Begging For Forgiveness

My brothers and I were rarely on the same page when it came to which sports franchises to root for. Growing up in the shadow of Philadelphia we were all pretty much Phillies fans, but not necessarily avid ones. When it came to the NFL my oldest was an Eagles fan and brother number two was a Cowboys fan. I was neither, although Buddy Ryan’s Eagles teams were exciting to watch. (Heck, some of the best defenses in league history and an offensive game plan of snapping the ball to Randall Cunningham and seeing what he does with it was pretty cool.) I was a Sixers fan but I don’t recall my brothers showing much enthusiasm for the NBA. As for hockey, c’mon this is America – who cares!

However, when the USFL came into being we were all in agreement – the Philadelphia Stars were the bomb! Here we found agreement and excitement about the same team once and for all. And those were good days; the Stars were the class of the league, appearing in all three championship games and winning two in the USFL’s short, three-season life. It was disappointing to see them move to Baltimore for that last season.

My oldest brother and his Philadelphia Stars cap were inseparable from the moment he placed it on his head until he graduated high school…probably even after that. He even wore that cap during curtain calls of the plays he performed in as a senior. I’m convinced he tried to get the director to add it to his character’s wardrobe. One cannot fail to notice that it was a prized possession of his.

Once, while on a family vacation through Tennessee and Kentucky, he had a moment of panic. We were driving along when he urgently asked, “Where’s my Stars cap? Where’s my Stars cap?” Upon turning around brother number two responded, “It’s on your head!” Needless to say, we’ve given him guff about this for over thirty years, even if only by sharing this story with others lately.

However, I must beg my brother’s forgiveness; for I, too, had a bone-headed moment with a prized possession.

We went for a walk yesterday morning before I had to go into work. As is her custom, my four-year-old asked me to carry her, but at forty-three years of age my arms can’t hold her for what I knew would be a long walk, so I let her climb on my back figuring this would help get my blood flowing. Mommy and the eight-year-old were pushing the boy in his stroller, and the two teenagers were taking the lead initially.

After heading down the hill we turned left. About a quarter mile (or a little more) down the road we made another left and began to ascend one of the many hills in our neighborhood. (Heck, one of the many hills in our city – there’s nary a flat yard to be found.) Shortly after making the turn, I began to look ahead at my family. There’s mommy and the eight-year-old pushing the boy in his stroller, there are the teenagers probably talking about boys…where’s the four-year-old. “Where is she? Where is she?”

“She’s on your back, Dad!” said the surprised eighteen-year-old before bursting into laughter, shortly followed by the fourteen-year-old and eight-year-old. Needless to say, giving her a piggy-back ride may have gotten my blood flowing, just apparently not to my brain. I have to give my brother credit; forgetting you’re wearing a cap which weighs only a few ounces is much less embarrassing than forgetting a forty-plus pound kid hanging on your back, especially when  BOTH of your arms are holding her up and you’re contorting your body trying to locate said forty-plus pound kid!

Actually, come to think of it, it’s even more embarrassing than that. Perhaps it wasn’t our other brother who noticed the Stars cap on his head, he may have just said, “Oh, I’m wearing it.” Yup, much more alert than I.

Well, at least the boy will not remember this little incident. And, in all likelihood, neither will the four-year-old who was the star of the whole show. Perhaps even the eight-year-old will forget. But, rest assured, my teenagers will NEVER let me forget this one.

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Settling the Debate

Penn State sits pretty much smack in the middle of Pennsylvania. And, with over 30,000 undergrads from all over the state attending its hallowed halls, you can witness many great cultural clashes between the eastern half of PA and the western.

One such clash happened to be about whether or not you call it soda (eastern) or pop (western). It was particularly amusing to listen to my brother argue with his western-PA associates about the absurdity in calling it pop. As easterners we were both firm in the moniker of soda, but my brother especially so. And don’t even try to get him started on the, “if it’s from a fountain it’s soda, if it’s from a bottle it’s pop,” crap, either. You can’t have the same substance be two different things just because of its container. Heck, pee is pee whether it’s in the toilet or a cup, same with soda/pop. It’s one or the other at all times. Period.

So, which is it, soda or pop? As you can clearly see, I concur with my brother and fellow eastern-PA citizens that it’s soda. But, you may ask, how to you KNOW? Okay, until recently I couldn’t answer that question, but I’ve been thinking. (Yeah, hard to believe, I know.) It all boils down to flavored carbonated beverages…

Who in their right mind would walk around saying, “I can’t wait to have my cherry pop!”

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!