Sunday, June 29, 2008

You know you're in Georgia when . . .

. . . you are listening to a country song in the restroom of the Cracker Barrell (natch) and you hear the singer rhyme "kissing girls" with "shootin' squirrels."

(Really . . .)

The trip down yesterday afternoon and this morning have been very good all things considered. Hannah fussed a few times, but she wasn't unusual in that regard. It's not like everyone else has well-tempered angels all the time. We listened to lots of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and watched several Looney Tunes cartoons. We stopped for the night last night in Knoxville, so we made it through Kentucky and into Tennessee--further than we had expected to go. We had a comfortable night's sleep and Hannah was good enough to sleep in the second-hand Pack'n'Play that we picked up at Once Upon a Child prior to the trip.

Oddly enough, it is very mild weather in northern Atlanta (Alpharetta to be exact). The weather is upper 80s and a breeze as well. We plan to continue the journey tomorrow and arrive in Tifton (my home town) sometime after lunch. Then we'll be done with half-day journeys for a while and just settle in.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


This "D" could stand for Departure, Destination, Dunderhead, Drama.

Today we've got a lot going on. We've been finalizing our packing for the vacation; we've been tying up the loose ends from Grace's birthday party, and we've been trying not to beat each other senseless with our frustrations, anxiety, or any blunt object.

(Really, it's not that bad. I'm playing it up for Dramatic effect.)

We got most of the packing done last night--along with all of the relevant laundry. We also created a Star Wars bowling theme t-shirt to give away as a party favor for the kids coming to the party. (I'll try to provide a picture of the shirt at another date.) The birthday cake was just delivered, is very cool and looks very similar to this:

The detailing is a bit different on our cake and it was made by a local woman (check her out!) who actually gave us a deal on the price just so she could get the experience and put the image on her website. (And she even threw in some free, unasked-for cupcakes since kids might not eat the fondant.) I didn't tell her that since we are Departing Directly from Grace's party to begin our vacation travels, that some of the cake--extremely lamentably--might not get eaten by us. We are going to try and give it to the neighbors next door who will be attending the party.

But it's working out fine. We've got the car 85% packed, the older girls are at their Saturday gymnastics class, and when they get back it's a quick lunch that cleans out the refrigerator, finish loading the car, grab all the birthday supplies, cake, t-shirts, and cupcakes and we're all off to the bowling alley.

Once the party is over, we put stuff back in the car, pawn off any remaining cake/cupcakes, and hit the road going South. We'll see how far we can get today and stop somewhere in Kentucky for the night. Then off to MSquared's house in northern Hotlanta for a brief respite and night with cousins and family.

More to come as the excitement unfolds! Keep checking back.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Good news/Bad news

  1. We're repairing stuff on the house left and right this Spring & Summer--i.e. rebuilding and redecorating the fireplace area, removing old deck and replacing with concrete patio, getting landscaping estimates for the backyard, repairing bathroom leak upstairs guest toilet, inspecting ever-older HVAC unit in basement. / We're spending money like we're nuts, plus the grass in the backyard is all ripped up and trampled, there are big piles of leftover dirt to be utilized elsewhere that's killing other areas of grass, and we're always leaving the office to be at home in the afternoon for some repair or inspection or another thing . . . and there is a hole in the ceiling above the dining room table that is just screwing up the feng shui.

  2. We are a house divided . . . between PIRATES and NINJAS! Grace and Lynda favor pirates while Sarah and I favor ninjas. Hannah is as of yet, unable to state a preference, but I suspect that she will--at her earliest convenience, choose ninjas because babies like black and white color contrasts. Who wears black . . . ? Ninjas, that's who!

  3. We are going on vacation. / We have to pack the van with everything . . . and we're not going here. (Seriously? What is this place about, anyway? It seems to be, judging by the photographs, catering to the young and sexy who are only interested in the sex. And, can someone please tell me how in the sam hill you are supposed to climb up into that crazy champagne tub thing? Is there a hidden elevator? I would imagine that doing a sexy strip tease for your partner and then acting like a rhesus monkey to climb the side of it would sort of be a buzz kill, right? But even once you're up there, having your fun, good luck maintaining the sexiness while you slip down the side of the elevated tub, covered in soap suds. Breaking a hip doesn't keep the fun going.)

