Month: October 2008

Real Men Don’t Need Kits

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Carving pumpkins is not easy, unless you’re Bob Ross, who I imagine could carve a pumpkin in his sleep while dreaming of “happy places” with tree lined streams and snowy mountains.

We never carved pumpkins when I was a kid, so I don’t have a high water mark set by my father that I have to try and top when it comes to carving pumpkins. But with all the hype around it, and with the plethora of pumpkin carving utensils on the market, you’d think that any schmuck (can I use that word if I’m not Jewish?) could carve a decent pumpkin, thereby reaching new heights of hero worship with his kids.

“Not so!” says the wise man whose wife has been outta town for five days now…

When I was at Old Tyme Pottery earlier this season, I happened upon a pumpkin carving kit, complete with little pinhole saws for cutting those intricate corners, a scoopy thing to pull out the punkin guts, and some paper templates and glue to guide you on your way to punkin carving greatness! Now, I’ve never used a kit before, but I’ve always wanted to. In my mind, after using this kit, I’d be able to turn out one of those Award Winning Pumpkins like you see on TV.

So I bought it and I have been waiting impatiently for the day when I could whip them out and bust a move on a wary punkin; but alas, it was not to be.

See, what I didn’t reckon on, was that the tools that came with the kit, were made of microscopically thin pieces of sheet metal that snap at the slightest pressure. The very act of trying to cut horizontally, completely broke off both of the pinhole saws that came with the kit:

Pumpkin carving kit

And that little scoop thing…was made for little hands and not for the adults who will actually be carving the pumpkin!

So…after snapping off the second saw, while trying to talk on the phone with CareerMom to catch her up on all the cutesie things the boys have done this week, AND while trying to throw the ball for the dogs to give them some exercise, while ALSO trying to keep MLE from stomping in the bowl of pumpkin guts, I finally had to just put everything down and STEP AWAY from the pumpkin!

When I was finally able to again focus on the task at hand, I realized that sometimes, a man has just got to be a man. With that, I ordered the boys (and dogs) to stay put, while I went to the basement and got out the old standby pumpkin carving tool:

Real Man Saw

If you look closely, you can still see pieces of pumpkin on the blade.

In addition to being just “the bomb” for carving holes in pumpkins, it’s also wicked looking, which gives me additional “cool” points with my kids!

It’s not so good for detail work though, which means that all I was able to do last night was the regular pumpkin face.

For the really cool pumpkin design we have planned, I might have to bring out the big gun:


Don’t laugh till you’ve tried it. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a saw shredding through the soft flesh of a pumpkin at high RPMs!

That sounded kinda creepy…





Who you gonna call?

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halloween I didn’t do anything overtly mean when I was a kid, but like all kids, I did my share of tricks. One of our perennial favorites was knocking on people’s doors and then running away. I don’t know what was so funny about it, but we sure laughed our butts off when the homeowner would come look outside and get mad.

Last night, we had just finished dinner, I had cleaned up the dishes and I had just gotten the boys rounded up and naked for bathtime, when I looked out our front window and saw someone on the front porch. It was an adult woman with blonde hair. My first thought was that it was my adopted mom. She frequently travels back and forth through Atlanta without bothering to stop by, and I figured she might be coming through and leaving something for the boys. But, the vehicle at the top of the driveway was a red SUV, which I know she doesn’t have.

I sort of hovered out of sight to see what this person was doing on my front porch and then watched as she rang the doorbell and then took off running. She hopped in her car and took off.

I was like, “What the hell?”

After telling the naked boys to sit tight, I went down and opened the door to find a trick or treat bucket of goodies on the front porch.

Apparently, we’d been “Ghosted.” This was our first experience with it, but if you have older kids then you’re probably ahead of me. Basically, it’s a combination of a Blog Meme, A Random Act of Kindness, and a childhood prank, all rolled into one.

What you get when you’re ghosted:

  • A paper picture of a Ghost. You can print it off the Internet here
  • Some Halloween candy, in a trick or treat bucket, or any other kind of container; it’s your choice
  • A poem thingy and instructions for carrying on with the “Ghosting”

The rules are as follows:

  • You have to post, somewhere on your house, the printed Ghost. This supposedly keeps other “Ghosts” away from your home (and I suspect it keeps others from Ghosting you again).
  • You have to give the same “Ghosting” to two others that you know
  • You are supposed to sneak up to their house and carry out the ghosting without being seen

It’s pretty simple, and apparently pretty exciting since MLI told everyone he saw this morning about it.

But I’m wondering, how is someone with small children supposed to pull this off? I mean, it’s impossible to quickly run from someone’s house, get the kids strapped back into the car and drive off without being seen. Which I suppose, is exactly why the person I saw, was an adult doing this without her kids! HA!

