Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back on the job

I… am… back.

As I stated on Friday, I took some time off from blogging during the Christmas holiday.

And since the holiday has now passed, I can now share with all of you the secret my wife and I had been planning for the last month and a half…

I couldn’t tell you before because quite a few members of my family read my blogs and I didn’t wanna be the one to let the proverbial cat out of the proverbial bag.

Since my wife and I got married all those years ago (it will be 9 years April 5th), we have alternated holidays with each other’s families.

For example: We spend Thanksgiving with her family, Christmas with mine. The next year would be Thanksgiving with mine, Christmas with hers. Simple, democratic and stress reducing.

This year, we toyed with the idea of not going down to see my family until after Christmas because we wanted the girls (or as I now call them, the Peanut Butter and the Jelly… to understand these nicknames, you have to know they like this link and the song that goes along with it) to have Christmas morning at home since they are of the age where they are starting to grasp the concept. (The presents concept, not the religious concept yet)

Mid-November comes. My wife gets home from picking up the PB&J, and, after talking to her Mom, declared that we should still go down to my family’s house for Christmas Eve/Christmas morning (BTW, on Christmas Eve, my Dad's side of my family has a big get-together. I blogged about it here)

It seems my mother-in-law thought as I did, that it doesn’t necessarily matter where the kids are when Santa comes, just as long as he comes with the presents.

We then decided to surprise my family and continue telling them that we weren’t coming into town until either Sunday evening or Monday morning.

So a month and a half goes by… I talk to my parents periodically having this knowledge, and I have to work to NOT tell them… or anyone else for that matter.

BTW, we also decided that Santa would visit our house Friday night and leave the girls’ toys (including their new “car”) for them to open up/see on Saturday morning. For those of you who are wondering, there were no meltdowns for the fact we only got one battery-operated ride-on. The two of them shared it that morning in a style I had never seen from them before... I was proud.

One thing that helped with the subterfuge was the fact my family knew we had, on Friday night, a wedding for one of my wife’s cousins with whom she is close to. (She got married in a beautiful, candle-lit Catholic mass that was followed by a ‘kickin’ reception with an open bar) We got home from that around midnight, relieved (and paid) the babysitter, and got all the presents from upstairs and put them under the tree.

Aside: I was awake Saturday morning at 8:00. I got some coffee, the paper and sat in bed reading the newspaper, drinking my coffee and listening to NPR. The Peanut Butter woke up first, walked into the hallway, looked and smiled at me, started walking towards our bedroom, stopped, turned around and saw the presents under the tree and immediately shouted: "Santa came!" and proceeded to wake up her sister. Absolute perfection.)

Cut to Saturday afternoon: we packed up the Explorer full to the brim, put a DVD on for the girls to watch (hours and hours of A Christmas Story and A Wiggles Christmas… aaaahhhhh!!! ) and hit the open (and very wet) road after a quick stop at my in-laws to drop off some Christmas cookies.

We finally leave around 3:00.

(Aside: My brother, whom we told earlier in December in order to have someone ‘on the inside,’ called once at 10:00 am, again at 2:00 pm, again at 4:30 pm, and yet again at 6:00 pm because he wanted to know when we were going to get there so he could tape the whole thing for a documentary he and I are working on about traditions and marketing)

We arrive in Edwardsville at 6:45 (not bad, 250 miles in 3 hours, 45 minutes, which included a 30-minute pottybreak in Lincoln, IL)

We park a few houses down from my parents’ house and quietly (as quiet as one can be with 2 three-year olds in tow) walk down the sidewalk. It should also be noted that the spousal unit put Christmas hats on the PB&J (they look adorable), on herself (she looks cute) and me (I look like a department store Santa that was fired for driking on the job...) we walk up to the door, ring the doorbell and are expecting one of my parents to answer.

Instead, it’s one of my older cousins, a former Colonel in the Army (in the Defense Intelligence Agency…) meaning that he has seen it all, notices all, and allows nothing to faze him, so he says Merry Christmas and moves out of the way so we can come in…

(Aside: this got us worrying. This was so anticlimactic, we thought; ‘is everyone, including my parents, going to react in this manner… did we plan all this for naught?’)

Another cousin yells for my Mom to come into the entryway… she comes out of the kitchen, turns, sees us…

… and screams with joy (embracing all four of us in a hug so tight that one would not expect could come from a woman in her mid-60’s) while tears start to slowly stream down her face.

My Aunt Adele calls out to my Dad (who is busy showing off his new Corvette to the last few remaining people on the planet that had not yet seen it) in the garage.

He comes in, turns, sees us… and also screams (but in a much-more manly way. So I’ll rewrite that and say he ‘shouts with surprise’) and also gives us all a hug while tears start to slowly stream down his face (again, in a much more manly way)

After that, my wife and I look at each other and can safely say (unlike some people we all may know about) ‘mission accomplished.’

We even had the time to take a family picture; a complete family picture; safe for my cousin Mike, (who was sitting at home with his dog, which was dying with no vets available to put him to sleep) and my cousin David (who couldn’t get time off from work in Virginia)

I will post the picture at a later date.

My parents said that our surprising them was the best Christmas gift they could have gotten.

And after all… isn’t that what the season is all about?

Friday, December 23, 2005

A couple days off...


I am taking a few days off from blogging to spend with family and friends at home and away.

If you have to travel; please travel safe.

If you’re staying close to home; please stay safe.

I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Kwanzaa, a Happy Boxing Day, and an all-around, all-encompassing Happy Holidays!

See you all next week.

Kemp

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Some Assembly Required…

*^(@&*)$(**(&^#&#$)!!!!!!!

What brought on this plethora of obscenities?

Putting together children’s toys.

For Christmas, my twin daughters have been asking anyone who will listen what they want for Christmas.

