Thursday, December 23, 2010

How did he do that?!?

When I was a teenager, I did not think my parents knew anything.  There was no possible way they knew the problems I was facing growing up.  How could they?  They were old and not in high school trying to fit in, falling in and out of love with girls, fighting for popularity but trying to seem indifferent, trying to figure out what to do on the weekend, worrying if that one special girl liked me, or if they would score the winning goal in the tournament against Lincoln High (which, I did, by the way...but that story is for another time).  No, they had no idea what I was going through.
Dad, I don't need your advice about how I look and getting through customs!

When I turned twenty (or thereabouts), I started to see that my parents actually did know a thing or two.  Not everything, of course, but some of time, they got it right.  Thirty, yeah, they were pretty smart and they knew a lot more than I gave them credit for.  At thirty, I also began to realize that I knew things that teenagers did not know.  I also realized, later into my thirties, that what I thought was significant in my twenties was really not that important.  When I missed that New Year's party because I was sick and missed seeing that girl, who's name escapes me, it really wasn't going to be the end of the world, even though I thought then that it went on, and now I barely remember why I wanted to see her in the first place.

I was learning that I will never stop learning.  Life's lessons would never stop, and that was okay.  What scares me now, at nearly forty, is that I think I have a pretty good grasp on things, but I am aware that I still have a lot more to learn.  Of course, I wonder, now more than ever, how much information my parents have at their young age and what they can still teach me.  And I wonder what it is that I think I know now will turn out to be quite insignificant in another ten years.

The part that scares me the most is, I see what my nine year-old son considers significant moments in his life.  He is petrified that he will have the "worst Christmas ever" because he isn't going to get a Corinthian battle helmet.  According to him, all he is going to get is a thousand Star Wars figures and nothing else.  Boy, life is rough for the little guy, huh?  He is confused about Santa, worried about being teased because he is wearing a "puffy" jacket (its actually a pretty nice ski jacket, but you can't tell him that...he thinks parents don't know anything), and concerned that we do not care about him because we "force" him to eat his veggies at dinner.

So, it makes me chuckle inside when these world-ending events are expressed through his words and frustrations, knowing that I cannot say anything to him that will make him think we actually know a thing or, we have about another 12 years before that happens.  But, back to the part that scares me the most...what is it that I think I know now and that is cause for deep concern on my part, that my parents are secretly chuckling about in their motor-home, as they enjoy retirement in warm and sunny Arizona?  What do my parents know that I have yet to figure out?  One hint of the power of experience and knowledge came to fruition just today...

On occasion, my dad will send me e-mails with a link to some funny website, or some neat thing someone has done somewhere in the world.  Usually the link is related to something I like; for example, one recent link was about a model railroad set-up in Germany that was so grand the people who built it charge admission just for anyone interested in taking a gander at the miniature world.  Based on the link, I would consider buying a plane ticket to Germany just to have the chance at seeing this amazing model.  Another link may be of a Ferrari on a race track, or a photo contest in North Carolina where I might have a chance at winning a prize.  Whatever the link, historically, it has always had some significance and was, 99.9% of the time, of some interest to me.  But his last e-mail with a link embedded in it, left me feeling baffled.  I had no idea why he sent it to me...until today.

My dad's last e-mail (received yesterday), was a link to a Jacques Pepin video on how to make an omelet.  I cannot recall ever expressing a desire to learn how to create the perfect omelet, at least not within my dad's listening space.  As I was watching this strange video, I kept waiting to see something pop up on the screen and scare me half to death (my dad is a great prankster), or wondering when the pretty French lady was going to enter the screen, but neither happened.  No, this video was exactly what it said it was; "This is how you should cook an omelet."  Plain and simple.  Confused, I closed the window and went on about my day, not once thinking about the link, until today.

Here is where it gets this power he has something I get to look forward to?  Can he see the future?

Yesterday ended without a lot of exciting events and my dad's e-mail was sitting in my brain's recycling bin, waiting to be dumped out with the rest of the useless junk that is stored in there.  Fortunately, much like my computer, I forget to hit the empty button and clean out the trivial items in my noggin.  This morning, I awoke to my son knocking on my bedroom door.  His simple question, "Dad, will you help me make breakfast?"  Sure, I said as I somehow managed to muster the strength to roll out of bed...literally, roll out.

Once I found my socks, and shirt, my next task was to find my glasses so that I could see where I was going.  The glasses did not help much, since my brain was still foggy from the deep sleep I was enjoying so much.  But, I managed to make it downstairs to see a few ingredients and a cookbook on the island in the kitchen.  Leaning over the book was my son.  Apparently, he is enjoying this cooking thing, I thought silently. That thought was immediately followed with, oh geez, what is he trying to make...and will I have to eat it?

"Dad, will you help me make an omelet?"

My mouth twisted in a bewildered manner, my eyes widened with a mystified gaze, and my eyebrow rose with bemusement.  I couldn't repeat the expression if I tried...not even for a million bucks.  Did he just ask me if I would help him make an omelet?

How did he do that?  How did my dad know that I would need to know how to make an omelet the next day?  What told him to send me a link that I would have little interest in, only to find out that I really needed that enlightenment?  At that moment, I wished that I could have looked at my dad, thanked him, hugged him, and forced him to sit down with me and teach me everything that he knows...and, also, partake in the upcoming omelet.  Like my son, however, I have to learn these things on my time...through life's little lessons and experiences, but how cool will this ride be!  Yippee!  I'm going to be able to tell the future, just like Dad!