Cuz, losing a 2nd cousin this past week wasn’t enough

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grand canyon I really just want to cry. I want to curl up in bed and watch old re-runs of Family Ties until all my troubles go away. I want to drink really vile manly drinks with names like Rusty Nail and Beer Buster until I can’t think straight. I want to try some safe new drug that doesn’t jack me up, but rather knocks me out until my savings account has reached some astronomically large amount to where what’s bugging me, doesn’t bug me anymore because I’ll have the means to fix it.

What’s that?

Oh. Sorry…a little history for those of you at home. Basically, I’m losing my backyard to erosion.

And we’re not talking about a little erosion here, we’re talking about foundation exposing, trees falling off the side of the cliff erosion. All to the tune of $25 thousand to fix erosion. That’s what I’m stressing over.

When we bought this house two years ago, a tornado had just finished ripping through the backyard. And while everyone else left their downed trees to be reclaimed by nature, the previous owner of our house opted to clean it all up.

It looked great. It gave us a bit of a backyard down at the bottom where it leveled out; we’ll take it! SOLD!
Unfortunately, it also took away all the trees and mulch that were holding the hill in place. And now I am left with the REAL aftermath.

I’ve had three “experts” in to qualify the problem and propose a fix. And even in “this economy,” where you’d think you could catch a break on labor costs, here’s what I’ve gotten:

Option #1

  • “You need a retaining wall about “head high.”  A retaining wall “head high” means one about 7′ tall and about 100′ wide. The materials alone come out to around $8 grand, and then you add on the labor costs and you’re hitting about $15K.

Option #2

  • “For the money, unless you just want to spend $16K, I would just come in here with a drip irrigation system and plant the shit out of it. I mean, plants all over it.”  This would run me about $9K

Now, “if money weren’t an object” the optimum solution would be a two-tier retaining wall system with the plants, but since money IS an object, I have NO FRIGGIN IDEA WHAT TO DO!

But do you see my quandry? What if I spend $9K on plants and it doesn’t fix the problem? I mean, that’s a butt-load of money to put on something that “might” work. The contractor is pretty confident it will, but…I don’t share his optimism.

I keep thinking, “OK, you put up a 7′ retaining wall and you’ve at least got SOMETHING. I mean, if I suddenly fell off the hill, at least the wall would catch me right? Has a Juniper bush  ever stopped a person from falling off a hill? I don’t think so.”

Oh, also part of the problem is that we don’t HAVE the money to do this, but we don’t really have a choice. We HAVE to do this. Only, which one do you do? Do you go the less expensive route and hope it works, or do you go the more expensive route and hope it works? Or, do you bite the bullet and do them both figuring, “Hey, if one is good, then two should be even better?”

Seriously, where’s the booze, cuz I could really use something stronger than my reality right now!

Childhood stories…then, and now

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Some of my favorites books from my childhood were contained within a set my brother received in 1974, which I held onto and now claim as my own. They were titled, “The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls.”

In all, I believe my set included approximately ten books, on all manner of subjects, art, science, etc.; but, my favorites were the stories. These, along with another book of Fairy Tales, kept me reading whenever my brother would run off with his friends, or when I just needed some alone time.

Nursery Rhymes and Stories

We’ve recently started reading them to MLI, because his imagination is finally outgrowing Curious George and Dingo…sorry, I mean Diego. And he seems to like them a lot; although I had forgotten how violent some of them were.

Just last night, I was reading the story about the little Tin Soldier. You’ll recall, he only had one leg and he fell in love with a little paper ballerina. But, fate stole him away from her where he then rode a paper boat into the sewers, only to be eaten by a fish, and finally returned back home when someone in the house went to the local market and purchased the fish that ate him. Unfortunately, just as the Tin Soldier and his lady were to be reunited, the Tin Man was blown into the fire where he melted.

Yeah…I had gotten too far into the ending before I realized his fate. I had forgotten that, like many REAL fairy tales, the Tin Soldier was not to have a happy ending.

This got me to thinking about how parenting has changed and I was delighted to find, in the preface of the book titled, “Folk and Fairy Tales” from my set, a forward by one of the editors. It was delightfully candid (if a tad sexist), but I found the honesty of yesterday refreshing:

“Once upon a time parents had to bring up their children without graded reading plans. The children got either little sermons with the moral sticking out like a red flag or the fairy and folk tales that have come down to us from the feudal Middle Ages. Many children had these stories read to them, together with Mother Goose, while they were still in their perambulators.

Some of today’s psychologists shake their heads over the effect this literary diet may have had on the children too young to cope with such strong doses of morality and immortality.

