Resolved

The end of 2014 is just around the corner. It’s time for those who make New Year’s Resolutions to make them. I, for one, am not in that category. Sure, I’ve answered the question of “What’s your New Year’s Resolution?” with any number of answers. But the reality is, I don’t really make resolutions. I can count those I’ve made on one finger – the very finger I’d like to flash to those people who won’t stop asking me what my New Year’s Resolutions are! The way I see it, my failure-to-success ratio is so heavily skewed in the negative that I really shouldn’t be throwing gasoline on the conflagration. But, after 41 years of not doing my best to maintain optimum health, perhaps 2015 should include at least one resolution, if not more.

I guess I should resolve to eat a more balanced diet and exercise regularly. A few physicals ago my cholesterol was a little elevated. I changed my diet and, as luck would have it, participated in some pretty intense basketball scrimmages with very athletic teenagers in the months between that check-up and the follow-up. As a result, I shed over fifty points from my cholesterol! However, those were just temporary and my numbers have crept back up to the bubble. So, I need to reinstate the controlled diet and increased physical activity.

Beyond cholesterol a more balanced diet would also impart improved bowel health. At 41years of age, bowel health is very important. I’m already an average guy, I just want to be a regular guy, too. A good, firm BM is ideal for a 41-year-old man. Soft enough to not cause any undo strain and firm enough to enact a one-wipe policy. (Hey, I’m concerned about the environment and don’t want to use too much toilet paper. With five ladies in the house, we go through enough.) That is most certainly a goal worthy of attainment! (TMI??)

As for exercise, well that’s especially important for combating cholesterol. I believe it was my mother who told me that she heard from a doctor that exercise is the best way to lower your cholesterol. Therefore, I will consume more dark chocolate, celery, carrots, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, almonds, avocado, honey, asparagus, pomegranates and other such foods. “But, the Jason,” you may ask, “how will that help with exercise?” You see, those foods are all natural aphrodisiacs. What better exercise than the pelvic trampoline (a.k.a. mattress & box springs)? Besides, why is my heart rate the only thing I need to get up?

Yes, here’s to 2015. Things are looking up.

Advertisements

Luck Be A Lady Tonight

Watch out, Vegas, you have only one decade to prepare for my eleven-year-old. This little kid – the adolescent embodiment of Lady Luck – is quite a challenge to defeat in games of chance. And it all started at an early age.

The summer before her fourth birthday included a trip to Walt Disney World. Along the way home we visited our friend Jay in the Hampton Roads area of VA. He had purchased a fun little family dice game called Toss Up. It involved rolling ten dice, each with three green sides, two yellow sides and one red side. The object was to build up points each round until reaching one-hundred points. You’d begin by rolling all the dice and setting aside any green to count as your points. You continued to roll the remaining dice until you stop or get at least one red and no greens. So long as you roll at least one green you can continue, otherwise you lose your points for that round. Should you be lucky enough to get to ten, you can begin again with all ten dice to add to your total each round as long as you continue to roll greens and add points. At only three years of age our second child obliterated us. Jay and I are both pretty good with math and probability, so we took some calculated risks to get high scores. She just enjoyed rolling the dice…and getting greens! My wife tried to tell her numerous times she could lose all her points for the round, but she wanted to continue. Being a little more competitive, Jay and I both said, “She wants to roll, let her roll. She knows what she’s doing.” She sure did, because she kept rolling those darn greens and beating the tar out of us. She even stopped and skipped a turn because she “quit.” But then she wanted back in the game. Even with that lost turn her lead was insurmountable.

That was the first emergence of her Lady Luck alter ego. She’s had other such occurrences since then, but there are two recent ones which really stand out.

The first occurred about two weeks ago. She and her little sister found some of the old role-playing-game dice I used back when I was an all-out geek. (I am simply a reformed geek as I no longer play, just enjoy my memories of gaming.) The girls wanted to play a game with them so I made one up on the spot. We’d each roll a die and try to “win” the die with the highest roll. Then we’d earn a number of points equal to the highest possible total on each die. Well, wouldn’t you know, Lady Luck pounded us into submission once again. (If she’s ever a gamer I want her on my side.) She rolled a 4 on the four-sided die, a 6 on the six-sided die, an 8 on the eight-sided die, a 9 on the ten-sided die, a 12 on the twelve-sided die, and a 16 on the twenty-sided die. All fellow RPG veterans will be thoroughly impressed by this feat, and insanely jealous for not hitting such numbers in their gaming days.

