our house than go out on the town. That gave me an unbelievably powerful example of hospitality.
--She knew what I was capable of in life, and called me on it if I fell short. She didn't care what other kids were doing -- if I could do better, then that was the standard. Period. That gave me accountability and the strength to be myself.
--She knew that what we do for others can sometimes be a sacrifice, but the benefit always exceeds the cost. Here eyes were open and her hands reached out to needs around us on a daily basis. That taught me the responsibility of citizenship.
--She was able to transition with her eldest son as he left home, and her role shifted from caretaker to confidante. That showed me flexibility, and that I should never stop growing and adapting. But I'll always be her son.

She loves shopping, but would rather shop for gifts for someone else rather than for her own stuff. She is an excellent driver, even though she's blonde. She can type dozens of emails a day, but is wary of computer features outside the ones she uses regularly. She has an energy that is still unlike any other person I've ever met. Her spirit is pure, naively optimistic and unabashedly outgoing. Her heaven will be a beachside home (with air conditioning and lemon sweet tea on tap), a short drive from the relocated Arrowhead stadium, where they play (and win) every week. Her family will all have season tickets.

And since it's heaven, and there's no risk of injury, her sons may even be on the field. :)

It is said that mothers are by far the most powerful female influence in a son's life, and have an inestimable effect on how they interract with other women as adults. Mothers have a huge influence on what boys look for in a girl, and who they marry. My brother and I married very well, and we have a solid respect and love for what women bring to our world. We saw it first in her.

It's her 55th birthday today. I love you, mom!

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I gots more YMCA stories. Whoa, nellie, do I gots more stories. That place is some sorta bermuda triangle of weirdness. If you like these stories, then I'll say "you're welcome" for the entertainment. If you don't like 'em, the full blame falls on my sister-in-law, who wanted more Y tales.

These are in descending order of bizarrity, so you get the best stuff first:

#1 -- Man of la launcha

Today I was near the Smith machine, doing a superset of horizontal pull-ups and T-pushups. Don't worry if you have no idea what I'm talking about. I was exercising.

I finished a set and stood up, hands on my hips. A man approached me, in his mid-50s, thick grey/white hair, pretty good shape. Probably 6'2" and 190 pounds. He proceeded to launch into a big conversation about my red hair, and how his father was an Irishman born on St. Patrick's Day, also with red hair. He mentioned my unorthodox exercise, my apparent strength (that's a first) and my use of the swiss ball (I was resting my feet on it during my horizontal pullups). He then showed me his amazingtacular new move he does with a swiss ball... he holds it in his hands and twists side-to-side. Works for me. I was polite but eventually got back into my workout.

Next set down. He comes back, this time holding the big swiss ball. The 75cm badboy. He asks me to help him with something. "No problem", I say. "Where do you want to put it?"

"Oh, no." He said. "I'm not putting it anywhere. Just stay there and I'll show you." He proceeds to walk 20 feet away, right in front of the Nautilus machine. We're now on opposite sides of the free weight area, with all the benches and the lat pulldown machine between us. And I realize he's about to throw the huge swiss ball at me.

"This is easy," he says. "Just catch it, step foward and throw it back hard and fast as you can. We'll get into a rhythm it's almost like a dance." He must be on some major drugs.

He hurls the ball, push-style like a basketball pass. I catch it and return it the same way. "Move your feet!", he instructs. "Now the other one! Switch your feet on every throw; it builds coordination!" Does he have any freaking idea that we're throwing a 3-foot-wide ball at high speed right past three other guys trying to workout. There are guys using the benches and machines that are between us! He doesn't care.

"Good warmup," he says. "Now time to really work." He proceeds to lift the ball over his head and zing it at me at approximately four thousand miles per hour. It bounces off my hands. I retrieve it and say, "Look, I'm just throwing it back like before. Over the head isn't for me." But it's certainly for him. After another 20 throws or so, he's finally done. What the freak just happened here?

He comes over to me, thanks me for exercising with him. "When we get moving fast like that, it turns into a cardio workout!" Thanks, mister. I was here in the YMCA, plumb out of ideas of how to get my heart pumping, until you came along. I'm surprised we didn't get thrown out.

My workout was pretty shot after that. I did a few other things and hit the locker room. When I got inside, I heard opera man singing in the showers. Yes, opera man. There's a guy who sings whenever he's in the shower, and he's got a decent voice but is deafening in volume. He sings a broad range of songs, but I always remember his 15-minute episode of Don Quijote that he did a few months ago.

I was at my locker getting ready for a shower when it hit me. The singing voice. Just like the singing version of the guy who was talking to me minutes earlier between stupidly dangerous ball throws. I was tossing swiss balls with the opera man. And now he's in the shower.

He sang the entire time it took me to get out of my workout clothes, take a shower, get dressed and leave. The best part? He was showering fully clothed, with all of the workout attire he had on earlier. That's my Y.

#2 -- What could possibly go wrong?

I leave the YMCA today after playing deathball with opera man. Just in front of me is a Chinese mom with her three small boys. They look to be ages 6,3 and 18 months. The two older kids are hanging with mom just fine, but the little one can't keep up. He looks like he's only been walking a few months. They go to the left side of the parking lot while I go right, but I turn to look and mom is about 50 feet ahead of her youngest, just as he's about to get into the traffic-heavy part of the lot. And she doesn't care. She yells something at him and just keeps walking.

Our YMCA is right next to a school, and during the afternoon dozens of kids (maybe hundreds on some days) come straight to the YMCA to be picked up by their parents later. So there are always tons of cars going through the parking lot. Yet this mom is just letting her infant son walk alone through the traffic. I seriously consider running over and grabbing him, but all of the drivers in the area are very aware and give the little boy plenty of room. Yes, apparently all seven of Houston's courteous drivers were in the YMCA parking lot this afternoon. Lucky for the little boy.

I have a theory on the mom's behavior. In China, there is so much population density that there's a swarm of people wherever you go. We've met Chinese people here in Houston that are literally freaked out by open areas, or especially anything like a forest or park. Too much space, too few people.

So maybe the mom saw what we would consider a high-traffic area and thought it was no big deal, just a few cars. No reason her baby boy can't walk through it.

That's my Y.

I've got one more story, but it will have to wait. These two already hit my crazy quota for the day.