What do you think?

“What do you think?”

Never have four words that when strung together will strike fear into the hearts of most men.

Usually, they are sprung on you with the same sense of total ambush that, say, a ninja might suddenly appear out of nowhere to Shang-hi you with a pair of nunchucks.  One minute you’re making a sandwich in the kitchen and the next thing you know, your wife is standing in front of you, hand on hip, and asking “what do you think?”

Then there’s that immediate sense of panic.

Relax.

Even though you have absolutely no idea what she’s talking about.

Maybe she’s asking you to weigh in on the current socio-political climate, the rise of Isis in the Middle East, the demise of Cecil the Lion, or maybe she’s just asking how you feel about the sandwich you’re currently consumed with.  Or, maybe (just maybe), you should have noticed something about her that you failed to comment on and now she’s testing you to see if you noticed at all.  Who knows?

But be cool.

Show no fear.

First step: drop everything you’re doing. Sandwich included. This question, albeit innocently phrased, is something that demands your full attention because either you’ve fucked up and are about to be raked over the coals for not noticing something that men might find dismissible like a slight change in her hair color or style, or she’s particularly concerned about something and, therefore, so should you.

Being too aloof at this point is only going to set the ninja off and you’re likely to end up with a nunchuck to the temple Bruce Lee-style.

Second step: respond with a casual “think about what?”, assuming you genuinely don’t know what she’s on about.  This is a perfectly acceptable response providing you are genuinely engaged with her via eye contact, etc. If you ask dismissively while still catering to your sandwich, then WHAM!, straight to the temple.  If you’re honest and sincere in your response you’re likely to get filled in with the missing detail so that you can offer your two cents appropriately. If not, well…

God help you.

Hell’s Playground

One of the headaches of the summer for a lot of parents I suspect, is the arranging all the day camp and daycare options for your child (children) once school lets out in June. There is no task in my daily curricula that requires so much mental focus, concentration, cunning and guile than trying to locate, schedule, plan, and register for all HRH’s necessary summer camps.

Truthfully, Kelly suffers through most of this process and my sole anxiety is usually in finding these places and making sure this gets handed off to that person on time and that she is packed appropriately with this  in order to prepare for that, and if this person should say anything about blah, blah blah, then you tell him blah, blah, blah and, yeah, just like that there.  The worst part is that this all usually happens before I’ve even had my morning cup of coffee.  So while this is all playing out, day in and day out, I just take it as the Summer months playing the role of just another Evil Monkey throwing yet another barrel at in my general vicinity.

Just jump over it and keep on rockin’, baby.

So while we’re weaving and careening down the QEW at high speeds en route to our destination, HRH decides to read me some of the waiver forms I’ve been instructed to immediately hand over upon arrival.

Now, remember, this is a waiver form for a ‘Musical Theater Camp’.

At first it all sounds pretty much like any other run-of-the-mill insurance waiver form.

“I____________ (“Participant”), acknowledge that I have voluntarily registered to participate in activities as part of Kids’ College Summer Camp (“Activities”).”

Sure, sure.  You bet.

But then it goes on to get a bit more sinister.

“I understand that the Activities are potentially hazardous and there is a risk of injury, and even serious or disabling.”

Wait…pardon?

What kind of musical theater “camp” is this anyway?  We’d already practiced correctly pronouncing the word ‘theater’, with the appropriate rolling of the vowels to give one the instant air of undeserved snobbery and now they are telling me she might be disabled?

Personally, I prefer to operate within the more commonly accepted and unwritten “you break it, you buy it” policy.  If you damage the goods they’re your responsibility to own up to it and do the right thing.  In this case, I’d expect nothing less than a full complimentary meal at the culinary institute’s on-campus restaurant.

But, I digress…

Anyway, what might cause “serious injury” at a musical theater camp?  Are they going to be free falling from a high object into a stack of cardboard boxes?  Am I going to be picking up my step-daughter at 4:00pm or Hal Needham?  Or will the daily curricula be more that of, say, ‘American Ninja’ where she’ll be navigating through an obstacle course of floating doors, door handles, a salmon board, and something known only as the “ButterflyWall” (whatever the hell that is).

Maybe I should get dropped off at camp and she can go to the office.

I had HRH  keep reading from the backseat.

