Thursday, May 31, 2007

Waiting for a knuckle sandwich

I've been anticipating a sucker punch in the kisser ever since gas stroked above $3 a gallon here in what was normally considered, "Oklahoma - land of the sub-$3-a-gallon gas prices."

The right-left combination that I've been expecting (to be delivered by the fella next to me in his Chevy Avalanche/Ford Expedition/H3/et. al) would be to wipe the smug look off my face as I zipped into a Conoco, filled up my Civic for about $27, and zipped out again, waving buh-bye and muttering, "see you in a few weeks or so..." as I drove off.

Quite often I've felt somewhat emasculated and out-of-the-loop - vehicle wise - while puttering around my small town in my 2-door import (made in Canada, btw).

It's almost as if people stare at me and wonder why...1) I'm not driving a Pickup (you are a man, aren't ya?) or 2) Since I'm driving such a small car, why am I not driving a Neon (Dodge), Grand Am (Pontiac), Cavalier (Chevy), or Escort (Ford).

I'm not saying that in my small town of 4380 people, the two ricers in our garage are the only out-of-towner's in town. My rough guestimates would put the ratio to about 10-15% import (European and Asian both), the remaining 85-90% made of Detroit guts and a mixture of American/Canadian/Mexican labor. Heck, even my Wife's Toyota was made in Mexico.

So pardon me if I let creep a little smugness when I fill my tank and get on my merry way at 30-32 miles per gallon. Sure, it may not be the most patriotic approach to the issue at hand, but as a compromise, I propose the following.

If you, in your gas guzzler feel the need to take a swing at me to vent some of your Exxonized frustration, I'll take one on the chin for the good of my country and the cause of keeping one less road rage incident off the road...

But don't go screaming to the authorities when I jump into my El Camino, fire all of her hi-po 8-cylinders up and hunt you down Mad Max style...getting 10-12 miles per gallon while I do it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The stigma of summer school

C told me that her 1st grade teacher will be teaching 3rd grade summer school in a few weeks.

My Wife immediately sighed and said, "I hope our girls will never have to go to summer school."

When did summer school become being all about remedial learning and playing catch up from lessons missed during the regular school year? Not so from my experiences of summer learning.

In my elementary summer school, classes were offered in subjects that were virtually unheard of in a regular curriculum. I seem to recall that perhaps some remedial classes were offered, but for the most part, we just hung out with our friends, made kites, played kickball, shot caroms, ate 50-50 ice cream bars and read a ton of Encyclopedia Brown mysteries.

For myself and just about everyone I knew, high school level summer school was never about playing "catch up" either. It was always about "getting ahead."

Say I take English Lit 1 for 20 hours this summer, which successfully frees up a period next fall so I can take two back-to-back periods of auto shop class.

Or how about taking junior level American Government from June to July, enabling me to not have a final period, meaning I get out of classes that much earlier.

Hey, I'd gladly spend a few sunny morning hours taking World History over the break, all so I can get two lunch periods next year -- enough to drive downtown to make a Tommy's run for lunch.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't always about getting ahead as much as it was playing the system to test out the waters of the freewheeling adulthood we would soon be facing.

But there were the more than occasional wunderkind who would take Algebra in summer school, so they could take Geometry in their freshman year, Trig in their sophomore year, Calculus in their Junior year, and College math or something really physics or physical science as a Senior (seriously, I knew people who did this, and they're all doctors and scientist and what not now.)

For the most part, it was always about trying to stay one step ahead of everyone else -- problem was, everyone else was staying one step ahead as well, so you ended up being status quo.

Therein lies the pressure of what my Wife calls the "Good student conundrum." If we're all struggling to do what we can to stay ahead, yet everyone is undergoing the same struggle, are we really proceeding to the head of the class and staying ahead of the curve, or have we just recurved the curve to really f*ck ourselves over.

Regardless, Wifey says that attending summer school here in Okie land labels you with a lifelong stigma...kinda like a black mark going on your "permanent record" we were all so threatened with as grade schoolers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Check writers, unite!

I've had the same black, leather checkbook since I opened my first checking account as a 15-year old part time Courtesy Clerk (Box boy/buggy runner) at the Alpha Beta Supermarket in Monterey Park, CA.