‘A corvette like Abuelo’s…’

(Flashback; ya see, a few months ago my Dad decided to purchase a C6 Corvette convertible for him and my mom to tool around in. Ever since my 'precocious' daughters saw it, they’ve wanted one… three years old and they want a corvette… three years old, sitting on Santa’s lap, they ask him for a corvette… btw, thanks Dad…)

So my wife and I decided to oblige them since they have been (relatively speaking for three-year olds) good this year. We decided on the xx electric ride-on corvette…

My wife and I immediately decided that we are not going to have 2 of those electric cars at the same time… and they will have to share. (So if you hear yelling and screaming Christmas morning coming from the Illinois area… you know why)

I get online (only suckers shop in stores anymore) and found it. Nice car. Equipped with a full-functioning FM radio and clock, flip-up headlights, working turn signals… looks like a nice ride. Ok, let me just scroll down and look at the price…





… Ok, my heart’s beating again… the list price was $499.00. Out of stock… good.

Ok, here’s a C-5 pink ‘vette… same design basically… only… $299.00. Ok, we’re getting lower, that’s a good thing…

Ah-ha!!!! Found something!!! A Disney Princess Solstice Roadster
$199.00. They love Disney princesses (even though I am trying to teach them early that Disney is the Evil Empire); it (more or less… mostly less) looks like a corvette. We’ll get em that.

Flash forward three weeks, the car is in the basement, and since we have a wedding on Friday night and who knows what on Saturday night I decided to put it together last night Wednesday.

The girls are in bed sleeping… the dog is sleeping… the wife is paying bills… so I decided to tackle the job head-on…

I grab a glass of water, head down to the basement, turn on “The Simpsons” and go to work…

(Aside: Every single time I tell my Dad that I have to put a toy together for my daughters... he laughs. Not a chuckle, but a sinister, Emperor Palpatine-type laugh... what goes around comes around I guess)

Now… I am, quite frankly, a smart guy… not just book smarts, but street smarts and an uncanny ability to still use common sense, but obviously the U.S. government should put the people who make toy boxes in charge of airport security… because ain’t no one getting into this box. It has tape, it has big staples, it has little staples… it has everything but its own lockdown system and terror alert level.

After 45 minutes getting the box open and the contents of the box out, I go to work. First things first, check to make sure all the parts are here…

They’re not… son of a bit—, oh wait, yes they are.

All the pieces are here, including a Phillips-head screwdriver, and 2 wrenches… none of this ‘Allen wrench’ crap for us… no sirree…

It’s going well. I dispatch with the front and rear axels with ease. Easily put on the two front tires, and the windshield. I then turn my attention to the back of the car. Again, everything goes smoothly. Axels, tires, washers, screws…

Wow, it looks like a car.

I fix the battery, attach the battery to the motor, and now am ready for the final assemble… the car seats.

Tip the seats back, insert tabs into the slots, push seats up, line up with holes, insert and tighten screws… piece of cake right?

No. The easiest and (naturally) last part of the process is taking the longest. Like the Dad in A Christmas Story, I wove a “tapestry of obscenities” that will be hanging over Lake Michigan forever…

After 45 minutes of this, and with a lot of swearing and a little manipulation of plastic… I get the seats inserted. I screw-in the screws (???), open the hood, plug everything in… and it all works…

My wife will put a big-red bow (ya know, like those ‘realistic’ Lexus Christmas commercials) and the memory and pain of putting the car together will dissolve as soon as I see my daughter’s faces light up when they get first glimpse of the car on Christmas morning…

That, dear readers, makes it all worth it…

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

When I think about this, it makes my head hurt...

Is common sense really going the way of the Dodo? Or is the collective intelligence of this country going to hell in a handcart?

I saw something on Sunday that I needed to post somewhere, and thought it would be better here than on one of my other blogs (TBWA or PSC).

Sunday morning, after church, we had to mail some Christmas cards (Wait, I should say Holiday shouldn’t I??? Or Hanukkah? Or Kwanzaa? Or Navidad for our Hispanic/Latino friends? Nah, I’ll stick with Christmas…but I don’t want to offend anyone… screw it, it’s the U.S., I can say anything I want according to the First Amendment)

We decided to mail our Christmas cards (that ironically enough say Happy Holidays) after church.

We were fourth in line for a process that, normally, takes about 10 seconds… you check to make sure that each item has a stamp, then you slide it into the slot… piece of cake, right?

Not today…

The first person in line takes (literally) 2 minutes to put their mail into the slot. Why? Because the mail wasn’t going in very easily… in fact, he had to get out of his car and force the mail into the slot. My immediate thought was, there must be a lot of mail in that box…

Person two pulls up, and has a small box of items to mail. She also gets out of her car and has to really work at putting the mail into the slot. She takes about 90 seconds.

The third person goes, and proceeds to take 2 minutes to mail his letters. Why? Because nothing had changed since the two people ahead of him put their mail into the box. This person also gets out of their car, puts the mail in and it falls out… he picks it up, tries it again and it again falls out. He picks it up again, and forcibly, and strongly, shoves the mail into the slot. They get in their car, and as soon as the car door closes, 2 of the letters fall out. They get out again, and push the mail back into the slot harder than before… they than drive off.

There’s 5 and a half minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

Now it’s my turn. As I drive up, I see the letters overflowing from the mailbox and realize that there is NO WAY our cards are going to fit. No problem I say to myself… I’ll just… use… the… OTHERBOX!

Yes, that’s right. There is ANOTHER mail box RIGHT NEXT TO THE OVERFLOWING ONE

There’s nothing different about the other box.

It’s not separated out for local or out-of-town post

It’s not for express or anything special, it’s just another, normal mailbox that even has the same pick-up time as the overflowing one.

Did I mention they were right next to each other?

I, being the incredibly smart person that I am, decide to put my mail into the other mailbox. Down it goes, with a nice little sound when it hits the sparse contents of its bottom.

Did I mention they were right next to each other?

So… we have two mailboxes right next to each other… one is overflowing, the other is, maybe, a quarter filled. Three different people decide to forcibly shove their mail into the overflowing one, and totally ignore the box standing right next to the overflowing one.

