Leaving (briefly) on a jet plane

Just the other day, I took my daughter to the airport. Now, there have been many times over the years when I’ve threatened to stick her on a plane and send her somewhere onh pice way. But this time was different. This time she was taking her first flight by herself.

It was pretty much a full day for us. We live about two hours from the airport. So by the time you factor in the drive, getting through the airport, and my frequent bathroom stops along the way (I don’t know how my parents ever put up with me! Or how I ever complete a trip) we had to leave approximately 17 hours before her flight.

It was hard for me to believe that this little girl who, just last week it seems, was only two, was about to climb on a plane and fly somewhere. On her own. Without me. Of course, there was the metaphor of the young birds flying away and leaving the nest. But this seemed a little different, somehow.

My daughter got a pretty bad deal, losing her mother just before she became a teenager. I’m not the best father, but I try, and I’m an even lousier mother. But she’s survived it and me pretty well. As I saw her, beautiful and confident, heading to the plane on her own, I thought about some of the great times we have had together over the years – playing hide and seek at the Counting Tree, school projects and activities, road trips to rock concerts, and a slew of bad movies we’ve watched and laughed at together over the years.

We start out as parents young and sometimes, in my case at least, stupid. We have no real idea of what we’re doing as parents. Or what we’re getting into. And if we did, it would probably cut down on the number of kids born by about 99 percent.

But having said that, I don’t think there’s a day that’s gone by that one or both of my kids haven’t amazed me in some way.

I know things are changing in our family. My daughter is growing up, in fact has grown up. But I can hardly wait to see what the coming days and years bring. As Woody said in Toy Story, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Because while I may not be the best father in the world, my little girl is a great daughter.

10 reasons why my iPod should be confiscated

The Bee Gees are just one of many groups I'm ashamed to have on my iPod

The Bee Gees are just one of many groups I’m ashamed to have on my iPod

Some years ago, I was fortunate enough to have an iPod come into my life. For a person who worked his way through college by playing actual, real-to-goodness 45 records at a local radio station, I still find the technology that allows us digital music to be quite incredible.

However, my iPod recently konked out. It would freeze up for days on end. And, even worse, I had just bought a whole slew of new songs and couldn’t squeeze them on. So I bought a new one, one just like my daughter’s – the Classic with 160 gigabytes, which is only about 155 GBs more than I need.

I grew up (some might say survived) during both the Disco Era and New Wave Era. It’s hard to listen to such artists as Flock of Seagulls, Kajagoogoo, and Wall of Voodoo unscathed. And those scars now appear as songs on my iPod.

And those are just a few of the abusive things I do to this wonderful machine. It wouldn’t surprise me if the folks at Apple took my iPod away. Here are 10 other reasons why they probably should.

1. My Singing

I’m sure many of you do this. When I’m in the car (usually, but not always) alone, I turn my music up real loud and, ahem, sing along. I use the term “sing” loosely here because that’s the one skill that is, shall we say, a bit lacking. But I do it none the less. Then I usually forget to turn the volume down. When we get in the car the next time and the music blasts away as soon as I turn the key, I always blame my daughter for turning it up. I find this tactic works in many areas of my life.

2. Music by the Bee Gees

I have a number of songs on my iPod by the Bee Gees, and that number is not zero.

3. Werewolves of London

I make my kids howl along with the lyrics in this song. Of course, they could be just howling at my singing.

4. Put the Lime in the Coconut

I sort of admit to having this song on my iPod. And, even worse, I sort of admit to knowing most of the words.

5. Strange playlists

Most people do a really smart thing – they fill their iPods with songs they actually like. I do that, too. But I also have a new category that I invented – Songs I Don’t Hate. I’m not sure when or how I started this. But sometimes I’ll hear a song on the radio, and I’ll think, “I don’t hate that song.” And what better way to demonstrate your non hatred of a song than to add it to your playlist. Unfortunately, I always just end up skipping them whenever they play. Hmmmm. I wonder why . . .

6. Vanilla Ice

Does this one really need any additional explanation?

7. Smooth jazz

At some point in my life, I found smooth jazz very relaxing. And I’ve grown to like it so much, that I not only know several specific pieces by actual real-life performers, that I’ve added some of these to my player. I get really mad when people say it’s nothing but elevator music. It’s not! Escalator music, maybe. But NOT elevator music!!

8. Disco

I grew up during the Disco Era. Under heavy medication, I MIGHT admit to having some of these songs on my iPod. And with a heavier dose, I might even admit to liking some of them.

9. The Gap Band

I not only know who this group is, but may or may not have some of their songs on my iPod.

10. Going down to Funkytown

The main reason I have “Funkytown” on my iPod is because I love to dance to it when I play Dance Central. Ok, there might be one other talent I have rivals my singing . . .

