Monday, November 30, 2009

It's not funny

video

I have been criticized for only posting positive, light hearted and funny stories of my life. Here is one that is NOT funny.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rotisserie

The following a re-run story from a couple of years ago. I tweaked it a bit.


My mom hosts, on average, about 35 people a year for Thanksgiving. Nine kids, plus spouses, plus 22 or so grand kids, it is a lot of people. Each family brings a dish of some sort but my mom does the cooking of the turkey and the stuffing.

A few years back she started to cook more than one bird for the dinner. Since the larger turkey took up all the space in her main oven she bought a medium sized rotisserie oven to cook a smaller, second turkey.

A few years ago the rotisserie oven broke. A couple of weeks prior to Thanksgiving my mom was giving the (now old) rotisserie oven a test run to make sure it was ready. Well, she found out that the mechanism that turned the fowl (or maybe it was the fetzer valve or the by-pass line, I am not sure) as not working properly. She asked my dad to take a look at it to see if he could fix it. She did not want to have to spend the money to buy a new oven. She left the oven on a table in the laundry room/back office so my dad could tinker with it.

My dad traveled a bit a with his job but he would go in and out of his office almost everyday. Every night for three weeks my mom would ask my dad if he fixed the rotisserie. Every night my dad would say he did not get around to it. My mom explained that rotisseries were expensive and if she had to, she would get a new one. My dad would then tell her that he would fix it and not to waste the time or money.

The rotisserie just sat on the table.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving my dad came home early from work and saw the rotisserie sitting on the table. With only 48 hours left until Thanksgiving he grabbed a screw driver and decided to take the oven apart. Later that evening, when my mom and dad were talking he told her that he disassembled the oven but could not see anything wrong with it. He also told her that the he was having a hard time putting the pieces back together. My mom freaked out.

The day prior, that Monday, my mom went out and bought a new rotisserie oven and threw the old one away.

My dad took apart a brand new oven.


_____________________________________

My favorite Thanksgiving post is up over at What was I Thinking.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas Debate

There is an argument about to happen in my house. It is the type of argument that could put a serious strain on the harmony of the household. This disagreement can carry and produce as much venom and animosity as any political topic; such as the right to bear arms or separation of church and state. You wanna see a house divided? Health Care Bill, meh, nothing compared to what is going to happen this weekend.

This weekend is the weekend where we typically hang our Christmas Lights. We have the argument every year. One of us likes the house to be decorated in only white lights. One of us prefers the house to be lit in the multi colored twinkle lights.

What do you prefer?


Also, I was given a copy of the new Curious George A Very Monkey Christmas to review. The show's broadcast premiere is on November 25th on PBS Kids (check local listings). I sat down with Maxfield and Wyatt to watch it and, well, it is a Curious George Christmas special. It is cute. Wyatt, who is three, liked it better than Max who is five. They both only asked to watch it one more time, which as far as movies or television shows go is only like a 2 out of 4 stars.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Patio

Lauren and I were married in the summer of 2002. We bought our first house that fall. The house was a fixer-upper (which when said has the same syllables and cadence as mother-f@%ker). Our first anniversary we decided that instead of doing something/getting gifts, we would build a brick paver-patio off the back of our house. We figured we would get years of use out of a patio, grilling and hosting parties and having fun that it would be worth giving up any type of vacation/anniversary gift. To keep costs down we decided we would do the work ourselves.

The weekend before our anniversary/vacation my friend Bob helped me dig out the 17 by 10 foot area that would become our back patio. I am not a rocket surgeon and Bob (although very smart) is not a brain scientist. It took us the better part of the weekend to figure out how to level the ground that was on a 20 degree pitch.

That Monday, July 14th, was the start of my vacation. I had a few palettes of brick pavers, a few yards of sand and five cubic yards of modified stone (gravel) delivered to my house. All three components of the patio sat on a driveway which I shared with our neighbor. I was determined to have the driveway cleared that day so my neighbors could park their car. Monday July 14th I set out at 8:30 am to clear the driveway. Anyone who has done a paver patio knows that you need to fill the area with modified stone, tamp it down, add sand and then put the bricks into place. Let me tell you, moving five cubic yards of stone, by shovel and wheel barrow, is an incredibly difficult physical feat for a person who is not used to doing that kind of labor.

