Sister Act 2 – Minus the Whoopi

I find the similarities between my four daughters fascinating. A recent trip really showcased such similarities between the odd daughters and the even daughters (by birth order, that is…because all four are odd in their own, little way). But first, some history.

A long time ago, back when we only had two kids, our eldest was enrolled in school (this before the adventure of homeschooling). Her class held a field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. Mom, daughter number two and I followed along thinking it would be a great trip for all of us. We all had a good time until the end. You see, at the time the Philly zoo had a small petting zoo attached, which we went in. Here’s where a very big difference between the girls manifested itself with reckless abandon.

As soon as we entered the gate we came upon some chickens. At this time my oldest decided to climb up my back like a contestant from the old American Gladiators show competing at the wall. At first thought I assumed my child was a physics genius and was merely conducting a scientific experiment on the moment capacity of daddy’s spine, which I’m happy to report was greater than her weight at the time. I quickly came to the realization that this was not the case when she reached the top of my head and tried to continue to climb…surely a first-grade physics prodigy would understand that there was no way to overcome gravity and extend her climb beyond the highest point of contact. Her ascent was simply motivated by fear of being in the pen with live animals…the shrieking of “CHICKENS! CHICKENS! CHICKENS!” should have alerted me to the fact immediately, but as I was carrying her little sister in my arms at the time and didn’t want to drop her my focus was elsewhere. Although her older sister was chicken of the chickens, kid number two was enthralled and eager to play with them and the goats. Instead of shrieking like her sister, she simply proclaimed calmly, “I want to take that chicken home.” It was so cute at the time, but later when she began talking about being a chef perhaps it was a more utilitarian desire to save the money we had been spending on Banquet dinners.

That event stayed with me for quite some time, as almost being paralyzed by your child will do. Over a year later I went to visit my friend Brandon in prison. When you visit someone in jail you will be searched for drugs in one form or another. Years prior the guards used a modified vacuum cleaner with a filter to detect the presence of drugs, but on this visit they had switched to drug-sniffing dogs. In this case a black lab. While I sat and the guard had the dog sniff I couldn’t help but grin thinking of my girls and what their reactions would have been had they come along. My eldest would once again try to send me to a chiropractor while the younger would ask the guards if she could take the dog home.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my wife and I took the family (with four daughters and one son) to a nearby community park at the lake. The park has a beach area and roped off swimming area in the lake. It is a beautiful area surrounded by trees. Let’s see, a wooded area and a lake make a great habitat for ducks. Sure enough two mallards, one male one female, swam in the lake with the people, including my wife, son and three younger daughters (the eldest and I just sat on the beach area, not being swim fans). The roped off area of the lake and the sand of the beach area form a football shaped area roughly the size of a football field. My wife pointed out the ducks to the kids. It came as no surprise that daughter number two tried swimming up to the ducks, closely followed by daughter number four (the two even kids). Daughter number three, much like number one in the petting zoo, was much more apprehensive, keeping all swimming sisters, her mother and baby brother between herself and them ferocious water fowl! Hmmm…I don’t remember her ever listening to Emilio Estevez’s warning about ducks.

However, I was further reminded of the similarities between the odd-birth-order and even-birth-order daughters when the ducks came to the beach to complete the land portion of their lap around the park. Daughters two and four came out of the water and followed the ducks for a closer look. Daughter number three stayed in the water, still keeping mommy and baby brother between herself and the ducks. Funniest of all was hearing my eldest mutter, “uh-oh,” as the ducks started getting closer to our seating area. Not only that, but she got out of her chair and walked to the water line to increase her distance from the ducks.

Yup, two pairs of sisters, odd-numbered and even-numbered, acting in a similar way. Like I said, it’s a sister act, part two, minus the Whoopi. The whoopie was behind the scenes…that’s why we have five kids.

Overheard at Work

A few years back my employer held an all-hands meeting to discuss, …um, I can’t remember. Probably some corporate crud. One of the few things I remember from it was our store manager asking all employees to write down names of people who make work fun. I was one of three lucky winners. It felt pretty cool to be recognized by my peers, even if only for my overall goofiness. However, I’ve come to the realization that most people aren’t really entertained by me, but instead by listening to me talk on the phone to my family. I do this almost every day at work on my lunch break, and lately lots of co-workers have mentioned the enjoyment they get out of this. So, below is not exactly what people have heard any particular time at work, but I’d say a fair approximation of what it’s like to listen to me on the phone with the family.