So, Dad, if you are reading this, thank you.  Not only for sending me the perfect link, just when I needed it most, but for everything you have done for me and for everything you have not done for me.  I can now appreciate what you have gone through - making choices of when to teach, when to back off and let me fall, when to pick me up and carry me, and when to stand tall and say he's my boy (hopefully once or twice I made you feel proud!).  If I am half the dad to G that you are to me, my boy has a pretty good chance.  And, thank you very much for the very tasty omelet this was perfect. 

How to make an omelet - Click HERE

A very cool train set - Click HERE

I never thought I'd say this, but, thank you BOTH for teaching me how to cook!
Thanks for ALL of the awesome Christmases!

Monday, December 20, 2010

What have I created???

Being unemployed around the holidays does have its perks.  Not many, but some.  One of those perks is that I can spend more time with my son while he is on Winter Break and teach him some pretty neat things that I would not have been able to if I had a job.  Don't get me wrong, I really, really, really, wish I had a job right now, but...

Anyway, the last lesson he learned from me was about cooking.  Yes, I said cooking.  Thanks to my mother teaching me when I was a kid (see, Mom, I did listen to some things you said!), I have some inkling of a idea of what I am supposed to do while in the kitchen.  My feeble attempt to pass the minimal knowledge I have on to my son is met with the same enthusiasm I must have shown when I was the pupil.  Sorry, Mom, I should have listened more!  Maybe he will retain the lessons, like I did, somehow...hopefully.

The main lesson I try to always teach him is, a good cook always cleans up after him or herself.  This is the main lesson my mother taught me, but now that I am wiser, I am wondering if she really believed that, or if it was just a ploy to get me to clean up after her, instead of her after me, like any other day.  Either way, I am using the lesson for both reasons, now.  Yes, you should clean up after yourself, but something tells me a top-notch chef has his/her own crew to clean up after them...but don't tell that to my son.

Another lesson I was trying to teach him was that a good cook knows the taste of different spices and foods and is able to mix-and-match items that would taste good together without needing someone else to tell them it would work.  For example, if I am preparing a dish that calls for cheddar cheese and I, uhhh, I mean my son, happened to eat all of the cheddar cheese the other day while making melted cheese and crackers for a late night snack, I would know that the Colby cheese we have in the fridge is similar to cheddar and it would probably work well as a substitute.  Just as I would know that Swiss cheese would give the dish a completely different flavor. 

I also mentioned that a good cook is able to create his or her own dishes from throwing together various ingredients that he or she knows would work well together.  I used an example of what not to do, based on my personal experimentation when I was a youngin' and decided to put cinnamon (I love cinnamon) in spaghetti sauce (I love spaghetti, so why not mix the two!?!?), along with a few other spices I had lying around.  Needless to say, I learned from my mistake and cinnamon no longer comes anywhere near my spaghetti sauce! 

What I failed to realize is, his little wheels were turning and turning, concocting a new dish in his mind as I spoke.  Since dinner was already made and in the oven, he decided he was going to make dessert...without my help! So, in a sense, he was actually listening to me...he never listens when I say put your socks away, clean up your toys when you are done, or wear your coat in the cold weather, so why would I think he would listen now?  Here's what he made...

Grabbing a few round pita-like bread pieces for the base, he spread Nutella as the first ingredient.  Clearly wanting more, he then reached for the chocolate sauce, marshmallows, apples, grapes, strawberries, a Snickers bar from Halloween, and...wait for it...cinnamon.  Uh-oh, I thought..not the cinnamon!  Now, normally I would be ok with strawberries and chocolate, or marshmallows and Nutella, and maybe even a little cinnamon on an apple slice...hey, I might even go for a Snickers bar and grapes, but generally, I would not want all of these ingredients placed on a 100% whole wheat, healthy piece of pita bread...with cinnamon.

Fortunately, I was able to convince him that the apples, strawberries and grapes should be put on after the dessert sandwiches came out of the oven (the marshmallows had to melt, of course).  He placed it in the hot oven for a few minutes then asked me to help him take it out - smart kid!  I tried to hide my unenthusiastic look as best I could when I saw the warmed product. 

So, here he had made a dessert from scratch, baked it, placed the fruit on top, and was anxiously waiting for us to eat it.  But, I must say, the final presentation of the dish was very beautiful, and it almost look like it was made by a seasoned cook...but I still knew what it was made of.

As I hesitated to allow my taste buds to sample his perceived delicacy, I wondered what I was going to do if it was atrocious.  I shuttered at the thought of the healthy pita holding the sweets together.  I was afraid, very afraid.  Obviously, I did not want to squish any future desires for him to cook, and I certainly did not want to hurt his feelings after his valiant effort, so I practiced my surprised and pleased face in my mind, waiting for the right moment to let it show.

I took a bite...hmmmmm....yeah, there's the cinnamon...but just a hint of it...nice...yum, there's the chocolate sauce and melted marshmallows....hmmm, like a s'more...not bad....Snickers bar piece...uh-huh...tasty...and the pita...crunchy enough from the oven that it all blended together rather well.  HA!  I did not have to fake it!  It was actually, okay!  I don't think it will make the dessert menu at Legal Seafood or Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, but it wasn't bad, I must say.  Yes, I was impressed...that is, until the next day when he wanted to do it again, but with white sandwich bread (he used all of the pita), Nutella, cinnamon, and cheese...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

He has a bright future in acting...

This past week my son took a giant step forward in the pursuit of a lucrative acting career.  His dream of working for George Lucas is turning into a reality right before our eyes.  And it is moments like these that I can say that I am glad to have been a part of the journey.  Yes, I can say that, but I am not...not this time, anyway.