But most children can stand a good deal more than adults think they can. Besides, some mothers have always been blessed with common sense. If they saw that some gruesome tale induced nightmares, they stopped reading it and made up, instead, little stories about ordinary children and animals within a child’s understanding.”

The normal healthy-minded child is not harmed by fairy tales, but it is unwise indeed to expose a child to them before he is emotionally ready to accept them as fantasy. The child whose life is generally satisfying and secure, and who is mature enough, will take the most gruesome fairy tales in his stride, as he does the blood-and-thunder shows he sees on television.”

Isn’t that great! Imagine, parents—not organizations or the government—deciding what is best for their children. Wow.

But see…a tad sexist…but not surprising considering the gender roles at play. I wonder what they would have thought about today’s video games?

Charity, begins at home

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Contribution Chart In the grand scheme of charity, I’m a fan of the “Teach a man to fish” mantra rather than being on the “Give a man a fish” side of things. This is not surprising considering my political views, but it goes deeper than that.

I’m just not a handout kinda guy. My folks didn’t pay for my college. My folks have never given me any money since I left home outside of small sums for birthday and Christmas gifts and when I was out of work for several months after a layoff, I didn’t file for unemployment (though if I had to do it all over again, I definitely would!)

Asking for stuff just isn’t in my genes. Now, if you want to just voluntarily GIVE me things, well now, that’s a completely different story. Please make your checks payable to…

This carries over to my charitable contributions as well. I have absolutely NO problem donating things to charity, and I also give money to church (ahem..*cough* *cough*…when we go).

CareerMom is just the opposite of me. She donates at work through United Way, and she was also once suckered into giving by some group that “gave” her some nifty return address labels. Now she gets no fewer than 8 or 9 charity requests by mail each week, most of which I toss in the recycle bin in the garage on my way in the door in the afternoon (I know, I know…I’m baaaad!)

I’m also not a huge fan of just giving money to a big organization, only to have half of it eaten up in administration costs, or having it go to some faraway place helping God knows whom, with God knows what.

That said, if everyone in the world were like me, it would probably be a pretty miserable place. So, I recognize my own shortcomings.

But regardless of your beliefs on the subject, the very idea of Charity, is that it should come from the heart. It shouldn’t be forced upon you because then, it’s not really Charity–it’s taxes.

With it getting near the holidays, charities are cranking up their efforts to get their piece of the pie this year and my company, like many across the country, have joined them in their efforts. I have no doubt that this is mostly just so Public Relations groups can tout how much money they’ve raised so that when next quarter’s earnings report comes out, perhaps folks will cut them a little slack.

Regardless, I’ve been ignoring the Employee Charitable Contribution Campaign e-mail for about a week now. I have not in the past, nor do I now, have a desire to have some charity automatically deduct money from my paycheck each month. So when I got another one this morning, I ignored it too.

Then, as I was sitting at my desk, my chat program popped up:


So, whether you donate or not, you’re supposed to “confidentially” respond whether or not you’re going to donate.
Fine, whatever.

I followed the link she enclosed and here’s what I had to fill out:

CCC registration

It’s not enough to say that you don’t want to donate, but they have to go about it in a way that makes you feel guilty about not doing so.

THIS, is what drives me away from it every year. It’s the tactics, as much as anything.

I truly do hate to sound all “bah Humbug’ish,” but this isn’t exactly the best time to be hitting people up for cash. But I do have an idea for my company and others who REALLY want to gen up Charity contributions:

You give me a guaranteed employment contract for the next calendar year, at my current or better salary and benefits, and I’ll donate.

How ’bout that?

My good deed for the day?

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top secret Ever since I was forced out of Children’s Church into the “Big Church” with mom, dad and all the other big kids, church has been an exercise in extreme boredom for me. I remember when I was younger, sitting in the second from the front row where all the teens sat (we figured sitting up close with our friends at least got us away from our parents, even if we were then under the watchful eye of the preacher) with my eyes fixated on the pastor as he stomped to and fro on the stage. Sometimes, I remember that I’d stare at him so long and hard that I’d actually get tunnel vision. It became a game in fact–seeing how long and hard I could stare at him without blinking.

Having been in church since I was very young, I’ve heard just about every take on every story in every chapter of the Bible. I’ve heard metaphors made out of Psalms that would make Pythagoras scratch his head. I’ve heard God’s vengeance on Sodom and Gomorrah soliloquized to the point where one could almost hear the screams of the city’s denizens as the fire rained down, and I’ve heard Jesus the Fisherman preached so much that I could almost tell you what his bait of choice was when fishing the Sea of Galilee with his buds.

You preach it, I’ve heard it, and that’s why to this day, church bores the mess outta me. But there are other reasons I go; such as for my kids.