One of three things is happening to me after witnessing this.

One: I’m making too much of this fiasco and need to relax.

Two: I have a right to spout off, as it should be common sense to check another mailbox when the one next to it is overflowing.

(Did I mention they were right next to each other?)

Three: Accept the fact that people are stupid and go on with my life.

After careful consideration, I decide to go with a combination of all three: I probably am over blowing this a little, but I do have a right to make fun of these other people because mailing letters is not brain surgery, and I made the realization long ago that there are a LOT of stupid people in this world and I just have to accept it and move on.

Tell me what your thoughts are about this; agree? Disagree?

Did I mention they were right next to each other?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Shout Out!

John Spencer, 1946-2005
Maybe not as well known as some of the other shout outs I've had on here, but as one of my favorite actors (back to his recurring role on The Patty Duke Show, to his very brief role in WarGames to being the only good thing in the final years of LA Law to his work on my favorite TV show The West Wing), I have to give a shout out to the passing of John Spencer. To honor him, I have one of his best monologues from The West Wing...

This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey, you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, "Father, I'm down in this hole. Can you help me out?" The priest writes a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey, Joe, it's me. Can you help me Out" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you nuts? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before - and I know the way out."

Tales of the Truly Weird

Ok, all of you parents of twins out there will be interested in this post. A friend of my wife’s (founder of the local Mother of Multiples club my wife is an ‘officer’ in) sent us this email the other day… talk about eerie.

Your attention please. The story you are about to read is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent. For example: George Baker is now called “Sylvia Wiss

Okay twin moms I think we had our first "twin connection" moment last night.

Around 3 o'clock “Sarah” starts complaining of an upset stomach and feeling like she is going to throw up. I put her on the couch with a bowl and she falls asleep from 4-5:30ish.

“Becky” is running around like nuts (had been ALL day). “Sarah” wakes up and is
still sick.

At 6 (dinner time) “Sarah” jumps up and declares she is hungry. She then eats a enchilada with ALL the fixings.

“Becky” at the same time lies down on the couch. She doesn't want dinner because she is too tired to eat. I didn't think anything about it; she had been up since 6:30 a.m. and hadn't stopped moving all day.

After dinner “Sarah” is on my lap in the living room and says, "I'm going to throw up!" I run to the family room and grab the bowl and bring it back to her. As she leans her head over the bowl, I hear gagging and coughing in the family room. “Becky” is throwing up all over the couch!!!! As soon as “Becky” is done, “Sarah” declares, "My tummy doesn't hurt anymore," and goes off to play for the rest of the night. “Becky” never once said she was not feeling well before she got sick.

How weird is that?!?!?
Weird indeed. For those of us with younger twins, that is what we have to look forward to…

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Be careful what you wish for...

See, this is what happens when one complains. I complain on my blog that I have writers block, and then I get tagged by Sarah… but as she said, at least I now have something to work with and get through this writer’s blockade of astronomical proportions.

I’ve been tagged by Sarah (btw, thanks), so I guess that means I’m it…

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot.
1. Hanuman
2. Running2K's
3. Queen of Spain
4. Sarah and the Goon Squad
5. Kemp (although I’ve noticed everyone else has a cool nickname, so for this little exercise I’ll call myself…‘Dr. Spin’)

Then you get to select five people to pass the love on to. This is in no way mandatory.
1. Scott
2. Childs Play x 2
3. MetroDad
4. Mr. Big Dubya
5. Can’t think of another… come back later and I’ll have one.

What were you doing 10 years ago?
10 years ago? Someone expects me to remember what I was doing 10 years ago? Sure… well, let me drink some Yaqui Indians’ tea and I’ll get back to you all on that… I don’t think recall that there was nuch going on. I was in my final year in college, my fiance had graduated the previous May and was working on a post-graduate certificate in Chicago. Nothing exciting, nothing fun, just the normal college stuff. Parties, studying, having fun.

What were you doing one year ago?
After being downsized for the second time in 13 months I was still looking for a job one year ago. Also, I was doing a little daycare-type thing. Let me explain; my mother-in-law (who runs a licensed daycare and watches my kids 3/5 days of the week) had just had surgery and couldn’t do her daycare for 3 months. So three times a week I was watching (along with my own twins) two of my nephews. On Fridays, I watched my 2 kids (ages 2.5), 2 of my nephews (ages 2 & 4), a 5 year old, a 2.5 year old, and a 1.5 year old… if anyone leaves a comment about the movie Daddy Daycare, don’t, I heard them all while I was doing it. During the evening I was perusing the internet and newspapers for a job. I was also getting ready for the 4 college classes I would be teaching starting in January (Intro. to Marketing, Intro. to Management, Communications, and Financial Accounting)

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Cheese Popcorn… hmmmmm, cheezy…
2. Coffee… my coffeee… my precious… (that would work better if you all said it out loud in the voice of Gollum)
3. Chips & Salsa
4. Toasted Ravioli. I have a great recipe if you want one.
5. Beer, wine, martinis, scotch…(depends on the situation & the mood)

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics:
1. ‘Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da’ by The Beatles (actually, I know all the lyrics to 98% of The Beatles catalog)
2. ‘The Monkees Theme’ by The Monkees
3. ‘LaBamba’ (in English & Spanish) by Richie Valens & Los Lobos
4. ‘(It Must've Been Ol') Santa Claus’ by Harry Connick, Jr. (all-time fave Christmas – or should it be Holiday?— song. My kids already know it)
5. ‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head’ by Dean Martin

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Travel
2. Build a new house
3. Invest some of it so I could make it last a REALLY long time.
4. Produce a Broadway show that would be a guaranteed bomb so I could make more money off of it. Has that been done before?
5. Quit work and go back to school for my PhD full-time

Five bad habits:
1. Not putting things away.
2. Yelling at other drivers who don’t know what they’re doing
3. Swearing
4. Not exercising enough
5. Procrasti—eh, I’ll finish it later…