Then the form goes on to say:

“I am voluntarily participating in the Activities with the knowledge of the risk of injury involved, and agree to assume any and all risks of bodily injury, death or property damage, whether those risks are known or unknown.”

Holy shit!

“Know or unknown?”

What could they possibly mean by unknown?

Do they mean poltergeists and other paranormal type of “unknown”  shit?  Is there a risk that she’s going to be possessed by some demonic entity, or something?  Is Zuul going to take up residence in her soul until the Key Master shows up with the goods?

Maybe I should bring a priest at 4:00pm?

Then there were other questions as well about any medication that might need to be administered, potential allergies and even a request for information regarding any possible legal custodial issues.  I guess that’s in case any “baby daddy’s” decide to show up and try to go all Amber Alert with the next Judy Garland, no doubt.

While this is all well and good, I remember when I was sent off to summer camp.  I hated it.  Anyway, I certainly don’t remember having to bring any forms, nor were my parents ever required to sign my life away.  Basically, they would just slow the car down to a reasonable enough speed and I would commando roll out to the curb while they sped off in a cloud of dust and gravel.  Hopefully, I had ended up at the right place.  So that meant no water bottle, no sun screen, no hat, no swim goggles and no four course meal packed neatly inside a thermo regulated lunch bag.  We were pretty much left there like Moses’ to wander the dessert (our neighborhood park) for the next eight hours, risking exposure and potentially dying of thirst.

I’m surprised then that now we’re also not required to supply her with a personal assistant, chef, masseuse and possibly a stunt double. As it is, she might need some support given the incredibly dangerous environment that I’m apparently dropping her off in.

God help her.

Catching Up and First Concerts

It has been exactly 24 weeks since I’ve posted to this blog; that’s 168 days.

Did you miss me?

Believe me, it’s not because life hasn’t been eventful over the past few months or anything; quite the opposite in fact.  We’ve been insanely busy since, well, May.

How busy?  Well, I’ve gotten married, spent 5 weeks traveling for work, 8 weekends dedicated as a volunteer for the SunRype Tri-Kids group, a recent family vacation to the Finger Lakes, my half iron triathlon this past weekend (click HERE) and, well, the summer’s not even over yet is it?  Plus I’ve trying to keep up with a full training schedule.  It’s been ridiculous.

The real challenge has been finding the time to sit down long enough to write but I felt the need to kick start this blog up again.

I could talk about HRH‘s recent addiction to YouTube videos (seriously, it’s like crack), her interest in baking weird foods (okay, I guess I kinda did write about this, click HERE), what it’s like to be a married man (it’s no different) or what it’s like to spend 6 days in a trailer with two 10-year-old girls.  Shit, I could talk about any number of things but they’d all be in hindsight.

Most recently, we took HRH  to see The Flaming Lips in Toronto, Ontario as part of the Pan American Games celebrations in Nathan Philips Square (click HERE).  Most people my age would probably claim Glass Tiger, Luba, Sass Jordan or some other schlocky flash-in-the-pan 80’s band as their first concert experience (me, personally, I saw Robert Plant but I’m cooler than most) but HRH  can now say that she saw the Flaming Lips.

Did I just earn myself some primo “Cool Dad” points there or what?

If you’ve never seen The Flaming Lips perform live before, it’s a complete trip.  From beginning to end it’s lights, confetti, balloons, and blow up dancing creatures of all sorts.  It’s total Disney on acid; perfect for keeping the full attention of a classic ADS 10-year-old girl.  She managed to make it three quarters of the way through the performance (and she even recognized a few songs along the way) before her little internal clock began to wind down at 10:30pm or so.  One late night street meat purchase and one smashed out rear passenger window later (it’s a long, stupid story) and she was crashed out and snoring in the backseat like a narcoleptic sea lion on the car ride home.

As far as concerts go it was – okay.  As far as experiences go, I think she really enjoyed it.  It might not have been Steve Miller kind of cool but, hey, it was still pretty awesome and I look forward to doing more of these kinds of cultural things in the future.  And while I know there is inevitably a One Direction, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, or god knows what other FM pop pablum band concert in my not-so-distance future, at least I can reflect back on this experience and, hopefully, carry a little more weight with our next concert experience into more mutually familiar musical turf.