Ok, I admit it. I do have some (translation: most of my songs) are pretty bad. But I’m not the only one, am I? What’s the most embarrassing song you have on yours?

Dad, can I ask you some more questions?

samIf you’re a regular reader, you know my son has never worried about what curiosity did to the cat. In fact, if he could find that cat, my son would ask him just what exactly curiosity did do to him.

You might be wondering where my son gets all his questions. My only reply is this: Where do socks go when you lose them in the dryer? – No one knows.

And so, without further delay, is another round of questions from a curious young mind.

“Do you need a pogo stick?” Ummmm, probably not today.

“If you were going to hit one of us, would you hit me or H?” Uh? Well, I don’t kn-

“How long do I have to take this medicine?” As long as it takes.

“What does hypocrisy mean?” Well, ummmm . . . Let me find the dictionary . . .

“Do you wish you had a deserted island?” At this moment . . .

“Do you have anything you need me to do?” YES!!!!!

“What do you wish more than anything else?” Hmmmmmm (Must bite tongue!)

“Which way is east?” Ummmmm.  Hold on, I should know this one . . .

“In chess, if both players only have a king left, is that a tie, even if they don’t want it to be?” What the hel-

“Can I invite a friend over?” Probably.

“What’s your favorite thing in the world beside me and H?” Hmmmm . . .

“Are you going to take a nap?” It’s looking doubtful.

“Can I help you cook?” Only if you promise to try some.

“What’s your favorite sport after football and basketball?” Ummm . . .

“Do you think the United States will make it to the World Cup?” Hmmmm

“What’s your favorite dessert besides cookies, cake, and ice cream?” Ummmm . . . what’s left?

“What is your least favorite thing in the world?” Ummmmm (must bite tongue! Harder this time!!)

Wal-Mart at the speed of sound

stopwatch

As the time shows on our most recent trip, I fell well short of finishing under my goal of 30 minutes.

When you live in a small town, you often have to invent things to do. And when you’re easily entertained like we are, it isn’t hard to do.

My son and I recently found such a way. And as most of life does in a small town, it revolves around Wal-Mart. My son hates going shopping. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, as you can imagine, circumstances are such that he often has to go with me.

And now that’s where the fun comes in. I told S last week that I could make the trip in less than 30 minutes.

HIs immediate reply? “No, you can’t,” he laughed.

So the challenge was on! Our goal: to get in, buy our groceries, check out, and get back to the car. All in less than 30 minutes.

I had a short list. Of course, I always start with a short list. It just somehow grows much larger as I walk through the store.

If you don’t live in a small town, you probably don’t have the joy of knowing how important Wal-Mart is to your life. You buy your groceries there. You buy your cleaning supplies there. Soap, shampoo, and other, ahem, personal items.

The thing is, though, almost everyone in town shops there, too. So it also becomes your social experience of the week – or several times a week if you’re like us. And it works out well for me because I’ll strike up a conversation with total strangers.

Again, this isn’t a bad thing – unless you’re in a hurry.

So there we are, me searching in vain for several items, dodging employees who are stocking the shelves, and visiting with about every other person. And telling a stranger that, Yes, buying Double Stuff Oreo’s was the right choice because they’re soooo much better than regular. I mean really, how can anyone buy the regular Oreo’s when the Double-Stuffs are right there?!

And there’s my son is next to me, so excited about trying to beat our time that he’s literally jumping up and down next to the cart.

I almost made it, too. But when I got ready to check out, I remembered I had forgotten paper towels – the one thing I had come in for. Doh!

Once we were back up front, there was a wait. I  could go through the self-check line. I refuse to do this for the simple reason that the last thing I want to do is work at Wal-Mart for free.

We’re standing in line, when I hear, “You’ve only got a minute and 25 seconds left, Dad. You’re not going to make it.” S can’t help but laugh.

I laugh, too. It is funny that I can’t buy 10 items on a list (that mushroomed to about 37 items) in less than 30 minutes.

But hey, we live in a small town. What else is there to do?

What’s for breakfast? How about Kazakhstan toasts

french toastsLiving with a picky eater is one thing. But living with a picky eater who is a bit ocd, well, that is something completely different.

I’m not sure how this ever came up, but one day my son comes up to me and asks, “You know where I’d like to visit?”

I was expecting Hawaii. Maybe the beach or Disney World. Possibly even the local movie theater. Instead, I got this . . .

“Kazakhstan.”

Ok, I have a confession to make. I’m not the smartest guy. And I wasn’t even sure if I’d heard of Kazakhstan, much less knew where it was.

I was left with just one question: Why?

There was no real reason. He had just heard of it, liked the name, thought it would be interesting to visit. I don’t no anyone in that country, but their Department of Tourism might want to think about hiring my son to develop a promotional campaign for them.