Five things you like doing:
1. Hanging out with the family
2. Playing games on the computer (Star Wars Battlefront, hopefully SWBF 2 after Christmas… hint hint hint, Halo, Age of Empires 1-3)
3. Watching baseball (only the Cardinals) and football (any game) and soccer (World Cub 2006 is coming!!!)
4. Reading (currently on my nightstand: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, Undaunted Courage and The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz)
5. Smoking a fine cigar & drinking a fine Scotch while relaxing on my patio

Five things you would never wear or buy again:
1. Wear – parachute pants (What in God’s name was I thinking???)
2. Wear – Black circa 1980’s Michael Jackson zipper jacket (like the one in the linked picture, but black. Don’t ask… please don’t ask.. As I said above, what was I thinking??)
3. Buy – anything with the words Oprah, Disney, or Time Life attached to them.
4. Wear – really narrow ties. Actually, let’s just ban any article of clothing from the 1980’s and be done with it…
5. Buy – anything from Menards. Can’t stand the commercials.

Five favorite toys:
1. Palm Pilot (Tungsten E)
2. mini-disc player (asked for an iPod for Christmas)
3. Computer
4. my remote control that looks like a Star Wars lightsaber.
5. Legos. Never too old for legos, especially now that I can play with them with my daughters.

Scott, you're it!

D'oh!

Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Writer’s block.....

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

When faced with writers block... do a list

I have been suffering from a fairly severe case of writers block these past few days, so I decided to revisit something I had started once before but never posted. As the title suggests, if you are suffering from writer's block, take an easy way out and do a list...

While surfing around the "blogosphere", I came across Childsplayx2 (a fellow twins-father-blogger whose site I visit often) and decided to borrow from one of his entries (again). It seems that CPx2 (as well as Sarah and the Goon Squad, another of my frequently-visited blogs, who is a mother of twins... are you sensing a theme here?) are intrigued by a phenomenon of people posting 100 things about themselves.

Actually, many, many people have posted an entry like this…so, call me a lemming and allow me to present to you MY list of 100 things you may not know about me. If you do... pretend that you don't... at least while you read this list.

  1. I come from a large extended family.
  2. I have an older brother.
  3. During my senior year in high school, the coach of the speech team told me I had no talent.
  4. The next 2 years I qualified for the National Community College Forensics Tournament. The year after that I qualified for the National Forensics Tournament for my 4-year university. Showed him, didn’t I? Putz.
  5. I was on a forensics scholarship at my community college & the four-year university I attended. Showed him again, didn’t I? Schmuck.
  6. My Bachelor’s degree is in public relations
  7. My Master’s degree is in business
  8. The date I was born (in July).
  9. I love politics (see my other blog for more on that) and WILL run for some political office someday.
  10. I love public speaking.
  11. I am an adjunct professor at the local college teaching business and public speaking classes.
  12. I would love to teach public speaking and business courses at the college level full time.
  13. I love the writings of William Shakespeare.
  14. Graduated with a 3.99/4.0 GPA from my Master’s program. I’m pretty proud of that.
  15. I played the alto saxophone in grade school.
  16. I hated high school.
  17. I didn't attend my 10-year HS reunion.
  18. I actually use elements of both my college degrees in my current job.
  19. I have a short temper.
  20. But I control it better than I used to.
  21. I’m funny… yes I am.
  22. I have a ‘thing’ for the woman in the Overstock.com commercials.
  23. My wife and I are the proud parents of identical twin girls.
  24. I’m a bit of a grammarian.
  25. I hate tomatoes.
  26. I want to go back for my Ph.D. after my wife finishes her Master’s degree.
  27. I love to read.
  28. My favorite books are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Walden by Henry David Thoreau and Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.
  29. I like to smoke (good) cigars.
  30. I have a fear of bridges.
  31. I hate clowns. I’m not afraid of them per se, I just don’t like them and think they’re evil.
  32. I’m a very good cook.
  33. I firmly believe that common sense isn’t that common anymore. Read TBWA blog for more on that.
  34. My ultimate vacation would be to visit my relatives in Spain with a holdover in Tahiti.
  35. I’m a night owl, but can still wake up early the next morning.
  36. I love coffee. I love coffee. I love coffee. I love coffee. I love coffee. Did I mention I love coffee?
  37. I’m addicted to caffeine and hate to wonder what I would be like without it.
  38. I firmly believe that the Walt Disney corporation is the evil empire.
  39. I enjoy a good martini, but it’s not my favorite drink.
  40. I play fantasy football and fantasy baseball.
  41. My fantasy baseball teams suck whereas my fantasy football teams win.'
  42. I love hockey… so that makes me NHL fan # 42.
  43. I attended (with my brother) game four of the 2004 World Series between my St Louis Cardinals and the (now-despised & loathed) Boston Red Sox.
  44. I have a fear of the Oompa Loompas from the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
  45. I think that Transformers are more than meets the eye.
  46. I hate any sports team from New York City (Why? The center of the universe does NOT revolve around you, no matter how much you think it may) but…
  47. …all teams from New England are a very close second and gaining ground every year.
  48. I collected beer bottles while in high school and college; I now have over 400 of them.
  49. I don’t display my collection anywhere.
  50. My wife and I had a class together my first semester at Eastern Illinois University in 1993; but we never met.
  51. I dated the woman who sat in front of her for 2 months.
  52. We ‘officially’ met each other in November 1994.
  53. We started dating the end of November 1994.
  54. My wife and I had been dating for only 6 months when I proposed.
  55. My wife and I have been married for almost 9 years now.
  56. My best friend (besides my wife) is 10 years older than I am (name withheld to protect the innocent...)
  57. My middle name is Nishan, after my uncle, who was more like a grandfather. He passed away 2 years ago and I still miss him.
  58. I’m right handed.
  59. Before they were born, I promised each of my daughters a pony. Why?
  60. The pregnancy was NOT easy. Read about it here and here.
  61. I can swear like a sailor but never in front of my kids.
  62. I’m probably one of the few people who can tell you that the dot over the letter 'i' is called a tittle.
  63. I have a vast trove of trivia and useless knowledge in me. Because of that, people refuse to play Trivial Pursuit with me.
  64. I was very sad the day the final section of Busch Stadium came crashing down.
  65. I prefer Coke over Pepsi.
  66. I would like to run for political office someday.
  67. I hate country music.
  68. I somehow make really cute offspring.
  69. I think Tom Cruise needs to be slapped with a thick stick…
  70. I own and occasionally wear a fedora.
  71. I wasn’t a fan of football until I was 12 or 13. No idea why.
  72. I have read each Harry Potter book shortly after its release.
  73. If I could do another career completely unrelated to mine, I would be a psychiatrist.
  74. I write poetry and had one published in my university’s poetry magazine.
  75. I like and appreciate fine wine.
  76. My favorite type of wine is a toss-up between merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
  77. My favorite alcoholic drink is a cuba libre (rum & coke with lime for all you unknowing-types out there)
  78. My favorite beer is Moosehead from Canada.
  79. I’m not a huge chocolate fan.
  80. I don’t think the Chicago Cubs will win a championship in my lifetime.
  81. I can’t live without The Simpsons and The West Wing.
  82. I once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die… no wait, that’s from Johnny Cash’s list.
  83. My biggest driving pet peeve is people who simply don’t know how to drive. It’s not that hard.
  84. I never pledged a fraternity… and have absolutely NO regrets about it.
  85. My first car was a Pontiac Fiero.
  86. I rear-ended someone in said car because I was staring at a scantily-clad woman that was jogging.
  87. This occurred 2 weeks after getting a speeding ticket for driving 85 in a 55 zone.
  88. I know every bit of dialog from the original Star Wars trilogy.
  89. I don’t like the acting of Robin Williams.
  90. I can’t stand Oprah Winfrey.
  91. I’ve never felt very secure when it comes to personal finances; my wife handles them at home. But…
  92. I manage (successfully I may add) a multi-million dollar annual budget at work.
  93. My favorite piece of art is Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.
  94. I don’t understand the popularity of reality shows.
  95. I love doing crossword puzzles.
  96. I love the football reporting & writing of SI.com’s Peter King.
  97. I’m a huge fan of Chicago ‘radio legend’ Steve Dahl.
  98. My wife and I own over 500 CD’s.
  99. I think there’s a special place in hell for telemarketers
  100. Life is good