It's seen me through both rare upturns and all too frequent downward spirals of my checking/savings account balances, always ready to spew forth another pre-perforated generic blue-green 2.75" x 6" paper representative of the moolah in my account.

Combined with my eelskin wallet, my black leather dayrunner, vibrating pager and bowtie logo'd pewter keychain, I was a stylin' fool for much of the 80's and 90's.

My wallet has since become a rubber band, my organizer is a series of post-it notes on the 800' x 4-story tall dry erase marker board in our mudroom hallway, my pager sits at the bottom of a closet junk box, replaced many times over by a series of amazingly shrinking cell phones, and my keychain is now a black-bi-buttoned plastic keyfob that has more memory on it's miniscule circuit board than Apollo 9's onboard computer.

My checkbook, full of checks and ready to be swept up and pocketed for a fun filled foray of excessive shopping and consumerizing, remains the only member of my pocket worthy personal property tribe to have survived.

Sadly, ever since the advent of online bill paying and check / debit cards, I've been severely neglecting my old friend in check writing crime.

I fear it will only get worse for him and checkbooks everywhere, for yesterday, while waiting in line at the WalMart Supercenter checkout stand #4, we witnessed what could be the beginning of the end of the check writing society we've all come to know as a familiar method of paying for things we want but don't really need.

My wife and I listened intently as the blue-smocked clerk with rounded off corners and spectacles hanging by a bright gold chain, explained to an elderly farmer why she was handing him back his check. Seems Walmart has recently instigated the high-tech policy of treating written checks as check debit cards, with the funds instantly transferring out of a consumer's account and into Walmart's.

Since the check is no longer required as proof of payment to the bookeepers and bankers who so vigilantly hung onto them for 2-3 weeks in the past, it is simply handed back to the customer with thanks and gratitude.

The old dude didn't get it right off.

After a few frustrating attempts by the Clerk to explain the money-saving and ultra-convenient process, I stepped in and explained to the overall clad fella that "Walmart is just cutting the bank out of the whole process and by running your check through that little doohickey behind the checkstand, the Clerk cleared it and is giving it back to you -- same as the bank does at the end of every month."

He seemed satisfied with that explanation, expressed a polite "thank you young fella" to me and took his check with him out of the bright white sodium vapored lighted environment of the store.

My wife commented that Okie's love their check writing, and that people here use checks for everything from paying bills to buying gas to getting pizza delivery. Even with the introduction of all the higher tech methods of paying for goods and services, Okie's have steadfastly held onto the security blanket of their checkbooks and the gospel that "my check is as good as my word."

While we were checking out and using our debit card to purchase the water softener salt and combo spray bottle/battery-operated fan for C to keep herself cool at an upcoming softball game, I glanced down at the now obsolete and irrelevant sign on the counter warning of the $35 returned check fee that would be charged to all deadbeat checks.

Perhaps they'll leave it on the counter for old time sake...and as a force fed reminder to folks that these here are indeed the "good old days" for Walmart shoppers.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Man with a full plate

So there we were sitting at the surgery center, sipping down a cup of complimentary Cain's hot cocoa and watching the Weather Stud on the huge flat panel on the waiting room wall warn us about the intense thunderstorm we had just driven 27 miles through to make our 6 a.m. appointment (whew), when nearby us plants a docile looking couple on the sofa catty corner to ours.

The Man (we'll call him Edgar) pulls out a ceramic mug adorned with the logo of a tractor dealership on the outside and a well earned ring-around-the-rim coffee stain on the inside, and pours himself some coffee from a gleaming stainless steel thermos.

His actions are thoughtful and practiced and not a drop of the hot rust colored liquid finds it way onto the wall-to-wall plush beneath our feet.

Edgar eyes me doting lackadaisically on my syrofoam cup, swallows his sip and says,
E - You a coffee drinker?
Me - Not an addict by any means, but I enjoy a cup now and again.
E - This is my own blend. I grind it myself. Took awhile to find the right combination of beans and the right amount, but I finally got it the way I like it and now it's all I drink.
Me - You carry that thermos with you everywhere?
E - Yep, even when we go out to eat. Gets some funny looks from the waiters.
Me - I'll bet. You ever walk into Starbucks carrying your own coffee you'll probably get arrested.
E - Yeah, I tried their beans once...wasn't all that happy. This here is a mixture of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend, Biff's Columbian Supremo - they're an outfit in Arkansas, but you can buy them here in town at United, and some good Okie Cain's. We got this machine that grinds the beans, cooks it up and keeps it warm for us.