I can hear it now . . . “Escape the pressures of your life and escape to the wonderland that is Kazakhstan. . . ” Yep, it’s right up there with Disney and Branson when it comes to those family vacations.

And so, as you might imagine, the wonderful country of Kazakhstan is a much discussed region around our house now.

For breakfast recently, I made some Kazakhstan toasts. They’re just like French toasts, only spelled differently. I figured that was a lot cheaper than the airfare to the country. Plus, no one would have to get any shots . . . at least not until after they’d eaten.

I am not Hope

Former NBA basketball player Charles Barkley once made a commercial in which he proclaimed that he was not a role model.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=R8vh2MwXZ6o

I can appreciate that. Especially, where cancer is concerned. If you’re a regular reader of my blog or just know me, you know my wife died of cancer almost nine years ago.

Now when I hear of someone, whether it is a friend or even a friend or relative of a friend, I always feel like I should reach out. That I should provide some words of comfort and hope.

But I’m always hesitant to do that. People with cancer don’t need to hear from me. They need to hear from people who have survived cancer. They need stories of inspiration. Stories of hope and overcoming such a terrible disease.

But I’m not hope. I’m reality. I represent that other thing that can happen. I’m sure when those with cancer see me, they can’t help but think about that. To think about what could happen to them.

So I hesitate when common courtesy would suggest that I provide a comforting word. I withdraw when the situation really calls for reaching out.

But then I think, maybe I’m not supposed to be an inspiration to those who have cancer. Instead, maybe I’m supposed to provide hope to those who have lost a loved one to cancer.

And if others can draw even a small amount of comfort from seeing my life, from seeing me go on, then that provides a small amount of hope to me.

Mixing business and pleasure

car washThere’s just something special about seeing  kids working, voluntarily, on some chores around the house. And if you can’t get them to do it by their own free will, then you can always resort to manipulation.

I found that worked pretty well last week when I needed to wash the car. “Hey,” I called to my son, S. “How would you like to go outside and play in the water.”

It was a hot day, and I didn’t have to ask twice.

And what better way to play in the water than by washing my car. My car was so dirty, that there were some dead bugs on it that are now extinct. It wasn’t pretty.

But it turned out to be a good day – for me and S. If you’re a regular reader, you know that my son is nine-years old. And like most boys his age, loves to play in the water. A LOT. So there wasn’t much complaint when our work crossed the line into play. S didn’t complain much when I drenched him with the hose. Of course, there might have been a little more complaining when he squirted me . . .

In fact, he had fun. We both did. So much fun, that we washed my daughter’s car the next day. And S is ready for us to start a car washing business. Hey! You’re supposed to be working, not having this much fun!!

Actually, S is pretty good about helping out around the house, even when he doesn’t know he’s helping.

The 5 1/2 days of Father’s Day

Tie

My daughter and I were sitting at my son’s final baseball game of the year this past Tuesday night. And it was hot. Real hot.

I was trying to figure out some way to cool down. I thought too bad that Father’s Day is still almost five days away or I could ask my daughter to fan me. Then it hit me! If we can have 12 Days of Christmas, surely we can have 5 1/2 days of Father’s Day. Who wouldn’t go for that? Well, what dad wouldn’t go for that?

The 1/2 Day of Father’s Day

So I immediately put my plan to my daughter, H. And I followed it up with how hot I was, and how great it would be if she were to fan me for a bit. (I didn’t add the part about feeding me grapes; I just figured she might think of that one herself) My daughter, who is 20, was interested enough to stop reading the book she had brought, thought about it for a brief second, and met my great new idea with “No, I don’t think so.” Then back to reading.

Ok, so maybe it takes more than half a day for a new tradition to catch on.

The First Full Day of Father’s Day

Ok, this day was sure to be better. The gifts and deeds were sure to come down like rain on this day.

And sure enough, without any prompting, H volunteered to cook dinner. Hey, this is a great new way to spend the special occasion. So while my daughter was inside in the cool comfort of air conditioning, I found myself outside in a heat that had to be somewhere around the same temperature used to cook a turkey. Then I realized, Hey! Wait a second!! Why am I out here working during Day 1 . . . This holiday definitely needs some tweaking.

The Second Full Day of Father’s Day

H was off work on this day, so I knew big things were in store. And indeed they were. She offered her brother a chance to hang out. AND she was going to take him out for lunch. Just the two of them.

Oh boy, we’re going out to lunch, I thought. Hey, wait a second . . .

The Third Full Day of Father’s Day

Friday, Day 3, was a travel day. We were on our way to a Family Reunion. But on the trip, H did let me listen to songs on her I-pod in the car, and my son, S, did let me play in the pool with him until a little after 10.

Hey, wait another second . . .

