Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Daddy time

Two weekends ago Jamie went on a trip all by herself, the first time she's done such a thing in the five years since we became parents. You see, for the last couple of years I've gone on an annual golf trip with some guys from my company, and last year she decided she wanted a trip of her own as well. It's only fair that she gets to do just that.

So after two postponements due to sickness and scheduling difficulty, she finally got to go and visit her brother in Portland. She left on a Thursday night and was coming back on Sunday night, leaving us about 72 hours to fill. What oh what could we do? Daddy time.

Thursday night -- Rockets game

No, I'm not wealthy enough to actually buy good tickets ($200 each) to an NBA game. But my company has tickets, and when clients don't need them there is an employee drawing, so I entered my name for Thursday's game. And won. Score one for daddy.

I didn't tell the kids what we were doing until right before we left the house. They were pumped but had no idea what I meant by "going to a basketball game". Well, actually Jack had a very good idea what I meant. He was sure that he would be playing in the game. My efforts to convince him otherwise were futile, so I let it go.

We got to the Toyota Center and into the arena with no trouble. Our tickets allowed us to enter through the skybridge from the parking garage, which meant that at the entrance there were cheerleaders waiting to greet us. "Perfect", I thought with devious glee, "I'll get a picture of this and it'll drive Jamie crazy". I got out our backup camera (six years old and low resolution) only to find that it was out of batteries. Dang. No pictures at the game. Minus points for daddy. But you should've seen the Jack Attack snuggle right up to the cheeleaders and pose for the picture... the boy's got game.

The kids loved the multiple escalator rides we took on the way to the concession stands, where we bought pizza, fries and Diet Pepsi. Score again for daddy. We watched the warmups, which were incredible because we were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers. That means Lebron James was there. The guy's so amazingly athletic, and so young, that he actually dunks and exerts energy during warmups. He was incredible. The kids didn't pay attention to him but they loved the mascot.

A buddy of mine from a former job came over and I discovered he works for the Rockets now part-time. He hooked us up with miniature Rockets basketballs for the kids. Score. Samantha and Jack now think that not only can daddy get them into cool basketball games, but he knows all the important people there.

Then the team intros started. Crap. The kids hate loud noise. I knew this was coming and had already prepared earplugs made from napkin shreds with my MacGuyver-like skills. I plugged their ears and we held on tight, but those intros are looooooong. After a while Jack just started yelling, "CAN WE GO!? CAN WE GO?!" Samantha joined in. Eventually the loudness stopped and the game started. Samantha got into it right away and even clapped when the "white shirts" made a basket. We stayed until almost halftime and then headed out, already past their normal bedtime. It was a great start to our weekend!

Friday morning -- Pump it Up

I'd heard of this "Pump it Up" place but had never been before. It's an indoor fun park full of inflatable slides and games, but it's only open two or three days a week for four hours at a time, or something like that. Apparently their business model was created by Pat Sajak (my mom told me that Wheel of Fortune films a full week's episodes in one short day).

We got there right after it opened. Only 20 kids are allowed to play at the same time and my kids were numbers 19 and 20. Whew, just made it. For the next three hours we had an absolute blast:

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Friday night -- pizza and a movie

Yes, it was the second time in 24 hours that we ate pizza. But this time it was from Star Pizza, a Houston classic that makes a whole wheat crust. So it's healthy, right?

We rented Homeward Bound 2 on DVD -- they'd seen the first one a few weeks earlier. Nana and Gramps came over and shared our pizza and movie. What a great way to spend a Friday night.

Saturday -- my first real tea party

The morning started off with our usual Saturday routine: kolaches. Hmm, this post is mostly about food. I swear we did more than just eat while Jamie was gone.

Saturday afternoon was a special Daddy/Daughter tea party at church for Valentine's Day, only for daughters between the ages of 3 and 6. Samantha fit right into that and couldn've have been more excited. We were even asked to wear "formal play dress-up" clothing, whatever that meant. Samantha wore a dress, knee-high pink socks, sparkly shoes, a tiara and a boa. I wore khakis and a nice shirt.

We learned the proper manners for drinking tea and eating cookies, brownies, eclairs, fruit, cupcakes and crackers. There I go with the food again. I'll shut up and just show the pictures:

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Sunday -- last day

We started with church/lunch/nap just like normal, but our Sunday night bible study group was canceled becasue a few people were sick. I formed a backup plan: leftover pizza picnic at the park! The kids thought it was genius. This was our last hurrah as a threesome and while it was a ton of fun, we were missing Mommy pretty badly by that point:

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Not bad for our first long weekend without Mommy around. I'm not voting to do that every weekend, but at least we know we can still have a good time when it happens.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Family profiles -- my grandparents

Alright, so I didn't come through on another post as soon as I had planned. You know how people get writer's block? I have the opposite. I have so many ideas that it's been downright paralyzing. The only way to fix that is to get busy, so here goes!

This is the fourth one of these family profiles I've done -- my mom, dad and my brother were the previous unsuspecting targets of my writings.