At this point he offered me his sacred thermos, which I hesitantly but graciously declined, citing some obscure nonsensical reason having to do with the half drunk cup of packaged cocoa I was still working on and my desire to remain coffee free for the duration of our daughter's surgery.

Having written all this down now, in hindsight, I should have scrambled to get a new cup and taken up Edgar on his offer -- for a lot more reasons that my desire to just have a good cup of coffee.

After a few more stanzas of lively conversation, we found out that Edgar had a full time gig at the local Air Force Base, was owner and operator of an heat and air business, and ran about 50 head of cows on his property.

He seemed a little tickled when I asked him how he managed to wear all those hats and still find time to watch American Idol (another tidbit of trivial revealed during his 2nd cupful).

Edgar took another satisfying sip of his special blend, sighed and said, "Long as what goes in comes out, I figure there's not much else I should be frettin' about."

And no, I never did find out what Edgar and his wife were there at the surgery center for. I turned down a cup of the man's coffee -- I wasn't about to ask him what they were in for.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Displaced distal both-bone fracture

I was packing up C's softball equipment after our final practice before our first game of the season, when I heard her little voice calling out from near 2nd base...
Daddy, I think I broke my arm!
PK, you didn't break your ar...oh crap, you did break your arm.
5 minutes later we were sitting in the emergency room registration window.

7 minutes later they had given her a morphine shot in her little bottom and she was feeling just fine.

20 minutes later we had this to look and cringe at...

To paraphrase the last two and a half days...Wearing a splint and arm sling home from emergency, unflavored hydrocodone syrup, search for a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in OKC that wasn't on vacation or totally overbooked, call made by our family doctor to a Ped Ortho specialist he was buds with, got an appointment that same afternoon, surgery this morning, resting comfortably on the couch eating freshly made cotton candy and watching her Cars DVD for the umpteenth time, hot pink cast ready for signatures.I know it was an accident and I know these things happen to kids all the time, and I know that even had I been watching her spin around on the grassy field that she may have tripped and fell and broke her arm...

But it happened to my little girl, on my watch -- and that makes it pretty hard to take.

My 4-year old is ready for the onslaught of queries and questions aimed toward her new brightly colored appendage. She's even made up a poem to help her field questions from the press and other concerned parties...I was spinning around,
on the ground.
Then I got dizzy;
and fell down.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Leaving me in the dust

Contrary to what some people may perceive me to be, I am not a speed freak.

I've gotten exactly two excessive speed violation tickets in my life - the first as a silly teenager, the second as a Father-to-be-running-late-to-lamaze-class.

Never been popped for illegal street racing ("Race on the track you goobers, not on the street"), exhibition of speed (burnouts cost tires and tires cost money), or reckless operation of a motor vehicle (although there was that one time as a newly licensed teen when I took my beloved Nova up a curb and through the 16' tall chain link fence of the high school soccer field, but the cop on the scene didn't ticket me out of sympathy. Sorry about dumping our lunch on the ground, J.L.)

For a car guy who likes cars that can, will, and do go fast, my "Family Guy" status has rendered me perfectly content to bench race -- that would be internally calculating the 1/4 mile traps, top speed, and 0 - 60 times based on vehicle weight, rear-wheel horsepower, torque, converter stall speed, and rear end gearing (among other factors), without having to place myself or the general public in danger.

Beside, wringing a car out will probably only verify two things -- the accuracy (or not) of my calculations and my utter lack of high speed driving skills...heck I still have a hard time parallel parking every now and then.

While on paper and in theory, my desire to "keep it real" on Oklahoma's highways and byways is all law and order, in practice this philosophy recently found me at the very end of the "school bus-Soccer Mom-SUV & minivan" caravan for my 1st grader's class field trip.

My V-scar was itching wildly as SUV after minivan passed me by on the divided highway. I was doing near 70 (65 was the speed limit) yet not one of the parent ferrying vehicles who were accompanying the caravan of school buses, hesitated to blow by me as if I were a retired C.P.A. in an early-80's Chrysler K-car.