By 1PM, that Monday afternoon Lauren found me, whimpering, curled up in a semi-fetal position against the garage. She asked me what was wrong and if she could help. A week before we had just found out she was pregnant and I did not want her to exert herself, so of course I said no. She did help with building the patio but all the heavy lifting was done by me. My bones and muscles ached. I was covered in sweat and dirt. My hands were covered in blisters. The mini mountain of five cubic yards of modified stone, that I spent 5 hours moving, still looked like four and half cubic yards on my driveway. I was dehydrated and tired. I felt defeated and I may have started to cry. Lauren said she would get me a sandwich and beer.

When I finished my lunch I set out to finish the project. By that Friday the 18th of July I was done. It was the single most difficult home improvement task I have ever tried. I promised myself I would never do a paver project again. We only got to enjoy the patio for one full summer because the very next year we moved to Florida. I never got a chance to fully appreciate the hard labor, sweat and tears that were put into that project.

A few years, and two houses, later we moved into our current home that needed some serious work on the back patio. The screened-in porch was all rotted and falling apart. The posts that supported the roof were water damaged and rotting. From a safety standpoint we needed to fix it. The concrete slab was uneven and cracked from years of settling. It seemed kind of silly to build a new patio just as we go into winter but it needed to get done before the ground froze. Lauren and I weighed all of the possibilities of doing it ourselves. I started to have flashbacks to the last time we worked on a patio. Tears may have formed in the corner of my eyes and I may have started to involuntarily twitch. I remembered my promise to myself.

Long story short, we hired my brother's neighbor Mike. It took Mike about a week to do the whole thing. He knocked out the old porch, replaced the support posts and did a paver patio. Mike did an excellent job. If you live in the Philly suburbs and are looking to get a patio done, email me and I will get you his number.

The best part of Mike's work is that he did not cry once.

Neither did I.









Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Believe

I took Maxfield and Wyatt with me to the art center so I could attend a theater group meeting. Both kids were, for the most part, well behaved. They enjoyed the time running around the stage and seating area while I participated in discussions about budgets and marketing.

One of the galleries across the hall was hosting some type of event which piqued Wyatt's curiosity.

"Daaaad?" Wyatt whispered. "Can I go over there?"

"Noooo." I whispered back mimicking his tone and cadence.

"Whyyyyy?" he whispered louder.

"Becauuuuse." I said.

"Buuut I waannt tooo."

I could tell Wyatt may put up a loud argument in the middle of the meeting so I lied to him.

"They are having a class in there teaching kids how to eat broccoli. Are you sure you want to go?" I asked him.

He changed his mind pretty quick. I smiled, three-year-olds will believe the possibility of anything.

Two minutes later I could see the mental light bulb go off in his head. Eyes wide and smirk on his face, he ran over to me.

"Daaad?" he said in a whisper.

"Whaaat?" I mimicked back.

"Do they have a pizza eating class here?"

I laughed out loud. Three-year-olds will believe the possibility of anything.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dinosaur Poop

video

video

A few weeks ago we went to the Academy of Natural Sciences . Sometimes a blog post does not need anything written.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trouble

“Dad?” I called tentatively from the other side of the living room.

“Yes.” He replied from the corner of the couch, behind the newspaper he was reading.

Uhmm. I need to, uhh, ask you something.”

With a quick flip of his wrist, my dad folded one corner of the paper towards himself revealing his face to me. The other half of the paper, closest to the lamp on the end table, still up in the air caused a shadow to fall on his face. I couldn't tell if he was annoyed or concerned.

“I uhh. I need you to. What I am trying.” I muttered trying to find the right way to ask.

“Spit it out Mumbles.” He called me mumbles whenever I, well, mumbled my words.

“IneedyoutocometoschoolnextweekandmeetwithMr.DeLorenzotheassistantprincipalsoIcangetoutofasuspension.” I blurted.