And an extra one... the first thing I taught my kids to say was "d'oh!"

That's it, 101. That was difficult and does not seem to have snapped me out of my writer's block, so you may very well see another list tomorrow.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Shout Out!

"There's a thin line between to laugh with and to laugh at."

Goodbye Richard... you'll be missed, but not forgotten...

Friday, December 09, 2005

It's gone...

Above picture taken @ 8:50 am cst, 12/9/05
At approximately 12:44 am early Wednesday morning, the final section of Busch Memorial Stadium (home of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball club) in St. Louis, MO. came crashing down...

Allow me a moment to pause for reflection...

This is a milestone in my life... having been born in the St Louis area and being a Cardinals fan for as long as I can remember, I am... sad.
Rather than subject myself to having to write another post about the destruction of a childhood and adulthood icon, I present to you a post I wrote a few months ago about my special memories of the stadium. Enjoy...


Originally posted September 30, 2005

Sunday October 2, 2005, the St Louis Cardinals will play their final regular-season game at Busch Memorial Stadium…though, fittingly, they are in the playoffs this year, so Busch will be spared the wrecking ball for a few weeks (hopefully many more weeks - Go Redbirds!!).
Having been born (and for the first 11 years of my life) raised and still constantly visiting family and friends in the St Louis area, this day is an emotional one for me.
Because of this, I have decided that today's blog entry will be about Busch Stadium, and the memory(ies) of mind that stand out the most.
The Gateway Arch reaches into the St Louis skyline, easily visible above Busch Stadium. It stands there like, in the words of The Sporting News, “an ever-vigilant sentry guarding its St. Louis treasures. Jewels, past and present, like Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Joe Torre, Ted Simmons, Bob Forsch, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols. Diamond memories of Cardinals, Clydesdales, baseball magic and World Series moments, all colored in a sea of red.” (I couldn’t have said it any better myself)
Outside the stadium the bronze statues of Stan "The Man" Musial, Gibson, Brock, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst and Jack Buck, strategically placed outside the stadium, sit ready to greet visitors and provoke inspiration. In recent years, the team has added smaller sculptures of other players, such as Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, and my favorite all-time Cardinal, Ozzie “Wizard of Oz” Smith.
From its 1966 opening through its impressive, and awe-inspiring facelift in the 90’s, Busch has carried the tag of a "cookie-cutter" stadium. It was the first of the sterile, boringly symmetrical, Astro-Turfed, multi-purpose facilities that sprang up in the late 1960s and '70s alongside Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers, Cincinnati’s Riverfront, and Philadelphia’s Veterans, along with many others.
The early Busch Stadium experience was Bob Gibson and Tim McCarver, Dal Maxvill, Joe Torre and Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock and Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr, Jack Clark and Keith Hernandez, Terry Pendleton and Al Simmons, George Hendrick and Willie McGee, John Tudor and Joaquin Andujar. It was waves of red, line drives into the gap, a man-eating automatic tarp, the Wizard of Oz, Whitey-Ball, Harry Caray, Jack Buck and Mike Shannon in the broadcast booth.
It was a massive two-sectioned scoreboard, one side occupied by an Anheuser-Busch eagle, the other by an electronic Redbird that flew back and forth during a seventh-inning stretch or in recognition of a Cardinals home run. It was team owner August A. Busch triumphantly circling the stadium in a beer wagon pulled by a team of Clydesdales, or an Ozzie Smith back flip.
It was beautiful.
There were no unusual angles, dimensions or nuances to spice up play. Dimensions were standard: 330 feet down both lines and 386 to the power alleys. Center field was 414 (later 404) and the AstroTurf, installed in 1970, was hard and fast.
Supporting the Cardinals meant appreciating the aggressiveness and fundamentals of the game, and, of course, the stolen base, which Brock and Coleman turned into lethal offensive weapons. The home run was a 70’s and 80’s afterthought. Whitey Herzog's 1982 world champions hit 67 homers (three fewer than Mark McGwire hit in his record-setting 1998 season) while recording 200 steals.
Further into the 90’s, new ownership, no longer content to let one of baseball's premier franchises play in a no-frills setting, retro-fitted Busch Stadium into one of the fan-friendliest playgrounds in the game.
The turf was replaced by grass. One area, decorated by flags, celebrated the retired numbers in Cardinals history. The bullpens were moved from the first and third base foul lines to areas behind the left and right field fences. And a more modern scoreboard in left-center was mirrored by a replay/highlights screen in right-center.
Any fan that had not been to a game since the 70’s might not have recognized the new Busch; sleek and modern the stadium became an attraction on its own merit. The house that a beer baron had built in 1966 was officially transformed into a warm, inviting for the best baseball fans in the world.
Trying to pick one favorite memory of Busch Stadium is hard. So I have picked two because, well, it’s my blog and I can do what I want. Also, because they are special to me for different reasons.