Snow Ice Cream

Today has been all about the snow.  We received nearly 2ft. worth overnight and local schools and businesses were closed and the roads were practically impassable until noon. This means of course that while I worked on endless stupid reports for work (the weather has little impact when you work from home) I was serenaded every so often with the classic “I’m bored”  from HRH.  I mean, most kids love when there’s a crap ton of snow on the ground aren’t they?  Well not HRH it seems.  She lasted approximately 10 minutes outside before she was back inside with her iPad complaining that it was too cold.  Kids today I tells ya (click HERE).  Anyway, couple that with the fact that we ran out of gasoline for the snow blower so that the entire driveway had to be cleared by hand this morning and, yeah, not an overly fun day. Anyway, after dinner this evening we tried to embrace the whole spirit of Snow Day a little more by indulging in a special treat.  After all, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade, right?  Well, when Old Man Winter gives yo snow…you make Snow Ice Cream. Yes, it’s a thing…apparently. You will need:

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk (we used cream instead)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Oh, and snow…of course. First, whisk all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. After nearly 90 minutes of shoveling this morning, I left the majority of this grunt work to the kid. 1Secondly, collect approximately 8 cups of clean, fresh snow from your backyard.  Of course, I advise finding somewhere where there is little chance that it has been recently visited by any neighboring dogs or wildlife.  Think of this as a great learning opportunity to educate your child on the distinct unwholesome properties of eating yellow snow. 2Lastly, mix the the freshly collected snow into the milk mixture, and keep adding until a somewhat ice-creamy consistency is achieved. 3Lastly, mix the the freshly collected snow into the milk mixture, and keep adding until a somewhat ice-creamy consistency is achieved.  It should be fluffy and scoop-able, but not runny.  Ours kind of looked like a bowl of cottage cheese. 4Scoop it out into bowls and consume. Of course, you can flavor your snow ice cream any way you wish by adding cocoa powder instead of vanilla extract to make chocolate flavored snow, or dress your snow ice cream with sprinkles, fruit, fresh jam, or whatever it is you like to eat with your ice cream.  Have a ball!  Me?  I like my min plain and simple. 5I have so say, I was pretty impressed.  It tasted entirely like vanilla ice cream!  Delicious in fact.  However, I can’t help but be a little upset that I am only hearing of yummy revelation now.  I mean, seriously, how much money (no to mention calories) might I have saved on this particular concoction over the numerable pints of Ben & Jerry’s I’ve consumed in my past? It boggles the mind.

2014 in Review

I promise to update this blog more often this year but, in the meantime, thanks for dropping by!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Keep Calm and Color On

It’s been a long weekend.  Well, a long Saturday anyway but I have to do the same thing all over again tomorrow so I may as well say it now and get it over and done with.  I’m on Dad Duty again and it’s exhausting – like, totally exhausting – seeing as how I have to keep her entertained every single nanosecond of the entire day until either she passes out from the sheer magnificence of having so much fun or I completely flip out and, well, let’s not go there.  Anyway, it’s been a busy day.

As part of today’s busy day we visited a free family event as part of the local Santa Claus Parade celebrations.  The event included Christmas tree ornament decorating, writing letters to Santa, stringing together popcorn garlands, singing Christmas carol, games, activities, clowns, elves and what have you, so as far as nine-year-old girls go it was the bomb-diggidy.  For grown up dads…not so much.  But regardless, I do my best to put on the premise of having fun as it’s all about her at the end of the day.  If she’s happy – I’m happy.  Kinda.

So while she runs around breathless doing crafty stuff and playing party games and otherwise having the time of her life I get to stand there along the wall like a schmuck with all the other forgotten about dads.  We were like our own Island of Misfit Toys.  Fun?  Not.  Making things worse is that I have absolutely nothing in common with the local dads. I don’t hunt, I don’t fish and I don’t know a monkey wrench from a torx screw.  Shit, I can barely the make and model of my own car on a good day.  Remember, my own hobby requires my being dressed in spandex, wetsuits or tights most of the time.  So, yeah, there’s little common ground there.  Instead, I decide to waltz on over to one of the craft tables and do something I haven’t done in, maybe, thirty years…color.  Yes, with colored pencils n’ shit.