My dad lowered the other half of the paper and asked for an explanation. I was his 6th kid. It wasn't the first time he was asked to stop by for a conference and it certainly wasn’t going to be the last. I explained the situation and my dad rolled his eyes. I could not tell if he was rolling them at me or rolling them about the whys and the whos.

The following week I was called out of one of my early classes and told to go the assistant principal’s office. As I passed the giant school mascot statue in the main hall I could see my father through the plate glass window that separated the offices from the hallways. I was overcome with a sense of dread. Up until that point I had never, ever, been in trouble in school. I was a good student. I don’t mean that I was getting As and Bs, I mean that I was a good kid. Most teachers liked me. I participated in extracurricular activities. I was on the student government. I was a good kid.

I followed my dad down to Mr. De Lorenzo’s office. Mr. De Lorenzo was on the phone. He waived us in and gestured for us to sit down in the chairs across from his desk. A few minutes later he hung up the phone.

“Thanks for coming in today.” Mr. De Lorenzo said smiling like a cat that ate a canary. “Did your son tell you why I asked you to come in?”

“Yes.” My dad replied. He then went on to repeat the story I had told him. “Apparently my son was working on planning the sophomore class trip, a ski trip to Jack Frost Mountain. He and the other officers collected money from all the students that were interested, made arrangements for the buses, planned the whole trip. You, Mr. De Lorenzo, as the class council supervisor, were supposed to send a deposit check to the ski resort in order to book the place. You never mailed the check. Two weeks before the trip the ski resort called and canceled because they were overbooked. My son was frustrated and apparently made a disrespectful remark about you, which you overheard.”

“Actually, your son, called me an idiot.” The assistant principal clarified.

“I know what he said.” My dad responded. “What is the punishment for a student calling a teacher or yourself a name like that?”

“Well, according to the disciplinary code, they would receive one day of an In-School Suspension.” Mr. De Lorenzo said with a smug look on his face.

“Then that should be the punishment Bill gets.” My dad stood, turned towards the door.

“I didn't call you an idiot.” I argued before my dad could leave. “I told another member of the class council that I thought you were an idiot for not mailing the check. You just happened to over hear me say it. I was not being disrespectful directly towards you. I was just giving my opinion.”

“Bill.” My dad interrupted. “You heard the man. In-School Suspension for one day is the punishment. Do I need to sign something Mr. De Lorenzo?”

“No, but you don’t have anything to say about what your son did? What he said?”

“No.” my dad answered.

“But the reason I asked you to come down here was because I don’t have to give him the suspension, I can reduce the punishment to just a detention. I just wanted to ask you your opinion on the matter.” Mr. De Lorenzo sat back in his chair and placed his hands behind his head. He leaned way back in the chair as if he wanted to watch my dad ask him for forgiveness and a lesser punishment for me.

“If what Bill said requires an In-School Suspension, then suspend him.”

Mr. De Lorenzo sat up in his chair. “So you agree that what Bill said was wrong?”

"You asked that I come down here so you could hand-out his punishment. I am missing doing my job so you can do yours." My dad looked at me he then looked at the assistant principal. “My son is entitled to his opinion. If voicing his opinion gets him trouble, so be it. He has to learn.”

Mr. De Lorenzo’s face went red. “But you don’t’ think he was wrong?”

“I just told you he will serve the suspension." My dad said and locked eyes with Mr. De Lorenzo. "You have here a boy who is on the class council trying to do right by his class and school. He doesn't have to do that. He also participates in student council, football, and other extra curricular activities. He got frustrated with you because you were supposed to do your job and you didn't. You want to suspend him, and possibly chase him away from giving back to the school because of ego. Your ego. I am not defending Bill right now just because he is my son, I would defend any kid in his position. But because he is my son he will serve the suspension. I will not admit that Bill was wrong for voicing his opinion in this situation."

“And why is that?” Mr. De Lorenzo asked.

My dad smiled at me. “Because I happen to agree with his opinion.” and my dad walked out of the office.