  4. During the summer we don't have to drive two cars and can carpool as a family once more. / Remember how we have to leave all the time in the afternoon to be available for HVAC inspectors and plumbers? Well, that means we BOTH have to leave.

  5. I've been watching VH1's "I Love the New Millennium" (I know . . . and shut up.) which has been funny in spots and reminds me of things I said about stuff a few years ago, but no one was around with a camera. / I'm subjected to the same Taco Bell Queso Crunchwrap commercial about 12 times a night. But, I am kind of feeling sorry for Taco Bell, because they do have a dilemma. How do you continue to create new food products when you have the same six ingredients in everything? You just sit around trying to think of new shapes and stuff. It's got to be hard.

  6. I'm rewatching Joss Whedon's Firefly and that's a good thing. It's set in space, don'tcha know. / But it made me wonder this morning . . . the human characteristics of intelligence, curiosity, and inventiveness is a recipe for disaster. What other species will willingly inject themselves into a foreign environment, surrounding themselves with thin metal spheres and temporary, artificially-created atmospheres? It's a recipe for eventual disaster and a precarious way to live. But humans have been doing it forever. Tired of this land? Build a rickety, leaky boat and sail across the unbreathable mass of water in search of God knows what. Hey, what's under that water? Build a precarious sphere and try to go ever deeper, fighting off crushing pressure, more leaks, and who knows what. You know, I'm tired of the planet. Well, get off of it . . . the only place we know of that supports life. I'm sure you'll be fine. (I know this makes me sound like a curmudgeonly Luddite who doesn't want to leave his house, but the utter precariousness of it is sometimes stunning. Best not to think about it, I guess.

  7. Shirtless and I played golf last week at a cheap 9-hole course that's not far from where I live. Fun! / Unfortunately, it seems that this course is cursed, as we played HORRIBLY!

  8. Recently, my office loosened the dress code (such as it previously had been) and allowed us to wear jeans to work on Fridays. / Unfortunately, the semi-weekly angst over stretching the loosened dress code causes a flurry of emails, heartburn, and general, childish chaos.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Dear Grace:

You are five-years-old today. Congratulations! I am so proud of who you are becoming, a fine young girl filled with energy, desire, and a steadfast knowledge of what you want.

While these qualities can sometimes be difficult, especially when you don't know how to channel your boundless energy and enthusiasm in the ways you want, I know that as you get older and as you hold onto these qualities, you will blossom further into an amazing and spectacular person.

You know, as do I, that we have had our share of squabbles. I've shouted at you more times than I am proud to remember. You have fought against my expectations and requests many times. You will continue to do these things throughout your life, because, well, it is going to become more and more your life as time goes on. We won't see eye-to-eye, but I hope and pray and believe that we will come out of things firmly in support of each other. We are bound together with a common life and a shared history. I hope I never forget the things that you do, large and small, because you do things in the largest way that you can.

That is one thing that is so spectacular about you, Grace. You live your life exuberantly, as every five-year-old should. I hope you never loose that joyous drive to shout, to grab things and make them your own. That sort of desire, belief in yourself, and confidence can create amazing things for you and for those who are lucky enough to be around you.

You have an amazingly expressive face; a face that has never taken a bad picture. Your thoughts and your feelings are right there for everyone to see. You can make me laugh with that face like no one else. When you make a joke, not only your face, but your head, shoulders, arms, and entire body is taken up in the telling. Please don't allow that expressiveness to be taken away by caution and hesitancy.

I am so proud to be your daddy and I hope that you can understand that. I try my best to tell you how much I love you--in the words I say, the hugs I give, and in the things that I teach you. I will always be there for you, from this birthday and for many more to come.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is Suri a Wiggles Fan?

Dear Tom:

Why did you do it this time?

The guy was named Kermit Love! He shared a name with a famous puppet frog (coincidence though it was) and his last name was beautiful.