I'm not sure what the rush was, but since the buses themselves were setting the quickening blacktop pace, the need to keep up with the diesel spewing kiddie transports may have had something to do with it.

Perhaps all the close calls and hot rodding around I did in the sweet days of my youth were enough for one lifetime. Or my East L.A. adjacent upbringing has finally penetrated my aging soul with the "low and slow" cruising stylings of the Vatos in their hydraulic'd Chevy wonders.

Or maybe I'm just not quite comfortable enough in my "local-ness" to worry about such things as getting stopped by an Okie Smokey in a slightly lowered, tuned and tinted import rice mobile.

Either way, I was the last one to pull into the parking lot at the museum where the 1st graders were going to spend the day, but I wasn't concerned with finding an open parking space. This is Oklahoma after all -- land of acres and acres of free parking.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How many girl's softball coaches does it take...?

C's peewee girl's softball season is in full swing, with several weeks worth of 2x-a-week practices behind us.

I'm fitfully fulfilling my duties as the reluctant Assistant Coach and helping out as much as I can by offering encouraging words and semi-helpful soft-balling tips - the latter of which is stretching the limits of my knowledge of the game and team sport dynamics in general.

I try to keep my copy of "Pee-Wee Girls Softball Coaching for Dummies" hidden from sight during practices as well.

The other Dad who reluctantly stepped up as Head Coach and I were blissfully struggling through the last few practices, gaining confidence in our coaching skills as the girls improved their skills, despite our complete lack of coachly training.

Then we made the mistake of watching a practice session of one of the other teams in our league.

Freakin' eh, bubba.

The advanced skill level of the players wasn't nearly as confidence shattering as the organized, confident, and boisterous coaching staff -- yes, I said STAFF, that were running the 7 and 8-year old future Team USA Olympic Softball team members through batting, running, and fielding drills.

Tommy Lasorda would have been impressed. We, on the other hand were rendered mute.

The other coach and I just grimaced at each other in an uncomfortable, "about to storm Utah Beach on D-Day" fashion and internally reminded ourselves that this was supposed to be fun for the girls, and not some high-pressured, perform-at-peak-or-die experience for the girls.

I spoke first and uttered, "We're not keeping score at the games, right?" more to reassure myself than anything.

He said, "We won't...but I bet they sure will be."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Raising the ceiling...err, floor.

Last week was a sparse week on YASTM, only because it was a busy week around the demolition/construction/restoration project we lovingly call, home.

The decent weather has brought the latest project to the top of the heap in terms of feasibility - both temporally and physically.

A little background.

Sometime before the early 1940's, a major addition was constructed and tacked onto the eastern section of the house. It included a side porch and entrance and the rooms now being used as our laundry room, our one-and-only bathroom, and a walk-in storage closet.

The addition also included what was once considered a bi-level sleeping porch. Well, I call it a lanai, but back in the days before central A/C, folk around these parts called it a sleeping porch - basically a room with large windows on every wall that were covered in canvas (later screens) for comfortable sleeping on those warm summer Oklahoma nights.

The surrounding windows have long been covered up with siding (badly), the stairway removed (an attic ladder installed in it's place), and the low, seven foot ceilings rendered both the upper and lower rooms as not quite habitable.

The plan then -- raise the 1st floor ceiling up a foot to give the downstairs room a full 8-foot clearance, build a new floor 3' above the recently raised ceiling to be level with the existing 2nd story floor, then raise the roof on the 2nd floor to afford the same 8' ceiling clearance for the upstairs room.

Both of the rooms will then be transformed into adequately large upstairs and downstairs bathrooms (10'x13').

Next, we'll bust out the entire 24' eastern wall of the upstairs unfinished play area, build a short right angled hallway connecting the play area to the upstairs bathroom, and while were at it, build out a 12'x6' observation deck off of the play area, accessed via a set of french doors allowing for plenty of sunset colors to flood the upstairs with several hours of golden hour light.

There's a ton more detail that's going to go into this project (plumbing, electrical, insulation, flooring, bathroom fixture selection, roofing -- not to forget that we have to raise the entire roof of the 2nd floor up 55" to get to our 8' ceiling), but for last week, we just tackled the first task -- raising the downstairs ceiling.