Tonight was another lesson in luck-ology! I received as a gift this Christmas a card caddy; a carrying case with two decks of playing cards, a miniature pencil and score pad. We’ve played poker twice with it, but whereas the first time was just for fun, tonight we played for keeps. Seven-card draw was the name of the game, no wilds and pot-limit. We started with thirty pennies each, and I quickly lost all of it to Lady Luck. Now, in order to make an easy living the hard way she’ll have to work on her poker face. Then again, that’ll only draw in more money from other players for her to then get the necessary, lucky draw to win the big money. Fortunately for me, we are only playing with pennies. Otherwise I’d need a second job.

Santa Sure Delivered

The kids got a great haul on Christmas day. I really enjoyed watching them open their gifts with sheer excitement. It was fascinating watching the different reactions from the different age groups. You see, the older three are experienced Christmas present openers. They opened, took a quick minute to admire, then moved on the next present in rapid succession – like a little, one-person assembly line. The baby sat in Mommy’s lap and helped with the unwrapping. Every book or toy she got she wanted to have read to her or to play with. Screw opening up another present right away, she was going to savor the moment for each and every one.

Their presents were pretty cool, indeed. Some of my favorites my kids got include the rocking horse (actually, a rocking giraffe) for the baby. The best part of all was having a mechanically-inclined eleven-year-old to assemble it. I was still a little sick and tired from the long hours at work (not to mention the germs brought in by various ill employees). So, I napped, occasionally opening my mouth to say I’ll put it together a little later. Thankfully the eleven-year-old took charge and put it together for the baby. It was an extra present to hear the baby say thank you so many times to her big sister. As an added bonus, the music the giraffe plays includes “Camptown Races,” so I get reminded of Blazing Saddles whenever that one plays.

Santa also delivered some great movies and books to the girls; many of which I also want to see or read. Pixar’s Up has been on my wish list for quite a while. My teenager squealed with delight upon opening Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars. I’m all for any chance to watch Shailene Woodley! Kid number two is a fantasy geek like her daddy, so I’m looking forward to reading The Titan’s Curse when she’s done. Wait a minute, it’s the third day of Christmas…she’s been done for two days already! But I really enjoy reading to the little ones. It’s a great bonding time with the baby and the five-year-old, especially when the older of the two reads some of the words she knows with me.

Of course, I also love family games. Toss Across is a classic you can play indoors, and the eleven-year-old has challenged me numerous times already. The older two enjoyed Yahtzee the last time we played during my family’s visit, and now they have their own set. I got a card caddy with two sets of cards, so the eleven-year-old and I were playing poker. Next time, it’ll be for keeps. (Get ready to lose some pennies, kiddo!) But perhaps the best is Twister. I can’t wait to bring home some Crisco and play a game with the wife when the kids are in bed!!!

But the Christmas gifts just keep on coming. We’re Catholic, so Christmas day is just the start of the entire Christmas season. Every day adds another moment to celebrate or memory to cherish. Usually when the two older girls are scheduled as altar servers I stay home with the younger two. But today I was able to take them to Mass as my wife was home with a cold. And upon arriving home, during supper, the five-year-old asked the toddler, “Who’s your boyfriend?” The little one answered with the only name she heard associated with boyfriends, “ROSS!”

And thus began the rivalry for the affections of Ross Lynch between my oldest and youngest. Let the games begin.

Off to a Good Christmas Start

So, the wife and I just finished unpacking the last of the packages from her parents, her brother and his wife, our good friend Jay and my parents and put them under the tree. Now we are simply awaiting Santa’s delivery to complete the Christmas presents. The last package I opened was from my mom and dad – one of three shipping boxes wrapped in heavy-duty brown paper and taped with about a quarter mile of packing tape. I think I’ve permanently dulled the blade on my knife cutting through the Fort Knox-like protection!

Inside that last box was a set of three juggling balls with a note from mom suggesting I teach the girls how to juggle. I was never good enough to be a paid entertainer, but I know enough of the basics that I amuse coworkers who are unable to juggle. I’m looking forward to seeing if the girls will pick it up like I did. I had set the box on the kitchen counter. When looking for it later, I noticed that my wife had moved it. So, a mere 25 minutes into the day my wife has already grabbed my balls. Making Christmas that much merrier.

The Best Customer Ever

I’ve worked most of my adult life in retail in some capacity or another. It is often said that retail is a thankless job. In a lot of respects that’s true, but for the most part I’ve had positive or, at the very least, neutral interactions with the public. Sure, there are some rotten apples out there, but those are largely few and far between.