While I remember going to Cardinal games when I was younger (me dressed like a Cardinal geek – red shirts, red shorts, red hat, cardinal socks, cardinal sunglasses - I was a sight to see) with my parents and brother, or just my dad. The memories I remember most are much more recent.
Last season, 2004, the Cardinals made into the World Series for the first time since 1987 (a very long draught for a Cardinal fan, nothing of interest for a Cub fan). I was excited. My brother (who is not particularly a fan of sports) was excited. Our excitement grew larger when our Dad called and said our cousin has two tickets for Game 4 on Wednesday, October 27th and wanted to know if my brother and I wanted them.I was dumbfounded.
I couldn’t speak. I was speechless (that means the same thing I know, but stay with me here)
We jumped at the chance. So my memory is getting to the game very early, about 2 hours before game time. The plaza was jumping with a carnival-like atmosphere. Vendors selling food and beverages or novelties and souvenirs. Radio and TV stations handing out signs and rally flags.
It was incredible.
Then the game started. Our seats were in the last row. Literally, we could look behind us and see the city of St Louis. High up yes, but still with a great view of the field and the fans.
(The only negative thing about our seats was we were sitting next to two Red Sox fans. Now, I love sitting with Cub fans, whether it be Wrigley or Busch, because, while we may make fun of the other’s team, there was a mutual respect in there as well. Not so with these two schmucks. Think of the epitome of ego-filled baseball fans and you immediately conjure up images of Yankees fans. These two were like Yankees fans, rude, belligerent, loud, but were rooting for the Red Sox. Add to that that they used the overused and annoying phrase from Joe Buck’s commercial where he says” Slamma-lama-ding-dong.” Every other word out of their mouths was that phrase. By the 4th inning, my brother and I wanted to ‘Slamma-lama-ding-dong’ them back to Boston Harbor…but I digress.)
While the Cardinals suffered a rather impressive lack of hitting and pitching, just the fact that I was at a World Series game for the team I have followed for as long as I can remember, was incredible and etched in my mind forever.
The second moment was this past year when my wife and I, along with my brother and his girlfriend, took my twin daughters to their first Cardinal game. At the tender age of three, they behaved better than I could have possibly hoped. They sat on our laps and watched the game (who lost to the Atlanta Braves – notice a theme here? All of my Cardinal memories have the Cardinals losing the game in the background…) with an intensity and attention that is rarely seen in one three year old, let alone twin three year olds who always have a playmate with them wherever they go.
The fact I was there with my wife and children and my brother and (someday sister-in-law) his girlfriend, made the day that much better. To be able to have my daughters (who since they had been born had been having the phrase: ‘Go Cardinals!’ burned into their minds by myself) experience a game at Busch in the final season was a special thing for me. While they may not remember it all, I will.
And those are my two special memories. As I look back on my relationship with the stadium, I am filled with remorse, but also with hope that the new stadium will be as warm and inviting as the old one. And if it isn’t, it eventually will be.
Goodbye old friend…

Thursday, December 08, 2005

December 8, 1980

What happened here
As the new york sunset disappeared
I found an empty garden among the flagstones there

Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And now it all looks strange
It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain

And what’s it for
This little empty garden by the brownstone door
And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more

Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop

And we are so amazed we’re crippled and we’re dazed
A gardener like that one no one can replace

And I’ve been knocking but no one answers

And I’ve been knocking most all the day

Oh and I’ve been calling oh hey hey johnny
Can’t you come out to play

And through their tears
Some say he farmed his best in younger years
But he’d have said that roots grow stronger if only he could hear

Who lived there
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop

Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
We hear, we hear your name

Johnny can’t you come out to play in your empty garden
- Lyrics by bernie taupin

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

December 7, 1941

'A date which will live in infamy...'

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christmas Traditions

Potlatch: 'pät-"lach. Function: noun. A ceremonial feast of the American Indians of the northwest coast marked by the host's lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes destruction of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation. (See another definition from Wikipedia, here)

My family is not of Native-American ancestry, we are of Spanish blood, but every year we partake in a tradition that has its roots in the above-mentioned, Northwest-Coast Native American ceremonies of the past.

From even before I was born all those years ago (Thanks Mr. Harrison) my Dad’s family (along with my Grandmother on my Mom’s side – if she weren’t visiting her other child, my Uncle Warren & his family, in OK) would gather for Christmas Eve. First at my Aunt Adele and my Uncle Nishan’s house in Fairmont City (IL) then their house in Edwardsville (IL), and within the last 5 years at my parent’s house in Edwardsville.