Pulled all the sheetrock off the second floor and found no insulation (no surprise), that the exterior siding was nailed directly to the wall studs instead of to a plywood sheet (very surprised) and that the only insulation was a sheet of tar paper (brrrr). Here were prying up the old floor planks and detaching the floor/ceiling in preparation to lift it up 13".

Yes that window will have to be moved up, otherwise it'll be nearly sitting on the new floor.

The ceiling is loose, thanks to some handy work with a Milwaukee Sawzall, and were slowly raising it up, up, and away.

13" up and the attic ladder no longer touches the terra firma on which it once rested.

A lonely orb comes to examine our handiwork. The ceiling is up and we now have 8' ceilings in the future downstairs bathroom.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The tale of a flirtatious canine

As Franny began approaching her 6-month birthday, I started noticing her flirtatious behavior toward the boy dogs on our walking routes become increasingly frantic and borderline violent.

Both my Wife and I knew going in that we weren't going to be schnoodle breeders and had no interest in selling our pooches babies from out under her, so spaying our little girl was never an issue.

The deed has been done, she's in her 7th day of recovery, and her stitches are just about ready to come out.

Under doctors orders, her walks have been limited to short distances for doing her doodie duties, but today I took her down the alley I've labeled as the "gauntlet of canine love."

Every yard on this stretch of the alley has at least one male dog occupying it's backyard environs. Many have several dogs. One has 4. Had Franny gone into heat and been taken down this "doogie red light district" I've no doubt we'd have seen some ridiculously high fences vaulted by many a randy boy dogs.

As we made our way down this alley, I was surprised to see Franny automatically kick into her flirtatious un-ladylike behavior immediately upon getting a whiff of a ready male suitor. It was like her girlie innerds had never been removed and her instinct to reproduce was as strong as ever.

Now I'm wondering just how long does it take for "those" particular hormones to leave her system?

Monday, May 14, 2007

A little bit of class and culture

Nice to know that some things are still valued, even out here in rural Oklahoma.

On the other hand, maybe it's because were out here in rural Oklahoma, that such things are of value.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A floral feast of epic proportions

Last weekend we attended PK's first ever dance recital.

The fact that we as a society may be overindulging our kids to the extreme was exemplified by the walking florist shop that made it's way down to the stage during the finale of the recital.

As each class entered from stage right, parents, friends, extended family members, personal acquaintances, and many, many others flooded the aisles with smiles on their faces, gift bags, finely wrapped presents and floral arrangements of every size and shape in their arms.

We had been warned ahead of time that the "post-performance congratulatory presenting of the gift" carnage would be resolute and that any dancer not receiving at least the minimal of floral tokens for their evenings performance could/would result in some pretty hurt little faces.

However, we were completely unprepared for the seemingly utter lack of financial and material restrain displayed by the decent, hard-working, and normally sensible folk of my small town and the surrounding communities whose children attend the dance school.

I half expected a parent to drive-up "My Super Sweet 16" style in an AMG Benz or Lexus coupe (okay, out here it would have been a fully loaded Silverado or F150, but you get the gist) and hand the keys over to their darling dancing daughter.

Enough ranting, since I know you want to know what we presented PK with for her dancerly efforts that night.

A bouquet of silk roses S picked up at Dollar General, tied together with a fuzzy red ribbon (velour) that completely matched the color of her outfit and hair-bob-tie-thingy.

She was thrilled, and even gave them a good whiff while parading around the stage.

Score one for the pragmatic parent in all of us....

Not so fast, buster.

We may have just lucked out this time being her very first recital ever.

Next year may be a completely different beast and I'll be the one hypocritically rushing around the state looking for a particular out-of-season bouquet of roses that matches her outfit to a T.

Since that evenings performance, I've since almost completely run out of hope. For the last dozen or so times that I've replayed the DVD of the video that I shot of her dancing that night, she inevitably questions me on why I didn't get her anything -- why only Mommy got her something.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Digging for vials and incendiary devices

Last Fall, the family unit had a great road trip out to the Great Salt Plains to dig for these great little hourglass selenite crystals - unique in all the known world to the great state of Oklahoma.