On the Fourth Full Day of Father’s Day

No gifts again today. But we did invent a really fun drinking game that you can read about in a previous blog post: https://holdingtogetherthejello.com/2013/06/15/getting-involved-with-the-kids-in-a-drinking-game/

The Fifth Full Day of Father’s Day – The Big Day

Ok, so we’re finally to the real Father’s Day. So for this Father’s Day, my kids got me  , , ,

The best gifts I ever received.

The best gifts I ever received.

Oh, heck. That doesn’t even matter. Instead, on this Father’s Day, I would urge you to hug your kids. Tell them you love them. Savor everyday with them.

Because Father’s Day isn’t about what our kids get or do for us. While the day is a chance for our families to honor us, we need to remember what the day should be for us – a chance to remember that our kids are the real gift on Father’s Day, and every day in between.

Getting involved with the kids . . . in a drinking game

The first 5 seconds

The first 5 seconds

The look at 10 seconds

The look at 10 seconds

The reaction after drinking super sweet tea.

The reaction after drinking super sweet tea.

It’s funny how sometimes some of the best memories aren’t planned at all.

At a family reunion, I was trying to choose a drink for my son from some limited choices: water, unsweet tea, sweet tea, and strawberry lemonade. “Mmmmmmmm. Strawberry lemonade,” I thought. I didn’t want to get it for myself because of the sugar, but if I got some for my son, then I could have one drink . . .

I took a drink, and it was really tasty. (Pause 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds, and . . .) Whoa! There was a sour aftertaste that really had some pucker power. Now, let the fun begin.

I got my daughter, brother-in-law, and niece to try it. They agreed – it had quite a kick. My son, who would prefer all of his food have either the words McDonald’s or Pizza Hut in their title, finally agreed to try some. Yes, very sour and fun. But he thought he’d pass. Instead, he wanted sweet tea.

I got a glass of the sweet tea, took a taste, and . . . WOW! WAY too much sugar.

So then we had a new game – take a drink of the lemonade, hold it in your mouth for ten seconds, swallow, then quickly taste the sweet tea.

The taste was terrible. And the looks on the faces of everyone who took part were telling, as the series of photos shows.

We all found it funny to see everyone’s expression to endure the extreme tastes. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

Family reunions are a great time to see people for the first time in years and for reliving old memories. But on this day, we created some of our own.

Swinging away

My son has never hit a home run before. Oh, he’s taken some big swings. And he’s collected a few hits, but never a home run.

s at bat 2013This is his fifth year to play. We survived two years of T-ball. (If you’ve never had the pleasure of taking in a T-ball game, count yourself blessed. In fact, a good way to cut down on crime would be to make those in prison watch about 12 hours of T-ball every day. Cruel and unusual? Yes. But I bet you’d see a drop in crime like never before.)

Then we made it through two years of machine-pitch baseball. This year we were moving up to the big leagues – the kid pitch league. It has been a learning experience for both of us.

First, you should understand that my son is not the best player on the team. But he has slowly gotten better every year. That’s been fun to watch. But like for many kids, moving up to face actual pitching hasn’t been easy.

And he has genetics working against him. I’m not the most athletic guy around. In fact, I was usually chosen last. And that was for sports I was good at. Fortunately, he’s more athletic that I am. But that’s not saying much.

As the season began, my son struggled. Struggled so much at times, that it was hard to watch. It didn’t help when in his first at bat in practice, he was hit by a pitch. And then, in one of the first games, he was hit again, this time in the head. He was fine; as for me, I may still be recovering.

But as he continued to struggle, especially with his hitting, he became frustrated. At one point, he even wanted to quit. Instead, we went to work. He wanted a new bat. All the other kids had one, so we got one, too. And we worked with that.

The hitting machine followed. We spent time letting him hit pitches thrown to him by the machine. Over and over. And we worked at home. I pitched to him over and over. (with wiffle balls. I can’t afford to replace windows on my house – much less my neighbor’s).

As we continued to practice, I could see his confidence growing. Slowly, but growing. And he began to hit the ball more – a couple of fouls, and a couple of hits. Not always. There were still strikeouts. But the frustration was slowly evaporating.

I think it’s sometimes harder on the parent. To watch your child go out and try to do something . . . and fail. Over and over. And over.

Then sometimes, there was a hit. And with it came the reward – his smiling face, full of pride in his accomplishment.

On Tuesday night, we had the last game of the season. I was hoping he could go out with a couple of hits. And yes, in my wildest dreams, even a home run.

Instead, it was a walk and a strike out. Not exactly the dream ending I hoped for.

When I sit in the stands, I probably get more nervous than he does. Sometimes, I wish I could just go out and hit for him (Actually, I probably wouldn’t do any better. Maybe not even as well). But in the end, whether it’s baseball, math, or cleaning a room, all we can do as parents is try to teach them. Show them. Work with them.

And finally, let them swing away.