He never did anything to you (that we know of . . .) and all he ever did (that we know of) was create wonderful stuff for kids.

Not only did he create Big Bird's costume, but he even played Willy the Hot Dog salesman on The Street.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Stuff I'm doing/have not done

Party Month this year is coinciding with a trip down to see family in Georgia. So, we going to have to juggle tying up the loose ends of getting Grace's party ready while also trying to finish the laundry, pack the suitcases, double check the list of stuff we have to bring (and don't forget to bring all that fancy, easy to pack, SUPER COMPACT baby stuff!), and also don't forget bikes, probably pillows, stuff to do IN the van . . . you get the idea.

But first, and foremost, we've got to get Grace's party sorted out and we have to do it before Saturday afternoon! But we'll find a way. And it'll be a Star Wars party in a bowling party and there will be a cake (more on THAT later) and hopefully other kids will be there and presents will be given/opened and surely . . . surely money will be spent.

So, no worries there.

But, as to the problems of blogging (do you ever have problems blogging?) I've got too many ideas and not enough gumption to stay up and finish them.

I've got:

  • chapter 3 of my thesis to continue transcribing to WWYWrite?!
  • new secret blog idea to continue developing and improving upon
  • post on Hermione Granger/wizard rock/essay submission to continue writing
  • strange features to understand on new blog/file sharing item that I haven't presented yet
So, I'm nowhere on any of this stuff yet and by the time the kids get to bed, I've got less energy to get out there and keep typing it. And I've got to keep losing weight, losing it until I am thinner than my sweet laptop.

Anyway, enough of this poor collection of ramblings.

Tom Cruise only laughs at his own jokes.

(See what I mean?)

Rest in peace, Mr. Carlin.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Last night's dream

I was up for 2.5 hours trying to get Hannah to go to sleep--simultaneously ticking Lynda off (don't ask).

But when, around 3 am, I finally wore her out and slept in a reclining chair, I proceeded into a very strange dream that I will now recount here.

It began at a hotel. I was attending a Harry Potter fan convention, surrounded by people I didn't know at all. Well, I take that back. Joe and Paul DeGeorge were there. I certainly don't know them, but I know of them. Just like I know of Melissa Anelli, Sue Upton, John Noe, and Frankie Franco. Well, anyway . . . there was no one there I was personally acquainted with.

The opening ice-breaker activity didn't go well for me. I wasn't breaking into the cliques of friends that were clearly attending this conference and I began to wonder if I was going to have any fun during this couple of days. Then things began to get out of hand.

The DeGeorge brothers began leading a wave of destruction throughout the hotel, intent on channeling their inner Weasley Twins to build a rocket made up of sprinkler heads, metal tubing and whatever else. The hotel staff was horrified as this rowdy group of Harry Potter fans (all out of character, I am sure) began destroying the hotel. One hotel staffer was walking along beside the mob toting up all of the various bits of wrecked stuff on a clipboard. I could tell the bill was rising.

I was uncomfortable with all of this and soon, so was everyone else. The convention sort of dissolved and everyone went their separate ways--instantly, as often happens in dreams. I found myself walking outside at night, heading toward a familiar location that I have visited in dreams before, but I'm pretty sure doesn't actually exist.

The location was an enormous polyglot department store, that for some reason I want to say is in St. Louis--or at least a dream version of St. Louis. The outer facade of this place is reminiscent of Antoni Gaudi, all undulating curves and arched recesses, but one-story and stretching in both directions for a loonng way. I always seem to visit this Gaudi store at night in the rain. Inside the store, it's a disorganized warren of merchandise, sort of like the local Anderson's store where I live. But the aisles are crisscrossing, there is no discernible separation of one type of goods from another. It's a mess and it's always crowded with wanderers, shoppers. It has restaurants, every type of good or service you would want, and it always features a made-for-infomercial hawker that reminds me of pre-Food Network Rachel Ray.

This is the kind of place where, if you aren't careful, you can turn a corner and be flattened by another customer wheeling a bit car of layaway stuff. (This almost happened to me and I avoided the crash, stepping out of the way and letting this person go by while other shoppers stacked up behind me.) After wandering, I found my way past the Rachel Ray-look alike and toward (one of the?) restaurant(s?). As I wander past a section of hallway seating, who's there but my mom?!