And you know what?  It was totally calming…relaxing…enjoyable even.  Sure I was sitting there at a table with half a dozen strange little girls giving me the leary eyeball, but who cares? There was something entirely hypnotic and strangely therapeutic about it.  Turns out I dig me some coloring.  A grease fire could have broken out and I wouldn’t have cared in the slightest.  Mrs. Santa herself could have been performing a Tijuana-style donkey show with Rudolph at the coffee counter and I wouldn’t have given two ginger snaps.  I was in sweet, heavenly bliss.

And so it went for the next hour or so…

My masterpiece

My masterpiece

“Can I get my face painted?”

“Sure.  Hey, you over there…pass me the Poppy Red.” 

Keep coloring…

“Can I have some more candy?”

“Whatever. Do you see the Periwinkle Blue anywhere?”

Keep coloring…

“That strange man over there with the funny sideburns wants to know if I can go eat cookies in his van.”

“Knock yourself out.”

Keep coloring…

“I’m bored.  Can we go now?”

“Shh.  Can’t you see I’m coloring?”

Vinyl Education

I had a bit of a dilemma this afternoon in that I had promised to be on “Dad Duty” so Kelly could sleep, yet there was a local Record Fair going on that also really wanted to attend; what to do…what to do.  Oh for those long ago days went the world was my oyster and I was a slave to no man’s (or woman’s for that matter) schedule.  Dammit.

*sigh*

Anyway, I casually mentioned it to the child to gauge her interest level, which I assumed would be somewhere between watching a Jean Claude Van Damme movie and, say, having flaming hot bamboo rods inserted under her finger nails and, really, who would blame her?  She’s nine years old.  But her response sealed the deal:  “What’s a record?”

Oh.  My.  Gawd.

That’s it.  Pack up your shit.  We’re going!

DSCF2157

Nice choice…

I figured if anything it would be a great time to bond together over some dusty vinyl and begin her education in the cool, hip world of records.  On the car drive there I explained the in’s and out’s of shopping for vinyl such how they smell, feel, ultimately how they work and, no, they’re not like a frisbee.  That kind of thing.  I detailed for her how to handle them with care, how to seek out things alphabetically and how to simply appreciate the little things like the unique and funky album cover art and the silly names of lesser known bands and artists.  By the time she got there she was rarin’ to go and I simply turned her loose with the promise that if she found something that she loved – for whatever reason – she could have it.  Price pending, of course.  I’m no Daddy Warbucks.

So as I flipped and browsed through the stacks of records looking for treasures she wandered off to look for some Pink Floyd which she has recently developed an interest for (yay for me!).  Every now and again I checked on her to see what she was up to and noticed that she was getting into it…like, really into it…going around from vendor to vendor exploring.  Eventually she came rushing back absolutely flushed with excitement over something she had found.

“I found a Red Knuckles!”, she practically screamed so that nearly every pony-tailed vinyl geek in the place could hear.

I couldn’t believe my ears.

“Who?” 

I had to be sure I’d heard her correctly.

“Red Knuckles!”

Yup, that’s what I thought she said.  Now for those of you rubes who do not know who Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers are, well, you’re a schmuck but I’ll educate you anyway.  Red Knuckles is the pseudo alias of band members from Hot Rize, who perform as a Western swing band complete with stage names, between sets of their own shows.  HRH‘s only familiarity with them is that I happened to play a Hot Rize concert in the car months ago where they also performed the Red Knuckles schtick.

A proud moment indeed!

A proud moment indeed!

“Are you sure?”, I asked hesitantly.  I will admit here that while I’m a fan of Hot Rize, I did not know that they also had albums out as their aliases.  Huh.

“Yes I’m sure!  Come see!”  She was absolutely giddy.

So of course I allowed myself to be dragged over by the hand to check it out and – low and behold – there it was.  Her cheeks had flushed red with excitement and she had a proud, beaming smile that spread over her entire face.  I swear, my small heart grew three sizes in that moment. I think I might even have shed a tear.  What’ya know?  She pays attention.

“Is that what you want?”, I asked.

The answer was a complete no-brainer and my record collection has now become our record collection, of which Red Knuckles is now a part.  And I couldn’t be happier.  Now, if I could only explain her new interest in Ozzy Osbourne…

God help me.

Fart Big! Dream Big!