My son's school held it's annual winter program last Thursday at a building that some said was a church.  This "church" however, was none like I have ever seen before.  Before I go on, let me say that I am in no way making fun of any religion, church, practice, belief, or anything like that, rather I am just giving you my interpretation of what my eyes saw, and I will let you be the judge from there.  In addition, I suppose the Greater Being (insert preferred name descriptor here)  is everywhere, so the building itself could be anything from nothing to the most ostentatious structure in the world, right?  Anyway, enough with the disclaimer...

So, we pull into an office park full of medical offices and other types of businesses.  Smack in the middle, we find the, umm, church.  It stands a few stories tall, and has a very mall/office building look to it.  The congregation has a choice of two doors to enter where the sermons take place, but we will get to that later. 

In the lobby to your left (or right, depending on which door you entered from) appears to be an information desk that rivals (and may even win) those in a mega-mall.  Since we were here to attend a school function and church was not in session, I cannot be 100% sure what the desk was for, but it sure looked like a place to get directions. 

Since the first auditorium door was stuffed with anxious parents waiting to point identifying fingers toward the stage and gleam with joy at their child's perfected performance, we made our way down to the less-populated doors.  On the way we noticed an ATM-like machine.  The kiosk stood about five feet tall, had a computer screen, and a card reader that seemed the perfect size for a credit card or ATM card.  Still unsure of its intended use, we moved forward to the doors we would later enter.

For our viewing pleasure during our wait, we were treated to scrolling photos of various kids, which appeared to be taken during the school year.  Having moved to the area just two months ago, we had absolutely no idea who these kids were and I felt like I was watching some stranger's summer vacation slide show...not my idea of excitement, that's for sure.  However, I can say with 99.9% accuracy that if my son was in one of those photos, I would have watched the entire slide show repeatedly just to catch a two second glimpse of him...but he wasn't, and therefore, the slide show was quite boring. 

Although the slide show was humdrum, the interesting part was what the slide show was on.  Picture, if you will, six 50" high definition televisions standing on their sides, pressed up against each other in a row, with some type of psychedelic light show traveling a few feet above and below the televisions.  After you see that in your mind, look to your right and see six more identically placed television next to the first set of doors.  I guess I never realized Jesus had gone so high-tech, but then again, why would he not?  Perhaps the televisions were there for the Sunday afternoon know, that way the football games could be displayed while church was in service...but I didn't see any Lazy-boys around...however, the bathrooms were conveniently placed in between the two sets of technical miracle projectors, so you never know.

Finally, about forty-five minutes after arrival, we were ushered into the grand auditorium.  Walking up the neon blue tube-light lit stairs, we found our seat.  Yes, each step (and there were a whole bunch of them!) was lined with a tube light, similar to those found in a movie theater or airplane, only the light was a very dreamy and heavenly electric blue that produced a magical, warm and fuzzy feeling in my noggin.  The movie theater style seats were comfy, but I cannot recall the last time I was in a church that had stadium style seating, so that threw me off a bit.  They sure were nice for the winter performance, though!

In the center of the room stood a sound board most audio-visual geeks (like me) would be envious of that took up four or five rows of seating.  The control panel operated the superior sound system for maximum clarity preaching, I suppose.  The Broadway stage type of lighting must have been controlled in one of the multiple windowed rooms, at the back of the mega-meetinghouse, that over-looked the immense area one would assume the "alter" would be placed.  The stage was big enough to make The Lyric jealous...well, maybe not that big, but it was still a decent size!  Then it dawned on me...I knew what that ATM looking thing in the lobby was for!  After looking at all of this technology and fancy apparatuses, the church had to pay for it somehow, right?  Therefore, I pondered, it must be a tithing machine...yes, that's it, simply slide your Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover, or ATM card through and voila!  Yes, even He takes plastic, now.

So, in this church we sit, waiting patiently for our son to make his big North Carolina acting debut.  The first set was a group of primary students.  The first few seconds of the performance was nearly perfect with all of the kids signing clearly and in harmony.  Then, the confusion started.  One or two of the little Pavarottis started signing slightly off cue...which threw the others off...then the short attention spans kicked in and a little wandering began.  But, kudos must be given to the teachers since these little tykes sat relatively still for three songs, and sang (mostly) from memory without the help from the adults.  

The next few skits had everything your typical elementary school play would or two kids not paying attention, forgetting lines, walking on stage at the wrong time, and running around trying to catch up.  Yes, it was a scene from a blockbuster movie indeed, well, not quite the rock concert in the movie "Love Actually", but...well, you get the idea.  I think it was at this point that I started to doze off a little...

So, two and a half hours had passed since we first stepped foot in the door and our son was finally about to make his presence known.  Yes, his big NC debut was about to unfold...When the young narrator mentioned "China" and "dragon" in the same sentence, I woke from my nap.  Yes, I kinda dig dragons and more importantly my son said he was in this skit, so it was time to be alert.  Fortunately, I perked up just in time to see four pairs of shoes attached to four pairs of youthful legs, covered in a long, flashy, and red dragon suit.  There he was!  The second pair of legs belonged to my son...Man, was I proud.  My finger pointed to the stage, I sat a little taller, and joy gleamed from my smile.  He walked effortlessly and flowed with the other three sets of dragon legs, just as they had rehearsed for weeks.  Then, two minutes later, poof!, he (and the rest of the dragon) did an exit stage left and that was that.  A half of an hour later, the show ended. 