(Eight-year-old answers phone)

“Hi, kiddo. How are you?”

“Awesome. Are you doing all of your schoolwork?”

“Well, make sure you get it all done. What else is going on today?”

“Sure, Red (imaginary friend) can come over to play.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Oh-No (imaginary husband) is in California, you must miss him.”

“Sure, Casper (imaginary friendly ghost) can sleep over. I love you.”

(Puts thirteen-year-old sister on phone)

“Hi, sweets. How’s it going?”

“I get off work at (insert clock-out time here). I should be home soon after unless I have to go shopping.”

“No, I’m not getting you a croissant today. How about we look up some croissant recipes, you’re a great cook.”

“I know you like the store-bought kind, but I can’t buy one every time. Maybe if you ate your vegetables I’d get them more often.”

“Yeah, I was a picky eater, too. I love you and I’ll see you soon.”

(Hands phone off to seventeen-year-old sister)

“Hey, boo. How’s school?”

“I get off work at (insert clock-out time here). I should be home soon afterwards unless I go shopping.”

“I already have your tomato sauce in the cabinet.”

“We just made mac-n-cheese, I’ll get more cheddar next week.”

“No, I can’t bring Corey (Fogelmanis), he’s not here.”

“That meet-and-greet is six states away, but if he comes to town I’ll try to take you there.”

“No I can’t take off work and drive you there to see Corey. It costs money and you don’t have it.”

“Okay, I love you. Hold the phone up to your brother’s ear and let me say hi.”

(Holds phone up to seventeen-month-old)

“Hi, big boy. How are you? Daddy loves you. Can you say, ‘Daddy’?”

“No, not covfefe, Daddy!”

“I love you.”

(Big sister gets back on.)

“Okay, put the little girl on. I love you.”

(Four-year-old takes the phone.)

“Hi jewels, I love you.”

“You’re so sweet. Are you doing school?”

“Awesome. I’m very proud of you.”

“No, I’m not buying a cat.”

“Mommy’s allergic to cats.”

“You don’t want Mommy to sneeze, do you?”

“Well, I don’t want Mommy to sneeze!”

“Just play with your toy cats. Play with Marie and Scatts.”

“I love you, too, big girl.”

(Mommy takes the phone.)

“Hi, sweetie. How are you holding up?”

“I get off at (insert clock-out time here). I’ll call before I leave in case you need me to buy anything.”

“Hang in there, sweetie. I love you.”

There, that – in a nutshell – is what it’s like to listen in on one of my break time phone calls to the family. I hope I’ve offered you as much entertainment as my co-workers.

A New Nickname Needed

I really like some of the nicknames of the states here in the good old USA. Virginia’s Old Dominion just sounds cool; as does Alaska’s The Last Frontier. It sure is the last frontier; and I’d love to visit Alaska some day. I also like names which reflect historical or cultural influences; such as The Golden State of California or Alabama’s The Heart of Dixie. Even names which are less dynamic are still fitting, take Arizona’s The Grand Canyon State for example.

Then there are those which are head-scratchers. Why is Michigan The Great Lake State? Sure, it has one of five of the great lakes named after it, but those lakes border a total of eight states. Why does Michigan get to lay claim to all of them? Why is Missouri The Show Me State? Shouldn’t that be Las Vegas with all the showgirls showing everything? Why is Oklahoma The Sooner State? It wasn’t one of the thirteen original colonies, it came much later! And let’s not forget Oregon, The Beaver State. Okay, I won’t go there.

But worst of all is West Virginia, The Mountain State. First of all, the Appalachians, which I love, are much smaller mountains than the Rockies out west. If any state is going to take that title it should be a western state. However, even if an eastern state were to earn that title, why West Virginia? Mount Mitchell and Mount Craig, the two highest points east of the Mississippi, both reside in North Carolina. Not only that, let’s look just beyond North Carolina’s borders. Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia, is perhaps five miles from NC. Brasstown Bald in Georgia, I believe less than ten miles. Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina and Clingmans Dome, Tennessee are practically right on the border. Tally up their distances from NC and it would probably be less than 20 total miles. So why isn’t North Carolina “The Mountain State?”