It was a festive gathering… filled with food, presents, drinks and love. (I know, the last word makes it sound a tad corny, but it’s the truth)

First, the food. (Hmmmmm, fooooood, aaaaaahhhhhhh) It was absolutely incredible; fried chicken, rice pilaf, chorizo (spanish sausage), Spanish potato salad, Spanish Chicken and Rice, shrimp and roast beef & gravy (my mouth waters just thinking about it). Add to that my Aunt Dorothy's special punch (non-alcoholic for the kids) and it was something that a kid would never forget.

Than, the most important Christmas thing for kids, the presents... talk about opulence.

Rather than draw up a long-winded assessment of a few special memories (and realizing we are living in an era of incredibly short attention spans) I present some to you in Bullet Form:

  • One year, my (older) brother Al, and a few of our
    cousins, each received a RCA Studio 2 gaming system. A picture of the console is to the right --->
  • Sometimes, someone in my family or a family friend would dress-up as Santa Claus and deliver one present to every child there
  • After my family moved from Fairmont City to Marion, IL (City Slogan: 'Marion: home of Marion Federal Prison and... no, sorry, that's all we got') we continued to attend the Christmas Eve festivities. The four of us (my mom and dad and my brother and I) would get there, celebrate, eat, unwrap presents, then climb into the car for the 2 hour drive home. After we moved to Peoria we did the same thing, adding an hour to the travel time. We never considered stopping (at least to my knowledge we never discussed stopping) and to this day the drive holds some of the best family moments of my life.
  • Early on in this tradition, there was a sense of having to outdo each other. You see, unlike now, we did NOT draw names for the adults, gifts were bought for EVERYONE!!! Every single person got gifts for every other single person... it was an absolutely lavish concept. Here's an example: if Uncle 'Z' gave Nephew 'X' two Transformers (more than meets the eye you know...), then Uncle 'Y' had to give that nephew three of them... though, speaking from a child's perspective, it was a jackpot. Now, we have altered it to the adults drawing names with a price limit and everyone gets the kids something; so it has mellowed as we have ALL gotten older.
  • The house. My Aunt Adele & Uncle Nishan hosted the event from its inception up to 2000 when my parents moved back to Edwardsville and bought a large house for the purpose of being able to host family events and parties for friends. Even though my Aunt & Uncle's house in Fairmont was small (they had one child and them so they never saw the need for a really big house) we would all be there. I am talking about anywhere from 50-75 people in a house that was probably 1000 square feet. Years later, my Aunt and Uncle moved to a slightly larger house (1300 square feet) in Edwardsville and continued to host Seating may have been at a premium (you get up from the coveted couch seat, you lose it; 'no saves knucklehead!' as my cousin Ray would say)
  • The year we played a trick on my Aunt Dorothy, who has a long-lasting fear of mice. One year, my family and I decided to play on that for her present. We bought a rubber mouse, an old-fashioned mousetrap, and my mom added some fake jewels to it to make it look all nice and pretty. Then we put the rubber mouse's head in the snap. Wrapped it, and presented it to her that night. She opened it and boom! She was gone in a flash, like there was an Aunt Dorothy-shaped hole in the wall of the house where she burst out. Classic, priceless stuff.
  • There's also something about my brother falling (though he maintains he was "pushed" by one of our cousins) into the Christmas tree one year, though I was asked to leave that out of this post and... oops, sorry Al... my bad.

These are all some of the Christmas memories I have of the past, each one special, each one unique, and each one that I will never forget.

Now, with a wife and two children, I am busy making new memories with the three of them.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Almost gone...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ho-ho-ho

After noticing a few other DadBloggers doing this (MetroDad via DadCentric and Mr. Big Dubya also via DadCentric) I wanted to share with all of you (since it IS the season of sharing and giving) my favorite holid— (sorry, let me rephrase that, lest I get a phone call from House Speaker Dennis Hastert) my favorite Christmas movies.

Some classic, some irreverent, and some that’ll make ya ask; ‘How the hell is that a Christmas movie?’

One has to love the Christmas season. The sales, the commercialization (if I see one more reference to Chriskwanzakkah or Festivus, I’m gonna scream… or go postal… or both) and the eerie-workings of a man who knows all and sees all (or as Calvin once put it, “Santa Claus: kindly old elf, or CIA spook?”)

What I really look forward to though is the surfeit of Christmas movies. We all know them and welcome them; those shows and/or movies you see that make you realize that Christmas is just around the corner and will be here before you know it.

So here’s my list of my favorite Christmas movies, complete with links to Internet Movie Database (IMDB)…

How the Grinch Stole Christmas” – My all-time favorite, and I am referring to the animated version, NOT the train wreck of one caused by Ron Howard and Jim Carrey, that one, in the words of Bart Simpson, ‘both sucks and blows’. Boris Karloff is excellent as the narrator, with his unique voice booming classic lines such as “All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not,” and “He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!” Plus, I portrayed the Grinch in a 7th grade play… and I was ‘da bomb’… though back then that phrase meant there was a bomb somewhere…

A Christmas Story” – An 11-year old, a Red Ryder BB gun, Chinese duck for Christmas dinner and the Bumpus hounds. An instant classic (though I have heard that watching 24-hours of the movie will cause one to go mad) that has aged well. And let’s not forget that the kid who played Flick (Scott Schwartz, who also starred in The Toy with Richard Pryor & Jackie Gleason) later became a porn star before retiring in 2000 in order to try and break back into mainstream films… still hasn’t happened.

The Santa Clause” – Tim Allen at his best (and I use that term loosely). Original and funny. The only problem with this is the incredibly inferior sequel, “The Santa Clause 2”. Now comes word that they have made/are making a part 3… God help us all…

Scrooged” – an update of “A Christmas Carol” with a decisive comic-twist and an excellent performance by Bill Murray, Carol Kane and John Forsythe. Best quote from the movie: “The bitch hit me with a toaster.”