As another parent reality check popped up (me waiting two and a half hours to see two minutes of my son...err, son's legs and being ok with that), my son spotted me in the crowd and he weaved his way through the sea of proud parents, up the neon blue stairs, to give me a big hug.  "Did you see me, Dad?" he asked with a sense of extreme pride in his voice.  "I did! And you did great!" I remarked.  His smile, hug, and sense of accomplishment made the night a night to remember.  Yep...two and a half hours to watch two minutes.  And yes, I really was proud of him!  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why I want to be my son's age

While sitting here at the computer, applying for an agglomeration of jobs, I realized I have not written in the blog (who coined the term "blog", anyway?  And why didn't they come up with something more appealing?) for quite some time.  Then, I realized, I actually have a story to tell...and I needed a break from looking at the computer screen before my eyes go wonkers.  Well, I am sort of taking a break, and instead of staring at the monitor, I am staring at the keyboard.  Yes, I only use three fingers per hand to type, and yes, I still need to look at what I am typing, unless I am feeling particularly brave and rebellious.  Hey, don't judge me!

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, my son and I came home from school and he promptly asked me if he could have a piece of candy.  I replied, "No.  Don't forget, today is a grounded day." which he, apparently, conveniently forgot.  This, of course, was met with frustration, huffing and puffing, a mediocre slamming of the door, mumbling incoherently about how we didn't tell him he was grounded, followed by the clicking of the door being locked, with him on the inside and me on the outside.  Fortunately for him, he thought twice and unlocked it about as fast as he turned the knob to block me from entering, so that little no-no was overlooked.     

Once I was inside and began taking off the layers of warmth, I noticed he left his hat and coat on the table and floor.  When I asked him (or rather, I strongly suggested he do so) to put them away just like I have for the past four years (and every other time he leaves his coat, hat, socks, shoes, gloves, toys, plate, glass, shirts, or anything else he thinks he might be able to get away with, lying around), he, of course, responded with frustration, huffing and puffing, and a mediocre stomping across the noisy floors while mumbling a little louder this time, saying, "Why do you and Mom always ruin my day?"

Confused, I asked him what he meant by that and how did I ruin his day, today?  After a quick re-think of his words, he tried to soften the blow to Dad by saying, "Mom is going to tell me to put her dish away after dinner tonight and I don't want to always be the one to do it and it ruins my day when that happens!"  Since 99% of the time it is me who has, somehow, managed to make his day miserable (most likely from telling him to complete the nearly impossible task of putting his socks and coat where they belong instead of leaving them in the middle of the floor), I was pleased to find out it was not my fault, this least not right away.

I tried to explain to this intelligent nine year-old that we work as a team and help each other out.  I then asked him what he would do if I did not fix dinner every which he replied, "I would fix dinner for you!"  Impressed with this answer, I probed a little further and said, "Oh yeah?  What would you fix?"  "That's easy, I'd fix Taco Bell bean burritos!" he quipped.

Bean burritos...yum...notice those three letters are not capitalized and they are not followed by an exclamation point.  No, I am not a big fan of bean burritos.  But, kudos to him for being quick! I thought about asking him how he would get to the nearest Taco Bell and how he would pay for the burritos, but I refrained from completely bursting his bubble so quickly.  Instead, I tried to let the air seep out slowly enough that he could see it unfold in midair. 

The point is, at his age, picking up his socks, doing his chores, and not being allowed to eat bean burritos every night is pretty much the equivalent of me wondering and stressing out about how the bills will be paid this month, figuring out how to acquire a job that will help pay those bills, and not getting to relax on the couch for an hour before bedtime.  Hmm, come to think of it, he doesn't get bean burritos every night and he is still "forced" to do his chores and pick up his socks, and despite not figuring out how to pay the bills, and not finding a job (yet), I normally do get to relax on the least for half of an hour, every night, so maybe I don't want to be his age!  After-all, he also has a Dad and Mom who make his life so miserable every day that they are the sole cause of him being fussy and whiny .  Nah, I like being the grown-up, for now.  When he is old enough to get a job, maybe then I will revert to his age (his age, now) and take him up on the offer to provide dinner for the family.  Until then, I will just continue ruining his entire day...

Friday, December 3, 2010


This isn't the funniest one, but I found it to be humorous enough to warrant a chuckle or two.  I didn't think I would have another FSMSS entry so soon, but this is what was said this morning on the way to school...

Him:  Dad, would you and Mom ever sell me?
Me:  What?  What are you talking about?
Him: You know, would you and Mom ever try to sell me for money?
Me:  No, we wouldn't, but I might.
Him: WHAT!?!?
Me: Actually, no I wouldn't try to sell you, because I would have to pay someone to take you!
Him: (said in a very adult-like, dry, sarcastic tone)  gee...thanks. 

(yes, he knew I was joking) 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Funny stuff my son says...Part I (of many)

First, this is going to be a short entry.  Second, in case you haven't figured it out by now, I tend to have a dry, witty (attempted, anyway), sarcastic, diverse sense of humor...hopefully it translates well.  If not, you will get over it.  Third, I am certain this will not be the only entry entitled "Funny stuff my son says" (FSMSS) so search for them in the future, hopefully they will be as funny to you as they are to me.  Fourth, as always, thanks for reading and leave a comment, say hey, tell your friends about the blog, and let me know what you think from time to time.

Today's FSMSS:

I can't remember what we were talking about on the way to school this morning (I'm throwing out the geezer card, here), but about midway through the conversation, it went like this...