Then again, I lived briefly in North Carolina and have traveled across the state. Mounts Mitchell and Craig are both on the western side of Interstate 77. The vast majority of land in NC is east of I-77 as is the bulk of the population. Charlotte, Greensboro, and the Raleigh areas all have some rolling hills and varied topography, but they’re not exactly mountainous regions. From Fayetteville to the coast, part of which includes the Sand Hills region, is relatively flat. So maybe NC, although a good candidate as far as the western part of the state is concerned, may not be the east’s mountain state. I guess it can stay The Tar Heel State, although Birthplace of Lung Cancer may work, too.

What about Maine, The Pine Tree State? Sure, Maine’s forests are famous for pine and spruce trees, but it sure seems to have a more overall mountainous topography throughout its entire land mass than does North Carolina. Mount Katahdin at almost one mile high is taller than West Virginia’s Spruce Knob by almost four hundred feet! Not only that, but Katahdin lies in Baxter State Park, which features Center Mountain (2902 ft), North Turner Mountain (3329 ft), and North Brother (4143 ft.). Head south southeast and you go down to Trout Mountain (1499 ft.), which is not far from the taller Jo-Mary Mountain (2904 ft.), which isn’t far from White Cap Mountain (3644 ft.). Head back south southeast from Trout and you find Mattamiscontis Mountain (1212 ft.), Passadumkeag Mountain (1463 ft.), Eagle Mountain (1079ft.) then higher to Lead Mountain (1475 ft.). Heck, Mount Desert Island, an island of Maine in the Atlantic and home to Acadia National Park, features peaks as varied as Cadillac Mountain (1528 ft.), Sargent Mountain (1379 ft.) Acadia Mountain (680 ft.) and Bernard Mountain (1000 ft.) to name a few. I think you get my point. Just look at a topographical map of Maine and you can see it really is one of the most elevation-diverse states you’ll find, especially in a relatively small land area.

So, I’m sorry, West Virginia, but I think it’s time to strip you of the title The Mountain State. Looking at the data, you just haven’t earned it. The Date Your Cousin State may work, but I’m open to alternatives.

Why I Hate Valentine’s Day

That’s right, I really hate VD! (Yes, that joke was purely intentional.) It flat out sucks.

Not the traditional view of honoring consecrated love associated with Saint Valentine, just the modern way of viewing Feb 14th. Interestingly, Feb 14th isn’t technically the Feast of Saint Valentine in the Catholic Church – it’s really the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius (I may have to check my spellings on that). But the modern interpretation of Valentine’s Day is a bastardization of tradition, much like what commercialism brought to Christmas – a day no longer honoring Christ but instead it has become all about elves wrapping Santa’s packages to deliver to children nestled all snug in their beds. Okay, that sounded a lot creepier than I originally intended. Today, Valentine’s Day is all about chocolate covered strawberries and roses.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been a bakery manager for the past nine VDs and have been responsible for those (expletive) strawberries!! C’mon, people, show some originality. It’s like there’s some kind of law stating men have to buy their wives, fiancees, girlfriends, etc chocolate covered strawberries just because of VD (Yeah, that didn’t sound right either) unless said lady has some kind of intolerance to flowers and/or chocolate. (Just one of the MANY benefits of marrying my wife. Thanks, sweetie!)

Every year for the last eight years I’ve absolutely hated this holiday at work. And every year I tell myself I’m finding a new job before the next one. And every year that falls through. Well, not this year. I’m smart enough to realize that I’m stuck here until I – or the company – drop dead, especially given the increasing number of years since my last editorial job to which I’d much prefer to return. So, I have a new plan for next Valentine’s Day…

I’m petitioning all fellow fellows to help a brother out. It’s time for a new Valentine’s Day gift-giving tradition!!

