Monday, April 25, 2011

Discovered

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Right after I took this video of Maxfield playing Ode to Joy, he turned to me and said "Put that on your blog."

I was shocked. "Excuse me?" I asked. "Do you know what a blog is?"

"No. Not really." He answered.

"Then how do know I have a blog?"

"You talk about it." Max said in a matter-of-fact tone.

"Do you know what it is called? What I put on there?"

"Poop and Boogies." He smiled as he said it. "You write stories and put pictures and stuff on it."

I started to give him an explanation but he was already moving on to Lego Ninjago. Once Ninjago spinners come out, well, then there is no hope of having anyone pay attention to what is being said.

Max knows about the blog. He was 1 when I started it. He is now 7.

I am still trying to wrap my brain around all of the moral and ethical questions that arise in regards to what I should and should not post on here now that I know that he knows.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Supporting Characters

I was recently asked by the publisher Little Brown and Co to review the book The House that Ruth Built by Robert Weintraub. I read the quick blurb about the book "A new stadium, The First Yankees Championship and the Redemption of 1923". I was pretty up front with my response to editor about how I was a slow reader and that I was not a Yankees fan but that I wouldn't mind taking a look. I like history. I did not know too much about the history of Babe Ruth or the Yankees and I figured I may get an education.

Weintraub weaves a very interesting story about Babe Ruth, the NY Giants Coach and anti-Yankee man John McGraw, the Yankees' owners Ruppert and Huston and the building of Yankee's Stadium. The first few chapters read more like historical fiction than a typical baseball book filled with statistics and assumed knowledge of players. Weintraub does a nice job dropping in enough modern day references like Rocky Balboa or more modern landscape references that gives the reader (me) a better visualisation than say your customary black and white photo reference.

I think that The House that Ruth Built does an excellent job at providing details, like the quantity of bolts used for Yankee Stadium, but without making the book too statistical. Everyone and everything in the book is described with personality. At one point I found myself reading as if the stadium itself was an actual character in the story. Which is understandable since every ball player in that era had a nickname that sounded like a serial killer, like "Sultan of Swat",  "Jumpin Joe", "Bootnose" or "Gink".

More importantly than the detail and descriptions Weintraub does an incredible job of bringing to life the secondary personalities and lesser know characters from that era. He gives meaning and punch and purpose to construction workers, sportswriters, coaches, players and other influences to the story and the life of Ruth and theYankees.

And that right there is what makes this book such a great read. The lesser known or forgotten personalities are part of the mix. If the book were fiction these people would be considered supporting characters. But they weren't characters, they were people. People with minor influence but influence non the less.

Hearing a heartbreaking love song after a breakup gives that song much more impact. Seeing a funny movie at the right time or with the right people makes the movie that much more funny. Reading a book and liking it or feeling good about it , I believe, much like hearing a song or seeing a movie is all about the timing. Reading The House that Ruth Built is perfect in it's timing for me.

This year I am again coaching Maxfield in his Little League team. Is the next Babe Ruth on my team? Who knows. But I am aware (even more so now because I am reading this book) of all the secondary and minor influences that are happening now. If a book is written about Cole or Zach or Shamus or Nick or Billy or the other handful of kids on the team, will I be mentioned? And if so, will it be in a good way or a bad way? Was I the coach that did too much or too little? Will Maxfield be an influence on a future great player? Will he himself be a great player?

So as I read the House that Ruth Built I read every character and every name and I quickly think of the other coaches, players and other volunteers I know who give meaning and punch and purpose to the kids playing on my team. It makes Weintraub's book that much better.

I hope someday a book is written where I get a mention. I just hope it is not a book about a serial killer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Old Yeller

A few months ago I discovered that I was yelling at my kids more and more. I am sure the increase in the volume of my voice as well as the increase in the times I found myself raising the volume of my voice is due to many many circumstances. The first and foremost circumstance would be the fact that I have three boys. I believe there was a medical study done which related the presence of a Y chromosome decreases the capability to hear ones parents by about 75%. Combine that with being pent up in the house most of the winter, short attentions spans, stress, home projects, and the kids inability to stop hitting each other I found myself yelling a lot.

 I don't like yelling. I think the more a kid gets yelled at, the more they tune it out. The yelling becomes part of the background noise and is even less effective. This than causes the yell-er to yell more and even louder which , well, you know becomes a bad cycle. Anyway, I found myself yelling more and I decided that I would try my best to not yell at the kids. I decided I would give it up for lent. I even told the kids I was giving up yelling for lent. I knew that if they knew I was trying, I would hold myself up to a somewhat higher standard. Just by thinking about not yelling would make me talk to the boys in a different and hopefully better manner. I was giving myself 40-46 days to break my yelling cycle and hopefully figure out a better way to discipline and deal with my parenting frustrations.