Me:  How do you like them apples?
My son: I don't like "themapples"
Me: Why not?
My son: Because I've never had "themapples" and I don't know what they are!
Me: (Silence...with a smile and a chuckle)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When in Charlotte...

(12/02/10 - Added a link to the corresponding Examiner article at the end of the post)

Although Maryland is technically a southern state (it's below the Mason-Dixon line, and incidentally, is my homestate), I never really considered myself a true southerner.  As far as that goes, I never considered myself a northerner (or Yankee, as they are referred to down here), either.  Nomad, traveler, world resident, home-is-where-the-heart-is type of person - yes.  So, moving to a true southern state (North Carolina), was just another place to call home, southern or not. 

One of my preferences is to try the local flavor, no matter where I go.  What's the point of going some place new to visit just to eat at some chain restaurant you can get back home?  If you are going to do that, why spend the money to go to that foreign city?  Save the cash and buy the dessert at the chain restaurant back home!  So, it should come as no surprise that one of the first things my son and I did when we moved here was visit the quintessential southern state attraction...

I don't know about you, but when I think of North Carolina, certain things come to mind; tasty barbecue (although I'm not big on the vinegar based type...but I will learn to love it as much as Van's in Oklahoma, I'm sure), mountains, the Outer Banks, birthplace of Krispy Kreme (What? You didn't know that?  Shame on you!), excellent colleges, nature and beautiful scenery, and, of course, NASCAR!  Ok, maybe NASCAR is more like the first thing you might think of, but for dramatic effect, I had to put it last...

So, our destination to that quintessential southern state attraction was, of course, the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  (Here's where I can tag back to the geezer post...) Generally, I do not like to spend too much time reading the details about items; if it catches my eye and intrigues me, then I might skim over the information about that item, but that is about it.  Apparently, my son is filling my shoes a bit quicker than I thought...and in the meantime, I think he is pushing me out of mine!

After dropping $32.90 at the ticket booth, we proceeded to the ticket taker...which makes me wonder, why bother having a ticket booth and a ticket taker...why not make them one and eliminate the need for two lines?  But I digress...The ticket taker pointed us in the right direction, and failed to take our tickets.  The tickets were not really tickets at all, rather they were these cool back-stage, all-access-pass looking cards.  So the ticket taker was more of a directional guide and we soon found out what these cool "tickets" were really for.

About 50 feet past the entrance, a beautiful young lady with a camera almost as big as she, was blocking our path to the race cars.  If we wanted to pass, we had to get our picture taken...never mind the fact that I was lugging around my Nikon SLR with multiple lenses...that didn't matter, the young lady said.  So, reluctantly, we smiled for the salesperson as we stood in front of a blue (or maybe it was green...sorry, geezer moment...) backdrop.  As she snapped off a few shots, my son's facial expression pretty much summed it up..."why are we getting our picture taken?  I want to see the cars!" is what his eyes were blurting out.

Me, attempting to beat the institution!
After handing us a ticket where we could buy our very own picture of this memorable life event, she let us pass.  Upstairs to the third floor we went...where another photo-op person was conveniently placed in our pathway to viewing horsepower of days gone by.  Grrr...This time, I got smart.  I figured out what the gentleman was taking a digital picture of, positioned myself in a way that I could replicate the scene, and snapped off a few of my own shots while my son held the green flag above the starting line of resting, over-sized go-karts below.  HA!  Take THAT NASCAR marketers!  Of course, the picture I took is far from the caliber of Walter Iooss, but I felt a slight sense of redemption, anyway. (And, boy, I hope posting about this doesn't mean I'm traceable and now have some fines to pay...)

Finally, we were off, free as birds, unrestricted (except by the ropes, closed doors, and glass encasing around the memorabilia), and ready to learn the rich history of NASCAR.  Since my son had been talking about becoming a NASCAR race driver since the day we loaded the covered wagon to move from Oklahoma to North Carolina, I figured he would want to know all about NASCAR's past.  The first exhibit we came to detailed some of that history, but it did not have a car in front of it.  As I was reading the sign, (something I rarely do, don't forget) I reached for my son to put my arm around him so that we could take this moment in father-son bonding time, and cherish it for years to come.  I reached to my left...nope, not there.  I reached to my right...hmmm, not there either.  Ahhh, there he is...ten steps ahead of me.  I called out to him and suggested he stop and read the signs.  "Dad, I want to see the cars!" he fussed.  So off to the cars we went.
Did they really use bungee cords to hold down the hood?

Let's step back for a moment.  When we first entered the building, I asked how long we could expect to be in the Hall.  The lady said, typically people spend about two hours from top to bottom.  About ten minutes into our visit, we were done with the first of three floors.  Fortunately, the second floor was a bit more interesting to him.
Trying pit-crew
A natural talker...errr...I mean announcer!

The second floor was more interactive, and, best of all, it had race cars!  As a result, we spent about a full twenty minutes there, before he got bored.  As I was trying to get him to slow down to read some of the descriptions, he was busy checking out the pit crew area, simulation games, and wanting to spend more money to sit inside a genuine replica of a model race car.  Of course, I wanted to do this too, since I had not yet accepted my potential geezer status, but being short of funds made it difficult to succumb to the awesomeness factor.  So, we headed off to the first floor...where all the cool cars are.

Looking back

The first floor had a smattering of the different vehicles throughout NASCAR's existence.  As much as I wanted him to learn the history of a sport that we were, no doubt, going to be immersed in from living in the NASCAR capital of the world, I was just as excited as he was to see the life-sized, posed racers.  Ten minutes later, we were headed to the exit doors...