Because we can’t seem to settle down in a church, and because I never see myself  “joining” another church, MLI doesn’t have a bunch of friends at church that he likes to go play with. Previously, any attempts to make him go to children’s church so that mom and dad could watch the service without having to constantly admonish him to be quiet while also fishing crayons off the floor, were met with extreme crying and fit-pitching. But this past Sunday, I was determined to make him go to children’s church if it was the last thing I did.

We actually got there early, thanks to having started getting ready at 7 a.m. We checked the boys in and a nice lady escorted MLI and me upstairs to a “holding area” where they put a lot of kids until all the various teachers show up. As soon as we arrived at his room, he started his act:

  • Hands in his mouth
  • Pulling away from me
  • A slowly rising whine that threatened to embarrass me in public

So, I squatted down and said, “Come here, let’s talk.”

Not quite sure what to make of this odd development that didn’t involve daddy yelling and threatening to spank him, he stopped whining and with his hand still in his mouth, came over to me.

I said, “I’m gonna tell you a little secret, but you have to PROMISE not to tell mommy ok?
(In my head, George Strait was singing, “…a secret that my daddy said, was just between us…)
He nodded.

In a hushed voice, I told him, “I don’t like church either. It’s kinda boring, and it’s long and stuff. But, mommy likes for us to go and we want you to learn about Jesus and stuff, so that’s why we all go. So do me a favor, and just go in there and try and have fun and before you know it, it will be all over.”

He looked at me with those red eyes and with a bit of a sniff, he turned to face the head lady who was coming towards him, hunched over and with a cow sock-puppet on her hand. As she got near, a spooky voice emanated from the sock puppet, “I’m scared too!”

I wanted to say, “Lady, you’re not helping,” but rather, I took off running down the hall before he could change his mind and come running back to me.

Turned out, he had a great time. They ate lots of junk food, and made rice crispy treats for me and CareerMom. In fact, he was talking about how next time he didn’t want to come in big church with us.

So, mission accomplished.

If so though, why I do I feel kinda crappy about it? At the time, I thought maybe he would appreciate a little “man to man” truth–a secret that was just his and daddy’s. But now I’m not so sure. What if I just colored his religious experience for the rest of his life? What if, rather than being open to what God wants to do in his life, he’s instead just going to go through the motions to make other people happy?

I’m struggling with this, even in the face of apparent success.

What do you think? Did I help, or hurt?

My what smooth hands you have

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At least three people in our house show the signs of having a shoe fetish (I’ll let you Postulate on which three). As such, we have a LOT of shoes. Many of these shoes tend to congregate in the garage since that’s where we generally come in and out of the house.

I dropped by my friendly neighborhood Target and picked up one of those cheapy metal cage things with dividers to store your shoes in. In addition to it being quite cheap, it is also constructed using those little plastic clips like they use in IQ tests to see if you can figure out what shape something will be in once you put it together (well, OK, in IQ tests they use origami, but it’s still just as difficult).

I finally got the thing together,IMG_2433 but it remained tenuously intact. The slightest bump, such as the one from MLE’s big plastic car flying down the driveway at 10MPH, just destroyed the thing and I’d have to spend 15 minutes looking at it like Curious George looks when he’s trying to figure out a thorny problem concerning Hundley and one of the building’s residents.

Now, a couple of years ago, I discovered the BEST glue on the planet–Gorilla Glue. If you’ve never used it, it’s this thick brown stuff that expands for about an hour after you squirt it out of the bottle. It foams up to about three times its normal size and is about as strong as…well, I don’t know, but the stuff is STRONG.

So, I whipped it out yesterday and started gluing all the shoe rack’s joints. It was getting close to the time for me to leave to pick up the boys from Daycare, so I got a tad careless with the stuff and by the time I was finished, I had it all over the garage floor, and all over my hands (later that night, I found huge clumps in my hair).
No worries,” I thought. “I’ll just rub some turpintine on it.”
But…turpintine didn’t work.

Soap didn’t work.

Even some very caustic paint remover didn’t work, but my hands did enjoy a nice chemical peel.

The glue is so tough that it stuck to the green scrubby thing I used when trying to scratch it off my fingers:


But, what all my efforts did do, was remove the big chunks of glue on my hands and spread it around my the entirety of both of my hands. It’s so thinly spread, that you can’t see it, but I can feel it. It filled in my pores so it’s like I’m wearing silk gloves. Everything I touch just sort of glides away from my grasp thanks to a lack of fingerprint texture.

When I touch my own skin (here, here and…nevermind), I can feel the pressure and I can sense the warmth, but I can’t actually feel the texture. It’s very odd.

You know…you’ll never get back the 2 minutes you spent reading this, but at the very least, I’ve informed you about the wonders and dangers of Gorilla Glue.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.