I am 31 years old and still have all four of my grandparents alive and well. I am well aware of how rare and wonderful that is! I went to college in their hometown, so those four years were an amazing time of connection and love with my grandparents. Here's a short insight into my perceptions and memories of each of them (names in parenthesis are their official nicknames from the great-grandchildren):

Paternal grandfather (Great)

Great's direct legacy to me includes things like his sense of humor, his body shape, his deafening sneeze and his penchant for picking up odd hobbies. I inherited them all, gladly. He served in the Navy but I've never heard him talk about it much. He sold insurance for many years, and I've heard hints that he had some outstanding career achievements, but I haven't heard him talk about those either.

He became a Christian sometime around the age I'm at now (31) and has gone on to become a true leader/servant in his church. He and my grandmother have helped build and lead a food distribution center for needy families in Little Rock. When most retired men his age would sit back and rest, he drives a truck full of food to people who are hungry. The very essence of Jesus.

He gave me my first ice cream when I was a little boy. I think he has given all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren their first ice cream. My childhood memories of him include breakfasts at McDonalds, sitting in his lap and driving his truck, and sitting in the wheelbarrow as he pushed us all around his backyard. He is a great man, that Great.

Paternal grandmother (Nonny)

Nonny is one of those ladies who is a true natural with children. She stayed home with her own children until they were older, then she worked for the local University for many years in the Admissions department. She loved spending time with her grandchildren (ahem... I was the first). She really loves seeing her great-granchildren, and it's a priority for me and Jamie to make that happen as much as possible.

She is a natural teacher and counselor, with excellent listening skills. She turned their home into a Grand Central Station of unconditional love, with tons of visitors constantly coming by to chat. She has taught dozens, if not hundreds, of bible classes for ladies and couples.

Nonny was the biggest champion to begin and continue the family tradition of a week-long summer vacation. It started when I was a baby and last year we had 17 people there! Many of my childhood memories revolve around those vacations.

Maternal grandfather (Grandaddy)

Grandaddy gave me a love for music, as he was a band director and professor of music for 40 years. I continue to meet people who have been influenced by his teaching and leadership.

He also has a great sense of humor but it's not always on display. This makes it all the more hilarious when he lets it out. Example:

Grammy: "I've been so clumsy lately -- I broke two plates yesterday!"
Grandaddy: "Yep. She missed both times."

He served as an elder in the church for a long time and retired from that role a few years ago. He is one of those men who quietly goes around doing many good things none of us will ever hear about. The world needs more like him.

Maternal grandmother (Grammy)

I don't have a ton of very powerful childhood memories of Grammy -- we loved spending time at her house, but I remember her as sort of reserved and quiet in big family settings.

As an adult, though, I discovered we were kindred spirits. Name an issue and we likely agreed on it. I saw her personality unfurl before me and she became one of my very best friends, both during my college years and beyond.

She is the only family member who ever bought gifts for our cats at Christmas. The incredible thing is that I'm almost sure that she doesn't like cats at all. But she loved me and Jamie, so the cats got a piece of love too, whether they understood it or not.

To this day when she talks, I listen. And every time we part, these two intellectual and reserved souls shed rare tears.

I'm a lucky dude.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


A real post is coming in the next day or two, but here's a little something in the meantime:

Am I the only one who...

-- feels awkward and like an outsider sometimes in a social setting where everybody seems to be getting along wonderfully? Even if they're my close friends? Yet in a setting where everybody is uncomfortable, I immediately become a social catalyst and intuitively start bringing people together in conversation? Until it clicks for them and their conversation flows again, at which point I intuitively withdraw?

-- wakes up in the middle of the night, once every few months, with the overwhelming sense that I'm really living on my own and doing this whole "adult" thing? For a few minutes I lie there with a full realization of the fragility of our lives, and our lifestyles.

-- is always looking 12-20 seconds ahead of my car on the road, and gets frustrated by people who always seem surprised by upcoming traffic jams or lane closures?

Christmas funny

My parents bought me a doormat for Christmas that has the latitude/longitude coordinates of our house. I think it's very cool. When I tore off the label/sticker from the mat and went to throw the label away, I almost didn't read it first. That would've been a shame. Here's what it says:

Warning: Do not use as a projectile. Sudden acceleration to dangerous speeds may cause injury. When using mat, follow directions: put your right foot in, put your right foot out, put your right foot in and shake it all about. This mat is not designed to sustain gross weight exceeding 12,000 lbs. If mat begins to smoke, immediately seek shelter and cover head. Caution: if coffee spills on mat, assume that it is very hot. This mat is not intended to be used as a placemat. Small food particles trapped in fibers may attract rodents and other vermin. Do not glue mat to porous surfaces, such as pregnant women, pets and heavy machinery. When not in use, mat should be kept out of reach of children diagnosed with CFED (Compulsive Fiber Eating Disorder). Do not taunt mat. Failure to comply relives the makers of this doormat, Simply Precious Home Decor, and its parent company, High Cotton, Inc., of any and all liability.