To exit the building we were directed to pass by the photo booth where we could purchase the many photos of us taken by the trained staff.  Somehow, we managed to duck past the eagle eyes of the salespeople and just when we thought we were free, the gift-shop magically appeared.  Off in the distance, I could see the exit, but my son's eyes could only see the merchandise.  Being the smart kid that he is, he went for one of the smaller items, knowing that his chances of me saying yes were much greater for this item than if he asked for a $200 coat.  However, I could not bring myself to buy a $10 matchbox car and so we escaped the NASCAR marketers grip once again.

Those forty minutes made me remember the days my parents took me sightseeing.  I had no desire to see the Louvre, Prado, Sugarloaf Mountain (but the bikinis in Ipanema sure were nice), or most of any of the other incredible places I was fortunate to visit as a kid.  All I wanted to do, other than check out the girls at Ipanema, was sleep and eat...and I could do that at home!  But, I am forever grateful to my parents for dragging me to these awful places and torturing me by forcing me to visit the Eiffel tower, or spending time in London, because now that I can appreciate it, I cannot afford the trip, so at least those memories are free, and pretty cool, now.  Hopefully my son will, one day, have fond memories of me making him stop to read the signs, try to get our money's worth, and forcing him to take in new sights in new places.  Right now though, to him I'm sure this must somehow mean I'm a geezer.

Corresponding article at the Examiner --> CLICK ME! 
Yeah, he had fun, and it was $33 well spent to see him smile.

Not a big fan of #3, but what would a blog about NASCAR and North Carolina be without Dale?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When did I become a "geezer"???

Hello again!  After taking a much needed hiatus from my stressful writing life...(yes, I am being very sarcastic)...ok, seriously, I do not have an excuse for not writing in the blog since my son has made many humorous comments, caused me to lose more hair, and given me enough material to write a novel that would give War and Peace a run for its money in the past two weeks, other than...well, I don't have an excuse; period.

I could say that time has flown by so fast that I didn't realize two weeks have past...but that would only solidify my son's comments.  I could say that I haven't had time because I have been working on the house and couldn't do two things at once...or take a break from one to do the other because it would throw off my rhythm...but that would only further the inevitable solidification of my son's comments.  So, I won't say anything at all...except to my many (all 3 - but growing!) followers, I apologize for the delay. 

So, when, exactly, did I become a geezer?  Yes, my son calls ME a geezer.  The last time I checked, a geezer is someone who is slow moving, old, and unable to do the things he once was able to do with ease.  According to the dictionary, a geezer is an old person, especially an eccentric old man. 

Am I old?  NO!  Am I eccentric?, not really...ok, maybe a little bit.  But I am not OLD!  Well, maybe I am older than my son, but I am younger than a lot of other people in his life.  So, based on this technicality, I am not a geezer.

Of course, when I was his age, I thought 18 was the age I would become an adult, 20 was old, 30 was soooo far away, and 40 would never come.  Forget the rest, since I was unable to process that far in advance at such a tender young age.  Now, at nearly the youthful spring chicken age of 40, I look back and think, wow, I really didn't know too much at 10.  At 20, I realized my parents were right some, ok, most of the time...30 was just the beginning of my life, and at 40, I'm still learning what it means to be alive and looking forward to what the next 40 years have in store!  What scares me the most, though, is trying to figure out at what age my next epiphany comes...and what it will bring.  

So, as I take a bite of my humble pie, I have to say, yes, perhaps I am a geezer...but only to my son...well, and his friends...and probably a few other kids.  Ok, we will just stop that nonsense right there. 

However...I refuse to say, admit, claim, that I am old.  I can still (with a bad knee, too!) whip his butt in a foot race, overpower him in an arm wrestling contest (left OR right handed), outsmart him (most of the time) in a battle of wits, throw a ball (any) farther then he can, and best of all, I can still command complete control of the remote!  Ha!  So, there, you young whipper snapper, how do you like them apples?  ...geezer?...I think not!  Now, what was I going to write about?

Hey!  Who's that geezer with the bald/gray hair dancing with my wife?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

(To be said in an Italian accent) - Kuita ya belliachi

One of the best things about moving to a different location/state is getting to take in all of the new surroundings, new restaurants, new traditions, and new sights.  In other words, everything is NEW!  Most of it is exciting, some of it is boring, but no matter what it is, it is something new.

A few weeks ago, we were checking out our unfamiliar territory and decided to hop into a small, one-off, Italian restaurant.  I use the term "Italian restaurant" very loosely because it was more like an over-priced pizza joint that happened to serve variances on the doughy tomato and cheese pie.  They did have a decent Stromboli, though!

Anyway, it was apparent the owners were from the New York area, judging from the decorations on the wall.  Their attempt at making a hole in the wall more appealing by decorating with Yankee and Giants nick-knacks was not lost on me.  I'll give them an A for effort, but an F for their choice of team memorabilia - hey, I'm a Washington DC team fan, what can I say?

Despite the ugly sports team memorabilia, there was one sign that made this place have a spot in our permanent memory banks.  It was because of this sign that we will probably go back, at some point, and try them again...while overlooking the Giants/Yankees junk.

The sign was a simple, ordinary, boring sign that had letters painted on a weathered strip of wood.  It was what my son said that made it so memorable.

A little past the half way point of our meal, in his best Italian accent, my son asks, "Mom, what does 'Kuita ya belliachi', mean?"  My wife and I speak multiple languages, but Italian is not one of them. We can usually figure out what a phrase in Italian or Portuguese mean, based on the languages that we know (Spanish and French).   "Kuita ya belliachi" was not one of these phrases that was easily figured out, though...until we looked at the sign...