Three days later I served my In-School Suspension. I smiled the entire time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Exposure

I have a question that has been bothering me for a while now and I have never been able to figure out how to ask the question without it sounding totally perverted and messed up. It is a serious question and one that I think other parents may ask and one that I think could be answered by the people of the Internet.

At what age is it inappropriate for a boy to be naked in front of his peers? Especially if his peers are little girls? (See what I mean about the question?)

And at what age is it inappropriate for a girl to see a penis? (See, again, I can't ask the question without it being weird.)

I have three boys and sometimes during play dates with their female friends or cousins one of my boys ends up in a state of undress. Whether it is Max who walks around the house with his pants around his ankles because he had trouble pulling them up after using the bathroom. Or Wyatt, who, if he had his way would be naked all of the time. And of course Jackson needs to get his diaper changed from time to time.

When their girl play dates were young, two or three years old, it never bothered me that my boys were all willy-nilly (pun totally intended) with their nakedness. I guess because the girl's mom's never seemed to care. But now that Max's friends are older, I guess I am feeling somewhat, hell I don't know, more uncomfortable.

I still have no problem changing Jackson's diaper, any where or any time. I understand Wyatt's need to spill stuff on his clothes, on purpose, just so he can run around naked. I get that Max, some times, has problems with his pants. I guess lately I have become more aware of the audience.


So I am asking the Internet, at what age is it uncomfortable for exposure? Being the Exposure-er or the Exposure-ee?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dodgeball

My buddy Dan told his wife the only thing he wanted for his 40th birthday was a dodgeball party with his family and friends. She made all the arrangements and a few weeks ago I received an invitation. I have known Dan for about 25 years. Over those years I have spent many parties with Dan drinking and acting up only to wake up feeling awful and in pain from the previous nights shenanigans. I promptly RSVPed "yes" because it seemed like a good idea. I did not want to miss out on the fun.

This past Saturday was the party. Dan was surprised. About 20 people showed up to play Cosmic Dodgeball at the Sports Zone . The staff at the Sports Zone are used to hosting these types of parties for kids and they did their best to treat every one of us there as a kid.

Five minutes into dodgeball the game became more like meander-away ball. And after another 5 minutes I was playing more like malinger ball. And after another five minutes I was playing hide-behind-my-friends-and-pussyfoot-ball, as you can see in the video. Dodgeball lasted an hour and afterwards we all gathered in the one of the little party rooms for pizza, soda and cake.

I had a blast at Dan's party and, as it was when we were younger, I woke up the next morning feeling awful and in pain. video

Friday, November 06, 2009

Man Challenge

Picture this:
A woman struggles opening a mayonnaise jar, turns to her husband for assistance, he tries and tries but cannot get the lid to turn. It is such a simple task yet so difficult. She says, "Honey, let me run it under some hot water." He says, "No, I got it." He struggles some more, sweat beading on his forehead. She says, "Let me tap it with a knife." He says "NO. I said I got it." He keeps trying but the lid refuses to budge. A seemingly simple physical challenge is bringing his manhood into question. A man is supposed to be able to open jars. He places the jar on the counter to re-assess the situation. The woman picks up the jar, bangs the lid on the counter and with a quick flip of her wrist the jar opens. He says, "I loosened it for you."
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Completing a physical challenge, no matter how simple, is good for man. It gives us an opportunity to beat our chest and say "Look. I did that." That is why Carnies are always calling out to men challenging them to throw a softball at milk bottles. Carnies know the challenge seems simple that men will keep trying until we get it just so we can say "I did that." There is nothing like carrying a giant stuffed panda around to heighten ones testosterone level.

Sometimes the more seemingly simple tasks become the more complex challenges. There are a few of these seemingly simple yet complex challenges where men thrive on the competitive nature of the challenge. Getting someones keys out of a locked car is one of those challenges. No key, a locked door, limited tools, its like MacGyver. Men want to be MacGyver.