And some customers are just plain awesome. Like Paul at the McDonald’s I worked at for a year at college. He was a great guy even though he proved me wrong when I told him one just couldn’t hear they’re doing a good job too much. But he just had to say it EVERY SINGLE TIME HE SAW ME WORKING! Still, a great customer. And Carl at the bookstore, always quick with a smile, some nice stories to tell and a truly sincere query about how my family was doing. And Jeannie and Marie (who still calls our store to chat to the old-school employees even though she moved out of state about two years ago) at my current store. Love them both for their ability to brighten the day.

But the top prize most definitely goes to Barbara, a regular at my current location. What a truly charming, engaging person. She’s taken a liking to not only the products we sell but also the staff we employ. When our meat cutter John died of a heart attack I was told that she cried quite a bit upon hearing the news. She even went to the funeral of our store manager’s son after he died in a tragic car accident. She’s quick to use please and thank you (my five-year-old manners cop would be hard pressed to catch her in any wrong doing) and really mean it each and every time. If we happen to be out of stock on what she wants, no big deal with Barbara. I remember the  time shortly after the tsunami knocked out Fukushima power plant in Japan, destroyed billions of dollars and ended so many lives when a customer was furious we were out of a specific flavor of cupcake. (Now that’s the real tragedy.) You don’t get that with Barbara. She’s always pleasant and understanding.

Plus she has a great personality outside of her role as shopper. She’s the executive director of the local ASPCA and really loves caring for animals. Every time I see a photo of her in some media outlet she seems to be holding a puppy or kitten with a look of pure love and joy on her face. I’ve even seen her dress up in a full dog costume, complete with black nose and face paint, in November/December to sell the calendars for fundraising for the ASPCA.

As executive director of the ASPCA, and being married to a very successful banker, Barbara is not hurting for money. It takes some moolah to shop our store three times a week like she often does. Yet I’ve never known her to act in a snotty way. She even gets down and dirty in her daily life. She came in with her arm in a sling once. I asked her and found out she broke her arm falling off a ladder cleaning her gutters. She’s over sixty, could easily pay someone else younger to do it, but had no problem caring for her home herself.

But the best part about Barbara is what she does for us every December. Let me relate a little story from this past Wednesday. With Christmas fast approaching, my bakery does a fair share of business. So, the corporate office sends out distributions of the big sellers to each bakery. Ours get spread out; a moderate distribution on Monday, another on Wednesday (each about twice the size of a typical order for me) and a huge distribution on Friday (about three times the size of a typical order for me). Well, this Wednesday, as they were pulling the pallets off the truck, I noticed lots of items I did not order which were scheduled for the Friday distribution. Lo and behold, after checking the invoice, I noticed I was receiving the product I ordered, plus the anticipated Wednesday distribution, PLUS the Friday distribution. Basically, five times the size of an average shipment – ten pallets to fit on five empty pallets in the freezer. It took my entire shift. Needless to say, I was not exactly happy, especially when they sent out the E-mail warning us 6 hours after the truck arrived. But, midway through putting it all away, my clerk Lauren came in to the freezer saying she knew what would make me happy. She held up a little cellophane baggy with a red ribbon. Inside were three homemade peanut butter cookies. Barbara cookies.

Every year at Christmas time Barbara brings in her little baggies of homemade peanut butter cookies to give to the staff. Two or three days later she comes back to give to those who may not have been there for the first delivery. She made sure Lauren got them to me by name, and she checked with me on her return visit. I gave her a big hug and thanked her. Retail can be thankless? Not with Barbara.

And that’s what makes her

THE

BEST

CUSTOMER,

EVER!

Life with a Toddler

My toddler is an adorable little girl. She’s a chatterbox – like her 5-year-old sister, 11-year-old sister and mother – and repeats some of the cutest things at the best times. I’ve already mentioned her 15-year-old sister’s crush on singer/actor Ross Lynch. During supper the other week the big one was asking the little one, “Is Ross funny, sweetie?”

“Ross funny,” she replied.

“Good girl.” The 15-year-old went back to eating. About 5 seconds later.

“And Ross is hot.” Much like the the story I related a few blogs ago, when the baby said those same words in the car, the oldest had a look of shock on her face, as if to say – “I didn’t teach her that.”

Tonight was extra silly. The toddler was walking around in a mismatched pair of her 5-year-old sister’s shoes. On the wrong feet. On her head was her 15-year-old sister’s skateboarding helmet. She said she was playing Santa. Not exactly Santa’s traditional attire. And she had the audacity to call me silly. Granted, daddy is silly. I’ll have to give her due credit there.