Hanging on the wall behind us, the rustic looking sign read "Quityourbellachin'!" Karma must have been in full force that day since we had just discussed the fact that he needed to stop complaining and whining about stuff.  Quit your belly aching, stop whining, stop complaining, and any other phrase we have used in the past has now, permanently, been replaced with Kuita ya belliachi.  So far, it is working well.

This, of course, brings up a piece of advice I would like to share that may help you in the future...assuming you have children.  Sometimes, parents can get into a rut, just like kids.  What worked before, isn't even cause for hesitation on their part now.  In other words, kids become immune to time-outs, restrictions, and no candy days.  A month ago, any of these responses/threats would have stopped them dead in their tracks, shaped them up in a jiffy, and life would have been good and moved on. At some point, they decided time-outs are bearable enough that the price of sneaking a candy is worth the payment of sitting in a corner for five minutes.
As parents, we need to be creative because we never know when something will stop working.  These are the times that we need to say, "Kuita ya belliachi!" so that he gets the point.  In the case of his belly achin', his whining changes to laughter after we say the family phrase in our best Italian accents.  Of course, this has only been in practice for a little over a week, but it is is working so far!

When this one stops working, we will try to draw from our family experiences to trigger his attitude stopping mechanism to work quickly...otherwise, it's back to the drawing board, and back to him sitting in time-out...only this time it will be for 30 minutes so that I can take a quick power nap!

Do you have a family motto or sayings that only you and your family would understand?  I would love to hear about them, if you do.  Feel free to send me an e-mail or post a comment.

Please be sure to check out the Examiner article that corresponds to this story HERE.  

As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, November 12, 2010

17th Annual Carolina Renaissance Festival - Alternate title: Who is Clevis, Dad?

I just finished an article on the 17th Annual Carolina Renaissance Festival on the Examiner. ( Renfest article ) In the article, I touched on some of the basics about the festival, but there were a few things that I could not put in there that I can put in the blog.  Some of the things that made me laugh, chuckle, smile, and remember why I love being a dad.

The festival was very much like the Maryland Renaissance Festival; full of vendors peddling their goods, lots of food to purchase - some of it really really good, some not so much -, cold beer to enjoy (which might have been good if it wasn't so cold outside and idiot me wasn't wearing shorts and a tee-shirt), awesome costumes, great performances, cool swords, neat jousting tournaments, and cleavage. Yes, I said cleavage, but I am not going to discuss that...yet.

The festival was all that I had hoped for...well, except for having to park at the very far edge of the parking lot and having to walk two miles before actually entering the gate. As we approached the gate, my son's enthusiasm began to shine as if he just hit the million dollar jackpot.  Dressed in makeshift renaissance gear, complete with his homemade (made by yours truly) shield, Oklahoma Medieval Faire  purchased sword, and a white tee-shirt decorated by Sharpie with his own designs, he was ready to experience all that North Carolina Renaissance Festival had to his Chuck Taylor high tops...The participants of the festival, and some of the patrons, were dressed in period costume, and yes, there was some cleavage...but that is still for later.

Immediately after entering the gate, he wanted to run to every store that had anything to do with hats, swords, or knight armor.  Unfortunately for him, his mother, me, and his aunt pulled back on the reigns and kept him at bay.  Don't worry, he got to do plenty of what he wanted, so I did not earn the title of "Worst Dad Ever!" from him...yet.

His excitement popped into overdrive as he saw the wooden ships go round and round.  With enthusiasm, he politely asked if he could ride them.  Then he asked if I would go on it with him.  Now, these "ships" were more like wooden dinghies that could hold one average sized person, or two small kids.  My son is not a small kid, and I am 6'3" 250lbs.  Needless to say, I did not go on the ride with him.

After I got over the initial shock of the price to sit in a wooden tub and go around in a circle, I changed lenses on the camera and tried to snap off a few shots.  I did not look at them until today...the joy on his face left me wanting to relive the moment and my own childhood when life was so much easier.  How often do we, as adults, pay three bucks for anything that makes us grin from ear to ear?  Maybe we need to search harder for those moments, or perhaps we need to cherish the moments our kids feel when it is happening, and not wait to see them through the memory card stuck in the computer.  Either way, I am really glad I spent those three bucks on those silly dinghies!

As the day progressed, he got to try on helmets, play with swords, and stuff his face with yummy treats (as did I).  At the end of the day, he hustled front row seats in the jousting arena, to watch the final joust - the fight to the death!  Our knight was Sir Maximilian, that mean, cheating, dark knight...who kicked butt, but in the end, good always wins.

Exhausted, cold, and ready to walk the two miles back to the car, we headed out to the parking lot after checking out the remainder of the village.  Sir Max must not have suffered major wounds because he was standing at the exit gate, so we snapped a few pictures.

After the long trek through the wilderness (parking lot), we finally arrived to our chariot.  We had to take my sister home and decided to stop in to say hey to my brother-in-law.  As we were discussing the day, I mentioned to him that he missed out on some good sights...cleavage, to be precise.  His eyes opened wide and he said something along the lines of, "What?  If I had known about the cleavage, I would have gone!"  It was at this point I found out my son is still a kid...thank God.  His response was, "Dad, who is Clevis?"  "Clevis?" I asked, "Yeah, Clevis." he repeated.  All I could think to say, between the chuckles, was, "Don't worry, one day you will understand when you meet those twins yourself."

Don't forget to check out the Examiner article and thanks for reading!
Examiner Link

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm published!!!