Yesterday I locked my keys in my car. We do not have a spare key. I was in the parking lot of the Acme food store just a mile from our house. I was up for the challenge. I told the woman at the customer service counter my predicament and asked if they had a screwdriver and a wire hanger. They did. I went back to my car and I began to work. I wedged the screw driver in the door frame and propped the door open just enough to work the wire hanger into the car. I maneuvered hanger's bent end close to the electric button but every time I "pressed" the hanger it would bend. I was close. I "pressed" again but the hanger bent some more. I removed the hanger reshaped it and went back to work. Every time I got close to hitting the button the hanger would bend and I would have to remove it to reshape it.

As I was standing at my car with the wire hanger and a screwdriver protruding from the door I began to notice a strange phenomena. Men would come up to me and offer advice or they would look in their trunks and cars to see if they had the right tool to open the car. Every guy that passed me in that parking lot, over the half hour or so I was standing there, could feel the MacGyver in them. They wanted a piece of the challenge. It is a man thing. Carnies should have a game where they lock keys in a car.

Every woman that walked by, all said pretty much the same thing, "Don't you have a spare key somewhere?"

Knowing that the hanger was too soft for the job (hey now) I finally broke down and called Lauren. I asked her to grab a wooden dowel that I knew we had in the garage and another screwdriver. I knew that with something less pliable than the wire hanger I would be able to open the door. Lauren thought that at that time she should mention that I am probably ruining the car door. I got a little frustrated and said, "Just bring me the stuff I asked for okay." and I hung up.

Five minutes later Lauren called me back. " I am not coming to get you." She said. "I called the police. Someone will be there soon. Just wave them down when you see them."

"You called the police?" I asked.

"Yes."

"Why? They have more important things to do than help me. Besides I knew I could get it open if you just brought the stuff."

"They will have the right tools to get into the car."

"I can't believe you called the police on me."

"Well I did."

I hung up and worked very quickly trying to get the car door open before the cops showed up. I could not believe that Lauren would emasculate me like that. Getting keys out of a locked car is a manly thing. Its one of those things we are supposed to do. Two minutes later a cop showed up. I lowered my eyes in shame avoiding his judgemental look. I pretty much gave up my man card right then and there. The officer had the car open in 30 seconds.

"There you go, sir" He said. Adding the "sir" as if he may have been questioning it.

"Thank you." I said. "I am sorry my wife called. I could have gotten it if I had a few more minutes."

"No problem." He responded as he got into his cruiser.

"Well I DID loosen it for you." I said.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Symptom

I was in the process/hell of shoveling 5 yards of mulch, last fall, when I started to feel tightness in my chest. I stopped to catch my breath and found that it was short. A minute later I threw a few more shovel-fulls into the wheelbarrow to top it off. I bent my knees, grabbed the long wooden handles and dead-lifted the weight of the wheelbarrow. As I steered the mulch toward the front garden the left, I felt a sharp pinch in my left shoulder. I lost my grip on the left handle and it dropped from my hand, the metal container crashed to the ground spilling its contents all over the yard. My left arm and hand were numb. I could feel a tingling sensation in my funny bone area.

I did a quick mental check; chest pain, check, shortness of breath, check, numbness in my left arm, check. I did what any normal 38 year-old (this was last year) red blooded American would do in this situation, I went inside, drank a glass of water, sat on the couch and let the symptoms subside. I also did not tell my wife.

Two days later, while at work, I ran up two flights of steps two at a time. As I pulled on the stairwell door I could feel my left arm go numb and I felt a shooting pain emanate from my neck and chest. I returned to my desk, sat down and tied to wait out the pain. I was not short of breath this time but I could feel muscles in my chest close in around my lungs.

I thought to myself.