It seems she was there to wait for me, but wasn't expecting my arrival until after the conference was over. I had been wondering myself what I was going to do, since everyone expected me to be at this HP gathering for a few days. I supposed I would find a hotel room and wait out the time or maybe I'd get a plane ticket--this Gaudi store might have been next to an airport, or contained an airport? But I had been undecided on what to do. I was feeling a bit confused and at-sea regarding where I was and what I was going to accomplish.

But the arrival of Mom--with a car(?)--ended that bit of confusion. After she complained a bit about the poor quality of the coffee available at this department store I guess we began the trip home--to Tifton, to Westerville? I'm not even sure we went anywhere, because that is where the dream ended. It was 6 am and Hannah was stirring in her crib to my left. I sat up and let my body slowly begin waking up.

Anyone want to hazard a guess for what THAT was all about? Why do I keep returning to this bizarre 1970s-era (that's what it feels like inside, a disorganized K-Mart) bazaar? Why always at night, in the rain?

Monday, June 09, 2008

More R.I.P.s

Within the last few weeks Tom Cruise struck again. (And I say this while watching The Firm on TV. Just trying to deflect the coming Cruise-related rage.)

In no particular order:

1. Composer Alexander Courage who made many contributions to the musical world, but is likely most famous for providing the Star Trek theme. If you want to learn a great deal more about Mr. Courage, here is a link to James Lilek's Diner podcast on the topic. Mr. Lileks is a Star Trek fan.

In that same Diner podcast, you will also learn that another composer Earle Hagen--famous for the Dick Van Dyke theme--also passed away about the same time as Courage.

Another famous musician, guitarist Bo Diddley, also passed on within the last few days. Everyone says that he was famous for creating the "Bo Diddley beat," a rhythm that was adopted by just about every famous rock-n-roller since the 1960s . . . but I don't know enough about musical history to say more than that. I knew him best for his Nike commercial with Bo Jackson.

And finally, say goodnight and good luck to famous comedian Harvey Corman. I "knew" Corman best for his many years on the Carol Burnett show--a great favorite of mine when I was young. I later caught up with his more "adult" work on Mel Brooks movies--like in "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein." But I always liked him best with the comedy troupe on CBS weeknights.


So, then the question becomes . . . how did such a wide variety of entertainers run afoul of Crazy Tom?

Well, if I had to guess, I suppose I'd say that a "Star Trek" rerun (and the resultant theme song) awoke Suri from a nap, causing lots of crying and fussing and whatnot.

Earle Hagen? Well, I don't know if the Cruise's watch a lot of Nik at Night, so they might not be seeing any "Dick Van Dyke" reruns. But, its been well-known that Scientologists have a strong dislike of whistling--since it enrages the thetans in the bloodstream and causes air current disturbances that attract unwanted alien attention. And one of Hagan's most famous TV performances is the whistling in the "Andy Griffith Show" theme. So, that daily/sometimes hourly performance was always a ticking time bomb.

Bo Diddley? Well, one of his songs--"She's Fine, She's Mine"--was featured in "The Color of Money," but since everyone thinks of only two things when that movie is mentioned (Paul Newman and Cruise's ridiculous pompadour hair), this didn't bode well for Diddley.

And then there is Corman. I think he simply felt that Corman's inability to prevent breaking character when acting a comedy bit with Tim Conway was an example of unprofessionalism. Such are the mistakes that can end a life.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Patio update

Patio being poured today?

Men outside, discussing proper level of gravel, thickness of slab, and potential concrete finishing techniques.

Any concern of rain later in the day seems to be a nonissue?

Big piles of dirt (removed a week ago) remain in mute protest to the fate of grass underneath.

Large ruts in grass from truck driven by side of house a few days ago.