Woohoo!  I'm officially a published writer...check it out (hopefully this link will work...)  1st Examiner article  Let me know what you think, and as always, thanks for reading!

Technology and me

Apparently, my computer and the Internet are smarter than me.  The link in the previous post sends you to the main page of the Charlotte Examiner...which is where my writing job is located, but I was hoping to send you directly to my articles.  In addition, the Examiner post has not gone live, yet, so even if the link worked, you wouldn't be able to see anything anyway.  Therefore, when it goes live, I will try again...after all, I always tell my son, there is a solution to every problem...I suppose I need to listen to my own words and figure out the solution to this problem, huh?  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Intro Part II

Hello again!

So I promised a bit about who I am, why I am writing this blog, and what to look for in the future.  As I type this, I am on my wife's laptop...hmmm, that didn't come out right.  No, I am not physically on the laptop, but I am typing using her get the idea.  Anyway, I hate typing on laptops because my fingers are too big for these keys.  Therefore, my first disclaimer of the blog is this...Due to the teeny tiny size of the keys, and my fat fingers trying to make words by tapping said keys, I am most likely going to make mistakes in this post.  Get over it. :)

Now that that is done...As you can see from looking at my profile, my name is Larry. I am a product of the eighties (yes, I wore parachute pants, had a mullet before they were in style, and liked Duran Duran), I married my childhood sweetheart (more on that later), and have a nine year old son. I have lived in multiple countries and states, and found something to love about each place.  I try to stay on the lighter side of life and always look for the good in people.  I believe in accountability, honesty, love, integrity, and the fact that one can never stop learning.  I believe a mistake is not a mistake if you learn the lesson from it.  I like to write, but often end up rambling as my ADD mind wanders from topic to topic faster than I can type...actually, it wanders faster than I can describe in words what it is that I am thinking about, most of the time!  But, I look at it as a creative flow and a colorful outlook on life (more on that later, too!).  I like to explore, try new things, and be amazed.  Fortunately, my son amazes me daily, sometimes because he makes me explore new ways to get him to do his chores!

This blog is an attempt to chronicle the good, the bad, the ugly, and the funnies of my life while raising my son.  Hopefully, the blog will make you laugh, maybe make you cry, get you to say aloud "Uh-huh, I know what you mean!" and maybe even provide some useful insight.  Heck, it might even help me be a better father.  Comments are always welcomed, suggestions will be considered, rudeness will not be tolerated (I'll put you in time-out), and clicking on the ads is always appreciated (they help pay the bills).  This blog may be, at times, sarcastic, snarky, silly, short, long-winded, hilarious, heart warming, sad, enlightening, and many other descriptive words that will come along as my son continues to grow into (hopefully) a fine young man.

This blog is a supplement to another writing forum I am participating in.  The link to that forum is here.  That is my paid reporting job - please check it out often for a different take on things.  That page is more formal, more of a how-to, and written as professionally as I possibly can be.  In other words, I won't be typing on the wife's laptop when I submit articles to that link!  If this blog directly relates to what I am writing on the other page, I will try to remember to post a link, but check it out randomly, because my ADD may kick in and I will forget what I was writing about and forget the link...

As for a little background about my son, I became his dad when he was four years old.  His mother (my childhood sweetheart) and I married in 2006 and a year or so later, his first dad died.  A father dying at any age is traumatizing enough, but for such a bright little guy, the inability to understand the whole concept has proven to be very difficult.  However, as I said, he is very bright and he is finding ways to make life more enjoyable, and as the days go by, the pain subsides and the laughter is coming back strong.  He is growing into a fine young man, and with any luck, my good traits (yes, I do have some) will pass on to him.  Now, I know that every parent says their child is bright, but we have tests to prove just how bright he is...all I am going to say is, uh-oh...if he ever figures out how to harness his abilities, I'm in big trouble!  If he and I ever have a battle of the wits, he will be frustrated since I came unarmed! 

So, what you can look for in the future is commentary on the day's events, short stories about previous happenings, things we have done, things he has said, things he has done and what we (my wife and I) have done in response.  As I said before, I hope to use this blog as a way to maintain my sense of humor and continue looking at the lighter side of life.  No matter how frustrating it may be, there is always a positive side.

Thanks for reading!  "See" you next time and please take a moment to say hey!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pondering fatherhood - Intro Part I

So, here it is, the first entry of my first blog and I have nothing remarkable to say.  I sure hope that isn't going to be a regular occurrence! 

I suppose a brief explanation of the reason behind this attempt to reach the masses is in order.  About a month ago, my wife, son, and I moved from Oklahoma to North Carolina.  The move was fairly typical; full of headaches, moving expenses, unfamiliar territory, and all the other fun stuff that comes along with packing up two 26' (yes...TWO 26 foot) moving trucks.  But, it was not all bad.  As a matter of fact, I would do it all again (maybe tweak a few things) if it meant moving to this beautiful place.  Hills, mountains, ocean, warm weather, changing leaves, what more could you ask for?  But, I digress.  The primary reason for writing this blog is simply to share the joy and frustrations of raising a son.  Hopefully, more joy than frustration...but only time will tell. My goal is to show other parents that they are not alone, provide some humor to stressful situations, provide some insight to raising children, laugh at myself, entertain others, and have an online journal of all the cool and amazing things a nine year old is sure to bring. 

Since this is my first entry, I am too excited to see what it looks like and am going to publish this now.  But, in the second part of the Intro, I will go into further detail about who I am, why I am blogging, and what to look for in the future.  Thanks for reading!