“I wonder if I am having a heart attack. I can’t be. I am only 38. But wait a minute there are people who have heart attacks who are even younger than me. I am having chest pain. Left arm, numb. I got pins and needles in my left pinky, is that a sign of a heart attack? Could be. I guess. No shortness of breath so that is a good sign. Hold on a sec, two days ago I was mulching, a heavy activity, and I started to feel this way. I just ran up some steps and I feel this way. Holy crap I am having a heart attack. Is this what angina feels like? Heh, heh, I said angina. Now that I just told myself I am having a heart attack I can feel my breath getting shorter. Wait a minute the pain in my arm is gone. Whew. Wait, now it is back. Try not to think about it. I wonder if someone in the office has Nitroglycerine tablets. How come Nitroglycerine tablets do not explode? Like in cartoons? Or is that TNT? Okay the pain in my arm is now gone but It still feels numb. I can hear my pulse. That is a good thing. That mean I have a pulse. But maybe that is a sign that my heart is working harder because it is under attack. My doctor did tell me I had high cholesterol. well not really high but elevated. Wow, now I can feel my back and shoulder blades cramping up. Okay maybe I am only having a panic attack. What are the symptoms of a panic attack? Let me Google it. S.y.s.m.t.o.m.s.o.f.p.a.n.i.c., Crap I spelled symptom wrong. Backspace. Backspace. Backspace. Backspace. Backspacebackspacebackspacebackspacebackspace. Backspace. Backspace. Backspace. Backspace. m p.t.o.m.s.o.f.p.a.n.i.c.a.t.t.a.c.k. Enter. I should have just used the mouse I don’t know why I always delete the entire sentence or word instead of highlighting the mista… and here we go. Let’s see, symptoms are kind of the same as a heart attack. But wait I have numbness in my arm. Oh numbness in arm is a sign of a panic attack. I need to call 911. No if I call 911 and it’s only a panic attack I would feel foolish ahving an ambulance wisk me away from work. But if I die at my desk of a myocardial infarction, heh heh infarction, I would feel foolish. Well actually I would be dead so I guess I would not feel foolish. I am sweating. I am starting to feel lightheaded. Breathe. Breathe. Deep breath. No good. Still have chest pain. If I die Lauren is going to be so pissed. Now I am getting tunnel vision. Getting hard to swallow. Great now I am having a heart attack AND a panic attack. Maybe it is a panic attack. What if it is a heart attack? Fuck.”

I called my doctor and explained what I was feeling. They told me to come in right away. The office that I go to trains new physicians. I never really see the same doctor twice. The person on-call was a young female who seemed pretty sharp. She hooked me up to an EKG and immediately ruled out a heart attack. I immediately felt 100 times better. We went over my symptoms again and again. She reprimanded me for not going to the ER over the weekend when I first experienced the chest pain

“But it wasn’t my heart.” I said.

“But you did not know that at the time.” She responded. “What if it was?”

“But it wasn’t.”

“Next time you should go to the ER. It is better to be safe than sorry.”

"But it wasn't"

"You are closer to the higher risk heart attack age than you think."

Ouch. That hurt.

I started to argue with her but a nurse entered the exam room and handed the doctor my chart. She flipped the file open and started to read my history. I could feel my face flush. She was reading about my last visit. We spent the next few minutes in silence. She closed the chart with a flourish and smiled at me.

“There is nothing in here to indicate that you would have any heart issues.” She said.

We talked about anxiety and she did some reflex tests. The doctor ruled out a panic attack although she did think I talked myself into some of the symptoms (stupid internet). She then suggested I see a specialist who handles Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. It sounded serious, but it wasn’t.

The Thoracic guy sent me to an x-ray guy. The x-ray guy sent me to an MRI person. The MRI Person sent me to a nerve conduction woman. The nerve conduction woman stuck 2 inch needles into the muscles up and down my neck shoulder and left arm and sent electricity through them. She then sent me back to my regular doctor.

The final diagnosis is herniated discs in my neck, C3, C4, C5. Now, if I ever do have a real heart attack I am just going to think it is a pain in the neck.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Monster Squad

I prefer scary Halloween costumes over the super hero or movie character variety. I was very happy when Maxfield said he wanted to be a skeleton. I was even happier when our friend Kristan lent us a skeleton costume. Wyatt, who wanted to be Iron Man, and then a robot, and then Wolverine, made me happy when finally decided he wanted to be a mummy. Lauren took an old bed sheet, tea-stained it,tore it into pieces and zip-boom-viola, a cheap mummy costume. Lauren decided she would recycle an old Frankenstein costume for Jackson. Our Halloween costumes were cheap and scary, kind of like a "Fish-Town" hooker.


Here is the monster squad- Skeleton, Mummy, Frankenstein and the Blob.