Let me just say that this is one of the hardest Lenten sacrifices I have made. Instead of yelling or barking at the kids I have found myself gritting my teeth and issuing whispered gravely voice reprimands. There is a seen in A League of Their Own where Tom Hanks does his best to hold in his screaming at one of the players for missing the cutoff man. I feel like that. All the time. Does this mean I yelled at my kids all the time? No. It just means that I think my kids know I am working on NOT yelling and they are taking advantage of me.


I hope my little experiment pays off and even after Easter I continue to work on not yelling.


Parenting in public is hard work. Not yelling is even harder. I never realized how much yelling is an impulse reaction. Over the past 5 weeks I am sure that I must look like a deranged twitching conniption ready lunatic when I have tried to discipline kids or get their attention.

If you know me and you see me and the kids at the grocery store or the ball field or wherever and I look like a muttering stuttering spastic whispering through gritted teeth please do not think I am a crazy person. Please just know that I have three boys and one of them is in trouble.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Save Me

A little over a year ago I wrote a post about taking my mother-in-law to a Ree Drummond book signing. My mom, at that time, said to me, "You never took me to a book signing."

It has been a weight of guilt (not really) I have been carrying for a while.

Back in January I was going to see Brad Meltzer promote his book The Inner Circle and I asked my mom if she wanted to go with me. She said no. I asked her if there was an author she would like to go see and my mom answered Lisa Scottoline.

"Who?" I said.

"Lisa Scottoline. She writes a column for the Philadelphia Inquire and she also has written a bunch of novels. I saw her on some local cable show and I just love her." My mom gushed about Lisa Scottoline for a few more minutes.

"Fine. When and if she comes around I will take you to a book signing." I said.

I never heard of Lisa Scottoline and I decided to do some research. She wrote a bunch of books. She was from the Philly area. She wrote some funny columns for the paper. She seemed down to earth. She had a new book called Save Me coming out in a few months. I emailed her my story about how I took my Mother-in-law to a book signing but not my mom and asked her if she could help. I never heard back. I emailed again. Nothing.

One night while I was Twittering I saw that Lisa tweeted something to Brad Meltzer. I jumped into the twit stream and asked Brad to Twitterduce me to Lisa. I don't know if he ever did but I did get a tweet from Lisa saying she would be doing signings in the Philly area in April. She suggested I come to one of those events.

I told my mom and we made plans to attend. My mom then read three more of her books and became a huge fan/stalker of Lisa Scottoline.

We went to the Lisa Scottoline book signing last night. We waited at the book store amongst the stacks of prenatal care and early child learning books (Scottoline does not write books about prenatal care that was where the sigining was taking place) talking to other fans. Every now and then someone would approach and ask a question about the store, which I would answer to best of my ability. Finally the author showed up right on time. Lisa Scottoline was funny and full of energy as she spoke to the group of about150 people. She was quick witted but also serious about her work. Very, very funny.

Scottoline spoke about how the seeds of the idea of the book were planted in her brain. She said that her friend was asked one night to pick up another small child with her own after school. When her friend arrived at the school she realized that she only had one car seat. The internal emotional, moral and legal debate about which child should get the car seat really weighed on her friend. Who should get the car seat?

Lisa Scottoline asked everyone in the crowd who they would give the car seat to. 90 percent said they would give the car seat to the other child. Lisa then asked who would give the car seat to their own child, standing in the back I raised my hand. Lisa asked me why. I was afraid I was about to embarrass my mom who was sitting to my right.

"I don't know if you ever had to deal with a car seat, but they are a pain in the ass." I said. "They do not make it easy to adjust and re-adjust the straps and buckles and seat belts for the weight and size of another kid. I would have put my kid in the car seat out of the simple fact it was already fitted perfect for him."

People in the audience appreciated my answer and Scottoline threw a bag of  Herr's potato chips at me and then moved on (The bag of chips, as I later learned, comes from a lesson Lisa' mom told her about always bringing food to a gathering. Lisa always brings PA based food to her signings to support PA). Her entire talk was funny and engaging. She even took the time to point out and recognize a fan that just earned their U.S. citizenship and another fan whose daughter was in the military. Scottoline also explained that her book has nothing to do with car seats but it does involve a what would you do type of dilema.



Lisa has law degree, is twice divorced, has an adult daughter, and loves her dogs. She even brought her dogs to the book signing. Which made me laugh to no end. My mom is very very afraid of dogs, it is a borderline phobia.