Turn your back for two seconds and this is what will appear on your driveway written in bright neon-colored sidewalk chalk:

A regular Picasso

A regular Picasso

Yeah.  Chew on that  for a moment.  Where do you think she picked up this particular brain dropping?  I mean, ‘smel your farts‘ I get, but ‘Fart Big!  Dream Big!‘?

What the hell?

Sure, I already know farts are funny but, geez, do we have to announce it to the world?  Personally – all childhood innocence aside – I sure hope HRH will strive to accomplish greater things in this life and aspire to more than simply letting rip with the perfect fart.  Just sayin’…

God help me.

Bob the Fly

It seems that HRH has now adopted herself a new pet she’s named Bob; ‘Bob the Fly’ to be exact.  Yes, she’s taken to a fly that’s been buzzing around inside my car for the past week.  Every time she jumps in the backseat of the car to go somewhere she hunts him out to ‘make sure he’s okay’.  Seriously, a fly? 

I will  pause here for a moment to mention that I think ‘Bob the Fly’  would, however, be an awesome name for a band in the same vein as ‘Young the Giant’, ‘Cage the Elephant’  or ‘Cuff the Duke.  But I digress…

Personally, while I think this whole pet fly business is a bit cute, it’s also pretty freakin’ strange. On the one hand I appreciate that she has a genuine love and respect for all of God’s creatures (save bees and ticks maybe) but then there’s that, well, rather ‘creepy’ Wednesday Adams vibe to it.  I mean, first it’s naming a fly in the car before it potentially snowballs into her becoming that wacko with flies on a leash and threatening to poison the water supply in ‘Midnight In the Garden of Good & Evil’.  It’s certainly a slippery slope.

And, seriously, if she ever starts crazy-gluing thread to the backs of flies so she can take them for a walk around the neighborhood, my ass is outta there!  Sorry Kelly but I’m not living with crazy ‘Queen of the Flies’  girl.

Pause again quickly to note that ‘Queen of the Flies’  is not as cool a band name as ‘Bob the Fly’.

However, the way it is now is pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things I guess; she’s just being a typical imaginative nine-year-old…weird as it may be.  I keep telling myself that anyway.  So Bob continues to buzz around my back seat refusing to fly out any of the windows and she therefore has a travel companion to amuse her for long car drives into the city leaving me largely to my coffee and tunes.  It’s a classic win-win.

Who am I to judge anyway?

God help me.

“I Forgot…”

I have learned to be afraid of two specific words in HRH’s vocabulary – more so than any others. They’re even worse than the dreaded “What if…”  (click HERE).  These two words would strike fear into the hearts of even the most patient and nurturing of step fathers such as myself. 

Those two words are: “I forgot…” 

It’s doesn’t matter what words follow those two preceding words but, let me assure you, they’re definitely not going to be favorable.  Be afraid my friends, be afraid.

I experienced just these two very words only this morning approximately 20 minutes into our commute into the city; her to the day camp; me to work. Usually, these two words might be preceded by another two words, “Oh no!” – just as she did today – so maybe those might be the two most feared words but, hey, I digress…when strung together they’re the Devil’s Quartet of the nine-year-old vernacular.

And there they were, echoing excitedly from the backseat:

“Oh no! I forgot…”

Wait for it…

…my lunch!”

*facepalm*

Now I could have dealt with just about anything at that point like a forgotten water bottle, her YMCA membership card, a sweater, a pair of shoes perhaps, but a lunch isn’t something you can take lightly; specifically her lunch. Sure, I could just pull over at Subway and grab her half sandwich but then I’d just be that dad: the guy who sent his kid to camp with half a meatball sub. Sorry, can’t do it. 

So I did what I had to do and turned around to make for home.  I will admit to trying to mentally calculate how long she might be expected to go without food but I quickly gave that up as I have no mind for numbers.  So what choice did I have?  Frustrating, right; infuriating even?

But here’s the thing: you can’t even really get mad at her. Shit, when I was nine-years-old, if it didn’t have anything to directly do with either my penis, or maybe my G.I. Joe’s, then the chances were very good that I wasn’t even aware of it, much less remembering it. And with her mind already completely overloaded with ponies, princesses, leftover pancakes, and whathaveyou, well, who could blame her? 

She’s got a lot going on in there already.

God help me.

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