But much like many toddlers she can be very gentle in her play many times, but at other times decidedly not so gentle. Among her toys was a doll’s comb. She picked it up and said, “I’ll brush your hair, daddy.” By brush, she meant gouge out a few mini trenches in daddy’s scalp. Her 5-year-old sister also fell victim to this forcefulness. Kneeling down, big sister said, “Baby, touch my head.” So, the baby did. Then she grabbed a handful of hair with both hands and pulled her big sister down onto her back. Perhaps it was a bad idea to cease watching One Direction videos before going to bed in favor of Rhonda Rousey highlights.

But I do have to relate this little trait she shares with her second-oldest uncle. You see, when my brothers were little the oldest had a habit of taking any toys from the other whenever he put them down. Therefore, my other brother developed the skill to tie his shoes while holding on to multiple toys in each hand. The baby hasn’t yet learned how to tie shoes, but she’s able to pick up multiple toys woven between her digits in order to maintain ownership from the big sisters. Because those three have all taken after their oldest uncle.

Nanook and the Night Owl

Nanook of the North. That’s what my co-worker Harry calls me when I step out of the freezer on delivery days. I’m dressed for the conditions of the freezer; gloves from another co-worker and the hooded sweat jacket my in-laws gave me about two Christmases ago. (The BEST hooded sweat jacket on the planet, I may add. It keeps me very warm in that freezer on truck days.) But it’s days like today when I best earn that nickname. You see, today I had to do my pre-counts for inventory. Most of my inventory is kept in the freezer, 15 of 28 pages worth of count sheets to be exact. So, I’m bundled up because I’m not only counting but also condensing cases of product to make space for the next truck as well as obtain an accurate count.

But there are dangers in remaining in a freezer for an extended time without full freezer gear. The first is pretty easily conquered – go potty before entering and don’t drink during freezer breaks. Well, as one who likes to  keep his fluids up I drink a lot of water. Once the cold hits it pretty much doesn’t matter that I emptied my bladder before the first sojourn into the arctic. I invariably have to go again. And again. I could just find a hidden corner in the freezer, but if it freezes fast enough and I get stuck there, that would be embarrassing.

The other danger may cause me to get stuck in the freezer. Getting stuck in the freezer was never a fear of mine, the only way for the door to become truly jammed is for someone to park a pallet of freight directly in front of it while I was inside. Even if that did happen, all I’d have to do is unplug the motors to shut off the freezer fans and coils. That would trip the temperature alarm and, viola, I’d get rescued when they came to examine the issue causing the alarm. The problem is I’ve been working here almost seven years and the temptation to stick my tongue on the frosted metal racks is only growing. It’s a simple matter of time before I pull a Harry Dunne; you see, I’m a guy and not too bright. Not the ideal combination. One day someone is going to walk into the freezer and find me firmly attached in a position where I can’t disconnect the freezers – thereby sealing my fate.

Fortunately I was able to avoid that temptation for one more month. Upon arriving home my poor wife needed to go straight to bed due to a headache. I’m the type of person who doesn’t get bad headaches. Sometimes hers will really put her down for a while. If you are not in that category, I’m sure you know someone who is. That left me to care for the baby. She’s a night owl like her daddy, especially when she’s had a nap during the day. She doesn’t even need a long nap – a mere half-hour is enough to keep her up until 11 or 11:30. And that’s great bonding time for us.

Even though I’m a night owl myself, my job forces me into the role of early bird as well. I have to get up and into work by 5AM frequently, and inventory Monday is one such day. (Why am I still up typing at 12:45??) But the baby would allow no early-to-bed evening for Daddy. She kept us both up until 12:10!! Where does she really get this energy? She’s not even two, for crying out loud! It was still a great bonding night for us, but perhaps a little less bonding and more snoring would have been better, huh, kiddo?

I feel that the baby and the five-year-old are on a mission to make sure we no longer have anymore children. Even though the five-year-old talks about the next baby regularly, she’s doing nothing to facilitate that from happening. She is a challenge to get to sleep in her bed all night – heck she often falls asleep in our bed before I move her – thereby limiting romantic opportunities for daddy and mommy. Not to mention her propensity for jumping knee first into daddy’s lap when he’s dozing away on the recliner. (More effective than any alarm clock in the world.) And with the baby staying up into the wee hours of the night there’s pretty much no energy left for nookie.

Well, I’ve had my night owl wind-down time since putting the little one to bed. Let’s see if I can keep the other one in her bed for the rest of the night. Shouldn’t matter if she creeps back over in a few hours, I have to get up for work, anyway.