My mom and I stood in line for about 30 minutes waiting to get a chance to meet Lisa Scottoline. I used some Jedi mind tricks and some old school "my mom has a condition" tricks to get us through the line a bit quicker. My mom was absolutely ecstatic to meet Lisa Scottoline, she was grinning from ear to ear.  Lisa was so awesome taking her time to chit chat with my mom. My mom beamed the entire time.

Guess what? My mom soooo not afraid of Lisa Scottoline's dogs. She even said they were cute. What the?

I  then mentioned the Poop and Boogies blog to Lisa and gave her my card.  I could see either a hint of fear or recognition in her eyes as she read it. She gave my mom three more bags of Herr's chips.


My mom was very excited as we left the book store. I asked her if I embarrassed her at all.

"No, not in front of Lisa." She answered. "But you did when you were acting like a book store employee."

We got into the car and I breathed a sigh of relief, I no longer felt the guilt over my head. I finally took my mom to a book sigining.

My mom handed me the bags of Herr's chips.

"I can't believe I gave up chips for lent. "  she said.

And that, right there, made my whole night.

I have never read a Lisa Scottoline book. Now, after hearing her speak, and listening to my mom, I am very interested in reading some of her novels. If you get a chance go check her out.

Lisa's question in the beginning of her talk really struck me. What would you do? You are asked to pick up your small child's friend, two kids, one car seat, do you give the car seat to your kid or the other kid?

Or two book signings same day at the same time, one is your Mother-In-law's favorite author and one is your mother's favorite author, who do you choose?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I know Funny

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That is my mom's house.

My brother Jim and his family had 80 wooden cows delivered to my mom's front yard to wish her a happy birthday. They did it when she was away for the weekend on Friday April 1st.

I am stealing a line from my brother Kevin when I say, I know funny and that is funny. Why is it funny? Well, first of all, April 1st is NOT my mom's birthday and second, my mom is in her mid 60s.

As an April Fools joke this was pretty good but it got even better. While my mom was at church a woman approached my mom and told her how good she looked for being 80. My mom had to explain that it was an April Fool's joke to which the lady then told my mom her kids are so mean.

It gets even funnier. My mom's neighbor after seeing the cows, sent her flowers for her 80th birthday.

My brother Jim said it is the April Fool's joke that keeps on giving.

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The winners of the Burger King gift cards from last weeks post are Jim K,  Idaho Dad and MommaTmac. Winners were chosen at random using a random # generator. Thanks to all who participated.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

O Canada

I was 19 the first time I ever left the USA. My friend Dan had a 7 day pass or a break or something from the military academy he was attending. Through some long distance phone calls, that cost a few dollars, my 4 other friends and I found out Dan was going to be in staying with his roommate in Rochester NY. Rochester was only a 6 hour drive from Philly. Even better was that Rochester was only a 2 to 3 hour drive from Toronto. That's Canada. The legal drinking age in Canada in 1989 was 18 years of age. If you do the math it all equals a road trip.

The plan was to leave Philly at 9pm, arrive in Rochester around 3 AM, catch some Zs, pick up Dan,  leave for Toronto at 9am, stop at Niagara Falls, and arrive in Toronto around 1 PM , perfect for lunch time. The schedule, we figured out, would give us the maximum beer consumption time while in Canada. The plan also called for us to stay two nights in Toronto. Where? We had no idea.

Five of us packed into Rob's station wagon and left at 9 PM. We stopped to get food and drinks for the drive and hit the highway. We were going to take shifts driving, 2 hours a person with some one else in the shotgun seat to keep the driver awake. Somewhere around 11:45 PM the plan got messed up. I was driving and Tober was shotgun. Tober kept falling asleep. Every 15 minutes or so he would wake up and smack me in the face. It was his way of making sure I was awake. I pulled over around 1:30 AM and we switched drivers. Tober was Driving and Jon was shotgun. We were only about 2 hours away from Rochester. I told Tober to just stay on the highway for about an hour and then to look for the signs for Route 390. The rest of the guys and I were going to sleep.  About 5 minutes before the Route 390 signs both Tober and the shotgun fell asleep. Thankfully the highway we were on was straight. About 5 minutes after Route 390 they woke up. They kept driving and driving looking for signs. We drove about 2 and 1/2 hours out of the way.

The 5 of us eventually made it to Rochester, picked up Dan and headed to Canada. We stopped at Niagara Falls. The white foam at the bottom of the falls reminded us of the head of a beer and so after 20 minutes at one of the natural wonders of the world we jumped back in the car and drove to Toronto.