Truly great [sincerity]

Vials of nastiness and things to blow them up with were recently unearthed in the salty mud by a Boy Scout digger, and now the national park may be shut down to crystal diggers for good.

Just great [sarcasm]

C's first words when we told her that we may not ever be able to dig for crystals -- that in fact no one will, were..."Does that mean the ones we found are going to be worth a lot of money?Sure I laughed, but then it got me thinking along that vein....

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Our first trip down

The citywide siren rang out around 12:30 a.m.

I was in the kitchen, cutting up a watermelon into bite size pieces and removing as many seeds as my bleary eyes could focus on.

Earlier in the day the girls and I had selected the perfect "first-watermelon-of-the-season" candidate from a nice family at their roadside watermelon stand, and I had promised them a bowl of the "Official vegetable of Oklahoma" for breakfast.

It has been raining for several days now, and we seemed to be in a constant state of either flash flood and/or severe thunderstorm warnings. I'm digging it because it's been putting off the inevitable 90+ degree temps that signal the start of yet another blazing Oklahoma summer.

Until very early this morning.

Enjoying the sound of the wind and rain against the new french doors my F-i-L and I recently installed in our breakfast area, I completed dicing up the first half of the fleshy red vegetable when I decided to get my groove on with some late night golden oldies on the FM dial.



I figured that the station must be conducting a test of the emergency broadcast system and had this been an actual emergency...

Wait -- the boxy voiced announcer with a loose-denture-related vocal quality cuts in and starts telling me that our area has been issued a tornado warning...and that citizens in my county should seek immediate shelter...


Cue the sirens.

Up goes the wife,
on go the coats,
whoosh goes wind,
"yikes" say the girls,
leashed gets the pooch,
"creek" goes the cellar door,
zoom down the stairs,
"uggh" states my oldest,
snore does my youngest,
click goes the radio,

and the family hunkers down.

We passed the time listening to S retell storm cellar tales from her youth, listening to Rick/Gary/Mike on the radio track the rotating storm that was passing to our east ("...but could shift any second!") and pondering the irony of the power and influence that these broadcasters with meteorology degrees from universities known more for their sports programs than academics, have over us all.

With a quick flick of their silver tongues they can send families scrambling for their lives to underground hovels as well as direct eager, young, and suicidal "Storm Trackers" out in the field to drive their Ford Explorers directly into the path of the storm in an effort to bring us the "latest breaking details" on the severe weather event.

And you know they're just loving ever darn second of it.

1 a.m. comes and goes and the tornado warning issued for our area by the Norman Severe Weather Forecast Center passes with nary a spinning wind in site.

After 2 years into my Oklahoma existence with this being our first trip down to the cellar due to a tornado warning, I can still proudly proclaim that I'm even more of an earthquake fan than before -- for the simple reason that earthquakes do the favor of waking up the kids for you.

Rousing the kiddies up in a hurry from a deep sleep is not fun. I believe it's much better for their young nervous systems to be awoken by a sudden jolt of the earth's tectonic plates moving than by the semi-panicked face of a parent in storm related crisis.

However, my girls are such deep sleepers that it may take better than a Richter scale 5-pointer to get them to open their eyes to the conscious world.

Case in point, last night PK slept through the entire thing.

Atta girl.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Abandoning all hope of becoming a girl

In my daughter's class there exist two polar opposites of femme 7-year olds.

We'll call them FloJo and KateMoss.

FloJo is tall (tallest in her grade), athletic (fastest runner as well), and a pediatrician's picture of a perfectly fit, trim, and healthy 7-year old.

KateMoss is slight (smallest in her grade), asthmatic, uber-thin, wears glasses, and seems to occasionally have a hard time fitting her own skin.

For the recent Super Kid's Day, FloJo and KateMoss were of course, paired up as competing partners.

How it works is, each kid carries a card listing all of the available events, along with two columns of numbers - 1's and 2's. The kids go out in pairs and complete as many of the events as they can in the alloted time. Winners score a 1, losers score a 2. The pair partner with more 1's than 2's at the end of the day, gets a blue ribbon.

Fair as fair can be, assuming each kid is paired up with a partner of equal skills, stamina, and physical prowess.

In the case of FloJo and KateMoss, a blowout was expected, with the latter being lucky to even finish all of the events.