Yes, brothers, chocolate covered strawberries have run their course. It’s time to think outside the box when trying to get into the box. It’s time to tap into our male creativity to come up with a new gift which will shock our better halves into completely forgetting about chocolate covered strawberries. I know men are up to the task. We, the gender which can casually add, “That’s what she said,” into any conversation has the imagination to come up with a new gift. We, the gender which can turn the most seemingly innocent statement, such as, “Hunting for Pokemon in the park,” into innuendo, has more than enough creativity to complete this assigned task! Heck, I’m giving you a whole year to do it! So, get out there and put your minds to it, especially now in this limbo between the Super Bowl and March Madness – guys, I repeat, YOU CAN DO IT!

Disclaimer: The Jason cannot be held liable for any shooting, stabbing or bludgeoning of any fools who think firearms, cutlery or lumber would make good substitutes.

Potty Training

A short while back we began potty training our youngest daughter. Let me correct that, off and on over the past 8 months we’ve tried potty training our youngest daughter, a feat not made any easier by having a very active baby boy in the house. However, our most recent attempt was going to be our final, we had decided.

The first step was actually quite simple. I went to Wal-Mart and called home on the cell phone to tell her what kinds of panties were available. She picked the My Little Pony panties and we told her to keep them clean and dry. Well, that worked, because she didn’t want to give the ponies a shower, neither of the golden variety nor any other. However, we were still having trouble with her pooping. No, she didn’t go in her pants, she held it in like it were money. Yes, this was her stubborn streak shining through.

I’ve heard of lots of parents having the same struggle with their little ones; peeing in the potty works out just fine, but pooping becomes a challenge. Of course we didn’t want her to get backed up, so we had to come up with a reward for pooping in the potty. Okay, let’s be honest, the advice-givers call it a reward but all parents really know it’s just a bribe. Fortunately, we had one on tap. You see, when we would visit my parents she would always ask to play with a toy cat that looked like Marie from The Aristocats. She named it White (because Caucasian is too hard for a toddler to pronounce). So the deal was if she pooped thrice in the potty she could bring home White! And, no, we’re not racists – we don’t believe that three browns are equal to only one white, so don’t go there.

So, after less than a week, White came to live with us. Bribery works! (Just ask any career politician.) And we are certainly happy to close out this chapter in parenting with this child. Granted we’re not as happy as the McNeils (click here, you’ll love it), but I certainly have a new-found appreciation for their overall enthusiasm.

If you’ve ever read my earliest posts you’ll know my little blog has no theme. This entry just proves that I’ll write about all sorts of crap!

How Your Kids See You

We have a Disney version of the classic memory card game. I have played it with the two younger girls on occasion. However, sometimes the three-year-old likes to play with the cards face up. Then I’ll call out a character for her or her sister to find the matching pair for. Then, she’ll tell me which character to find. Kind of takes the challenge out of the game, but it’s good, quality time with my youngsters, and I love it.

However, the other day I was a little concerned with the characters Daddy was asked to find.

Dumbo

Goofy

Dopey

Pooh

Why, pray tell, does my three-year-old associate the words, “Dumbo, Goofy, Dopey, and Pooh” with her father.

Hmmm, I’ll have to keep my eye on this one.

Siskel and Ebert – The Jason’s Way

Siskel and Ebert had “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” Some critics use a four-star for five-star system. You can theme your critiquing depending on the subject matter, like the time my editor rated summer movies by the size of your bucket of popcorn, soda and/or other snacks. (I think the jumbo popcorn, extra large soda and pack of Skittles was the winning rating, though I forget the movie.)

My rating system is much more simple: Sucks vs. Doesn’t Suck. Yep, that’s all there is to it, no added layers to further complicate things. Movies, books, television shows, songs, artwork, you name it – either it sucks or doesn’t suck. Sure, if you ask me to rank top five or top ten I’ll ignore the request and give you a Magnificent Seven list (haven’t you been reading), but that simply means that the top seven simply earned the ranking “doesn’t suck.” (Unless I’m ranking the worst of something, which they suck.) That’s right, Blade Runner, the greatest science-fiction film of all time only gets a doesn’t suck and no more!

Take, for example, my old vacuum cleaner. It sucks because it doesn’t suck. So we bought a new one which sucks, and that doesn’t suck. Because some things only don’t suck when they suck, and other thinks truly suck because they don’t suck.

Hopefully you think my blog doesn’t suck. If not, then suck it!