Must break eggs to make omelet?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Thoughts on Family

It's been another pretty weekend here in the Midwest, and even better, we haven't wasted every minute of it. Friday night we gathered up the family members and headed out to Alum Creek Park to commune with other members of the PTA and kids in Sarah's school. There were a great many deserts available and I managed to sample a few small items and not completely wreck my nascent diet.

Yes, I'm on a diet. I could definitely stand to drop about ten more pounds, tone up the saggy midriff, and flaunt my mid-life, undefined abs around the pool this summer. Besides, Lynda has been working very hard to shed the remainder of her pre-Hannah weight and a family that diets together . . . well, you know.

Besides, we've got a friendly bet going on. Because, the couple that goads each other, well . . . you probably know that too.

Saturday was almost too busy to be believed, especially in my sheltered, structured life. First I took Grace to her gymnastics class in the morning. After a quick lunch when we got home, we stepped over to our neighbor's house for their son's 4-year-old birthday party. Again, I only ate a bit of cake and ice cream. Once the party was over, Lynda took the older girls to another school-related party while I held down the home front with Hannah. And after we found something to eat for dinner, the girls watched their weekend movie while Lynda bakes cakes to be raffled off at church this morning. We're raising money for the Vacation Bible School outreach program that begins in July.

All very social and communal, to be sure, but it's good to step outside, talk to other people and wonder if we can make more friends with Sarah's classmate parents, some of whom live pretty close by. In the heady spirit of getting to know people, we are in the process of talking ourselves into starting this Fall to host a neighborhood Halloween Party. We have no more thoughts or details on it yet, but if we can pull it off, we might find new ways of stretching ourselves out into the world that our kids are entering. It's a place we need to be.

Today we drug the kids out again to ride bikes a bit. We pedaled our way to the neighborhood middle school and let Grace gain confidence going faster around the track. She is always initially reluctant to get out there and do it, but I think she feels accomplished once it's all over. Grace needs the attention, since she is the Middle Child after all, and its a shame, because she's got such a vibrant personality and is so willing to step out there and get into it with anyone. That is what makes her so unique and special compared to the rest of us. I want her to know how vibrant she can be and how she can make a room pay attention to her.

After bike riding, Lynda and S & G decided to drop over at the pool for a bit--the first pool visit of the season. I am staying here with Hannah, who hasn't had much nap time today and we are worried that her ear infection isn't completely subdued. We used all the medicine, but she pitched a right good fit earlier this afternoon that has all the markings of a "My Ear Hurts" problem.

In non family news, our back yard is a mess. We finally got started on the deck removal/patio installation project. I should clarify that the people we hired to do it got started. The old deck is now gone and there is a semi-prepared hole in the ground where it used to be. We've been reassured that the concrete will be poured on Tuesday, so hopefully I can anticipate the weekend with a nice book on my new patio before too much longer.

The good news about this is that I now only have to mow the front yard while all the mess is occurring in eh back. After we're done with this current project, we'll see about the last one we've got in mind--bringing some order to the backyard landscape. It is a real hodgepodge of beds, weeds, scraggly trees, sun-burned hostas, and I don't know what all back there and we're both tired of it.

When we bought the house, the yard was in better shape--though it wasn't a show piece. I knew that it would decline from that starting point, because given the choice, I'd rather read a book that weed a flower bed. Strange--in a way--since my dad loves nothing more (or not much more) that to plant, bed, weed, shape, and manicure. In all the houses that I grew up in, my dad's concern for the yard would shine through. My childhood home--as you can see in this decades old picture--was full of azalea bushes, pine needle beds, and beautiful things.

I know Dad cherishes this picture because the house looks nothing like this now. The people that bought the house when we left (the summer before my senior year in HS) neglected it and let it grow over (like I'm doing now). It makes him sad to see what became of all of those years of care. But, the memories of a happy family remain and that house--that image of that house--will always be home to me. I'll carry it in my memories forever, until I can't recall anything anymore. The home they live in now is more like Grandmother and Pappaw's home--the place where those of us that grew up strong on Woodruff Street can bring their own strong families to gather together and celebrate The Family. And that is just as valuable. May our children carry strong memories of the new yard, the new trees, the grass, the shed, and the weenie roasts forward into their own adulthood.