But as I manned my station atop the rise of the starting line to the 200-yard run, spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport...the thrill of victory... (you get the picture), I was stymied by what I witnessed occurring between FloJo and KateMoss.

FloJo was letting KateMoss win at just a fraction of the smallest hair of a margin of a victory. In the running events, FloJo would start with a slight stumble, speed up when she fell too far behind, and finish in a flurry to make for a convincing near loss, all the while monitoring her slower partners progress.

Time and again I watched FloJo lose on purpose. Always followed by a congratulatory hug for her happily celebratory partner. If KateMoss was aware of the scam from which she was benefiting (remember, these are only 7-year olds), it wasn't detectable from where I stood.

Later that day, C told me that FloJo had lost all but 1 event to KateMoss. All but 1!

That night, I described to my wife what I perceived to be a flourishing display of friendship and compassionate sportsmanship exhibited by the most impressive FloJo.

At least, that's what my take of it was. Wifey took it from a different perspective -- that of a woman/use-ta-be girl. With a smug smile, she stated, "you don't know girls."

Which I took to mean that perhaps there were alternate ulterior motives behind the thrill of lacking competition I had witnessed. Wifey thought it was sad to think that perhaps FloJo didn't have the self-esteem to allow herself to win for fear her "friend" won't want to remain as such if she were to beat her at something.

I understood her interpretation, but it doesn't mean I truly "understood" it.

Which can be said of most matters concerning male/female relationships, I imagine.

Venus and Mars, man. Venus and freakin' Mars.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Two burros and a Wyld Stallyn please

Ran across this ad in our local small town newspaper this weekend.

The thought of adopting a couple of government asses at a discount crossed my mind, but then I remembered who I was and felt ashamed for even thinking of using such a bad pun.

Course, nothing prevents me from posting said bad pun here in my blog.

Then there was this...

Back in my spirited days of youthful exhuberance and mischief, some friends of mine (ahem) used their trusty Thomas Guides to locate silly and/or cooly named streets only to sneak out in the middle of the night to attempt to procure any metal signage bearing the streets name.

Highly valued scores included, "Easy Street," "Bob Hope Drive," or any sign containing the name of a particular girl whom we were all pining over.

However, given some thought with a twist of irony, "Bait Shop" would be funny hanging up in some teenagers bedroom.

Not that I'm condoning such a procurement.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Super Kids Day

Today was what we used to call "Field Day" at C's elementary school.

Nowadays it's called "Super Kids Day" but it's basically the same thing -- individual events of physical skill, stamina, and dexterity that gets the kids outside for most of the day and ensures a good night sleep for just about everyone involved...especially the parent volunteers.

I was assigned the starting line of the 200-yard run, which is a long way for the little ones to run -- especially after they've just run the 100 and 50 yard courses before they even got to me.

Still, it was fun to help out, I got to watch C do her funky, straight-arm running sprint to victory in both the 100 and 200 yard runs, and the weather was rather cooperative.

What was painfully shouting out to me was how sadly out of shape many of the kids were. One little 1st grader in particular broke my heart, not only for the limitations her prematurely bulky body placed on every aspect of her physical activity, but for her obvious desire to want to keep up with the other kids. I've crossed paths with this girl (we'll call her Carnie) in the past, which is why the sadness I felt upon seeing her struggle with herself today was heightened somewhat.

Awhile back, C was invited to a birthday party at our town's pool. I took both girls to the pool and left C to enjoy her party while splashing around with PK in the shallow end.

Carnie wasn't a member of the birthday party (different crowd), but just happened to be at the pool at the same time. Once the party action moved to the aquatic activities, she did what any typical 7-year old would do and swam over to join a group of familiar faces.

At one point, I was involved in one of C's favorite pool-time Daddy/Daughter games -- what she calls the "Toss me up in the air," game. Granted, this game has gotten harder as C has grown up and older, but I can still muster the strength to pick her up by the waist and toss her several feet up and over into the deep end.

Then her friends wanted to play. No problem. It's a relatively harmless game. I asked each kid how far they wanted to go, picked them up and tossed them for a giggly splashing-good time.

Until it was Carnie's turn.

Sadly, I couldn't lift her up and out of the water.