This is what I remember of Toronto. We stayed in a dorm converted to a hostile for the summer. We drank lots of beer. Someone slept in a laundry washing machine. We ate at Wendy's and were confused by the money exchange rate. We drank lots of beer. Two of  us got lost in Toronto while the others walked the streets looking for them. We drank lots of beer. I got my ear pierced. It hurt. Bob got his ear pierced. Bob screamed louder than I did when his ear was pierced. We drank lots of beer. There was vomit and public urination.  Budweiser is an import in Canada. We went to a night club. We ran out of beer money. Sweeny B shirts.

We left Toronto in bad shape. Not the city but us. We had an 8 to 10 hour drive ahead of us. We were only stopping for gas. Someone had to pee and decided to go in a Gatorade bottle. At about the 3 hour mark of the ride home the car really started to stink. It smelled of urine, beer farts, teenage body odor, exhaust fumes, vomit and an all encompassing funk.

When I returned to work at the insurance company I heard lots of whispers about my pierced ear. A man having an ear ring in 1989 in an office setting was still a bit, I don't know, taboo, I guess. I wore the ear ring for about 2 months, when my department manager hinted that I would never get promoted in the corporate world if I had my ear pierced. He told me he "could not conceive the idea that other managers would offer me a promotion" as well. I took it out. I never put another ear ring in again. That Halloween I dressed up as a sperm for work. I asked my manager if sperm could get promoted. I hoped he would use the word conceive again. He did not. He also ended up transferring me to another department.

Why am I writing all of this? Two days ago my left ear lobe started hurting. I felt what I thought was scar tissue. I squeezed the area and I must have burst a cyst or something in the area where the piercing was. I may have screamed louder than Bob did 20 years ago. Pinkish-white gross stuff squished out of my ear lobe. It smelled like the station wagon on our way back from Canada. Cloudy half-memories of Toronto oozed out of my ear.

There is hole in my ear lobe. Should I re-pierce it in attempt to get back some of my youth?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Chicken and Fries

Whenever we go out to eat as a family, no matter where we go, my kids get the same thing; chicken and fries. There is the rare occasion that Max will ask for a hot dog (for which he then destroys by putting ketchup on it. Who in their right mind puts ketchup on a hot dog?) but for the most part the kids ask for some type of chicken nuggets and French fries.

Not that we go out to eat that often, but you would think that over the years my kids would either be sick of nuggets or they would be nugget connoisseurs. They are neither. But I will say that my kids do prefer some restaurant's nuggets over others. When it comes to fast food joints my kid's least favorite nugget place was Burger King. "Too spicy" Wyatt would say every time he tried the crown shaped chicken. I think part of the problem was that the breading on the chicken had specks of pepper which made Wyatt think they were too spicy to begin with.

The problem with the kids not liking the BK chicken nuggets is that they absolutely love the BK play area. Where we live, there is almost an inverse relationship of nugget taste to play place awesomeness. My kids like Wendy's nuggets, but there is no play area. Micky D's chicken is okay but the play place is just okay. Chick Fil-A same as Mickey Ds.  Burger King, which is my favorite fast food place to go because I like their burgers and I think they have the best tasting chicken sandwiches, has the best play area around but my kids do not like their chicken nuggets. (Side note regarding BK's original chicken sandwiches-I started eating Burger King Chicken sandwiches when I was in high school. I still remember telling my friend Susan how much I loved them and she responded with the the typical smart ass "Why don't you marry them." I dreamt of a Burger King commercial of me marrying a white dressed, veil covered, chicken sandwich.)

I know, I know, I should not take my kids to a fast food restaurant let alone let them play on the equipment. I am a horrible parent, I know.  But I will say that the kid's play area in the BK by my house is awesome. Lauren and I actually get to have a 10, maybe 15,  minute conversation over dinner without being interrupted by one the kids.

Last week I received an email from the PR firm that works for Burger King. The email stated that Burger King has new chicken tenders that they wanted me to try, or have my kids try. They offered me a $20 gift card to buy the nuggets and review them. It had been a while since Lauren and I had a 15 minute uninterrupted conversation over dinner and I took Burger King up on their offer. We went last Thursday.

Wyatt ate the chicken tenders. They were not too spicy. I had my chicken sandwich. Lauren and I had our conversation (although I was picturing a chicken sandwich talking to me). I tried a couple of the new chicken tenders, and I can't tell if they are better then the old ones because I was not doing a direct comparison. They were good as far as nuggets go.  I was just happy that Wyatt ate his dinner. I think Burger King did the right thing by switching their nuggets. Their new Chicken Tenders just seem more appealing.

Burger King has given me three other $20 dollar gift card to give to three readers. Leave me a comment and tell me what food would you marry. I will randomly draw three winners to send a Burger King Gift Card. Please make sure you leave a valid way to get into to contact with you.


Contest is now closed. 4-8-11