The game ended and they all swam off, seemingly happy to move to a different section of the pool for more wet fun and frivolity.

So when Carnie lined up today at the 200-yard start line against another girl of similar portly proportions, I started them off as I did the dozens of other kids who came to my starting line.

But I felt angry and sad for Carnie at the same time.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Saving sparrows

On the one night a week that my youngest daughter has dance class downtown, my eldest daughter and I usually dine out at one of the local eateries in our small town.

After which, we drop into the Chinese buffet joint across the street from the dance studio to pick up some beef broccoli and fried rice for the littlest dancer in our family (yes, my girls actually love - L-O-V-E, broccoli, weird kids, I know).

Last week as we were exiting the house of Asian cuisine, I noticed a baby sparrow sitting on the sidewalk, obviously a victim of a "nest falling" from somewhere up high. C noticed it as well and immediately went into her 7-year old girl/motherly instinct mode, setting up a security perimeter around the solitary chickadee, fully prepared to scat any alley cats looking for an easy avian appetizer.

My eagle-eyed first grader then proceeded to spot the nest from which the baby bird had fallen (way up under the ballooning awning over the real estate office next door), as well as the ledge below the nest, where another member of the sparrow condominium had taken up residence after apparently succumbing to the same unnesting syndrome as it's sibling on the ground.

My not-so eagle-eye's however, spotted the more unfortunate member of the little nest family in the entryway of the abstract business the next door down. It looked to have been stepped on by an unsuspecting sidewalker.

Not a pretty sight.

While trying my best to distract C away from the newly discovered corpse, I overheard her telling a passerby the same thing I had told her minutes before..."...don't touch the baby bird because if you do, it's mama won't want it anymore cuz it will smell like people."

The woman kindly heeded the old wives tale advice and seriously pondered the plight of the baby birds with all the seriousness of a Law and Order detective. She outlined her plan of action to C and I, even though I was ready to let nature take it's course and was callously concerned with delivering the Chinese take-out to my post-dance class young'un. C, however, nodded along and loudly proclaimed her whole hearted support for the woman's plan.

Enlisting my help, C proceeded to fulfill her designated duty as we pulled over the wooden bench from in front of the realty office to just below the ledge where the other fallen nest mate resided.

Calmly, the woman pulled out a handkerchief, picked up the earthbound hatchling and placed it ever so gently on the ledge, next to it's sibling.

At this point, C shouted gleefully out that she had spotted yet another fugitive from the sparrow nest, which had found it's way under the wooden bench we had just moved.

A few moments later, that one joined the others on the ledge and we all celebrated with smiles and handshakes.

Parting words were brief for the rescuers. I mentioned something about my daughter's broccoli getting cold while the woman with the plan stated that if her husband ever found out she just saved two of what he calls "nuisance" birds, he'd be livid.

C just couldn't wait to get home to tell Mommy about it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Learning the words to "Happy Trails to you..."

The phone call came early in the day yesterday so I've had plenty of time to chew on the bad news.

The golden arches are on their way.

There's an abandoned Love's gas and zip on a corner at the southern end of town that serves as a kind of border between the newer developments popping up (WalMart Supercenter, GM dealership, Pizza Hut) and the older part of town. Ronald McDonald and crew are apparently foregoing their usual policy of requiring a minimal population of 5000 bodies before setting up a new drive-through window -- spurred on perhaps by the confidence building view of the new Walmart Supercenter being erected a mere 1/4 mile away.

Rumors are also flying around town of an impending Chili's franchise along with a Long John Silver's making home port within the city limits.

Don't get me wrong. I've got very few beefs (pun totally intended) against McD's, Chili's, LJS', or even Walmart, but their plans to set up shop here in my town may be the beginning of the end of my small town's innocence.

Finding a sympathetic ear among my fellow citizens may be hard to come by since there are very few who wouldn't love to add a few more of the pseudo-luxuries afforded by living closer to a large city.

I, on the other hand love the fact that we have to drive a good 45 minutes to get our Happy Meal zen on. A trip to the Golden Arches is a rare treat for the girls and a closer location would make it just another fast food joint in town to get a full weeks supply of saturated fat in a single meal.

Is this the beginning of the end? S thinks so. She's uncircling the wagons. We are kinda bummin'