A Charlie Brown Christmas” – the music, the dancing, the beautiful oratory by Linus. And let’s face it… when the theme music starts, how many of us start doing the ‘Snoopy dance’… you know what I’m talking about…

It’s a Wonderful Life” – I know, I know. It’s trite and overdone and overly analyzed, and I think it is one of THE most overrated movies to make it onto AFI’s Top 100 films, but having said that… it is a classic, and no Christmas season seems complete without at least one viewing of it. Besides, it’s also fun to turn the volume down and make up your own dialog… and Jimmy Stewart has to be the worst actor/singer not named William Shatner in the history of cinema.

Miracle on 34th Street” – The original from 1947. Not the hokey 1994 version and CERTAINLY NOT the 1973 TV-version with David Hartman (whomever green lit that one should be shot by the way). Pure entertainment; Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn and a young Natalie Wood are all phenomenal. It’s simply an amazing film with a very good message: believe in what you want to believe in regardless of what others say. (And let’s hope they don’t remake it again because I know they’d cast Dakota Fanning as the girl, and I would NOT be able to forgive anyone for that… ever…)

Die Hard” – Ok, maybe not ‘technically’ a Christmas movie per se, but think about it… the action occurs on Christmas Eve, has quoting of Santa Claus… and it’s an incredible update of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Yes, you read that right, and if you don’t believe me read MetroDad’s take on it and tell me (and him) we’re wrong. I never thought of it myself until I read his post… and he’s right…

And finally, all the classic, animated/claymation movies like: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, “The Year Without a Santa Claus” and “Frosty the Snowman” – Produced by Rankin-Bass and starring such luminaries as Burl Ives (who attended my alma mater Eastern Illinois University and got the art studio named for him), Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Shirley Booth. With memorable characters like Yukon Cornelius, Charlie-in-the-Box, Heat Miser and his brother Snow Miser, Burgermeister Meisterburger, Winter Walock, etc. There’s even a boxed set now that I know I better get the Missus or I’ll be sleeping on the couch come Christmas evening.

And as an extra bonus, the WORST Christmas movie ever made…

Christmas with the Kranks” – the most unfunny, convoluted, idiotic, worst-book-to-movie-adaptation, pile of crap EVER put on film. Talk about 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back… (the movie itself is only 1.5 hours, but it took about 30 minutes to regain my intelligence and gray-matter) I could literally feel my brain losing brain cells while watching it. If you ever have an opportunity to throw a movie into a fire, this should be that movie. John Grisham, whose book: Skipping Christmas was the basis for the movie, ought to sue screenwriter Chris Columbus for defamation of talent.

You can mention “Jingle all the Way” and “Surviving Christmas”, but trust me when I say this one has them ALL beat. If you don’t believe me, rent it for yourself and find out the hard way.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A couple days off

After taking a few days off from writing for the Thanksgiving Holiday, I am back on this cool and thoroughly wet Sunday night… well, Sunday while I’m writing this, but Monday by the time I actually post it.

You may be asking yourself what I did these past few days? Well, lemme tell ya:

  • Ate WAY too much turkey, stuffing and potatoes (no yams for me, I just can’t bring myself to eat something that has the same color as Lucille Ball’s hair…) Not to mention too much wine… some really, really good wine though.
  • Watched the hated Dallas Cowboys lose to Denver in Turkey-Day Football. At least one of the two games was entertaining…(why the ‘hated’ Dallas Cowboys? Cuz’ that’s how I was raised; to hate, abhor, detest and loathe the Dallas Cowboys… and Notre Dame)
  • Went Christmas shopping… on Friday afternoon… the day after Thanksgiving… [Shudder] I’m still having nightmares about it…(Though I was NOT one of the crazy people who got up before dawn to shop… and if you were one of the crazies, my apologies. I did get a great deal on my wife’s present though… a new digital camera and printer-dock. And don’t worry, she knows about it already, so her reading this won’t ruin the surprise)
  • Purchased “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” for only $5 at Target and, while watching it, realized that Alfonso Cuarón is a brilliant director…
  • Decided what to get the twins for Christmas. (Ever since their Abuelo, my Dad, got his corvette, they have wanted one. In fact, every time someone asks them what they want for Christmas, they reply; ‘corvette’. So, that’s what they’re getting, a toy, motorized corvette that they can drive around in. And thus the madness begins…)
  • Dropped hints to my wife about what I would like for Christmas… hint: it starts with the letter ‘i’ and ends with the letter ‘d,’ with ‘Po’ in the middle…(I know the best part of Christmas is the giving… and we have gotten friends and family some truly wonderful gifts this year, the same for our daughters, who will be very happy on Christmas morning. Having said that, I dropped hints because she was trolling for present possibilities, and I had to comply… right?)
  • Hung Christmas lights and decorations outside (the weather was so nice I just had to do it Saturday; though I have NOT turned them on yet… and won’t until December 1st. BUT… all the lights are up, my inflatable Homer is up, and the inflatable snowman family is up. I just need to get another extension cord so I can plug them all in and fire ‘em up this Thursday… and not a minute sooner. And yes, for those of you wondering, Homer is me and the other three are my wife and daughters)
  • Found all the inside Christmas decorations, but we can’t put them up yet until we paint the kitchen (the remodeling is finally done) and the dining room this weekend… yay, what fun.
  • Had the twins’ Christmas picture (part 1) taken with the cousins (9 kids… oldest is 13, oungest is 5 months… you can all imagine how that went… [Shudder])
  • Realized, while watching snippets of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, that Tim Burton is taking some truly amazing drugs. How he comes up with some of his visions confounds me…
  • Went to the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus in Chicago with my wife’s family… all 18 of ‘em. (The circus was entertaining, but I maintain my position that clowns are evil… pure, unadulterated evil…much like this guy)
  • Ordered my daughters a gift that I had wanted to get them for some time. They weren’t available for their birthday, and they had been hard to find for the last few months… then I found a website that had them in stock. What are they you ask? Plush Star Wars lightsabers… one green for the oldest who likes Yoda, and one red for the one who likes Darth Vader. (Yes, they are only three years old and I have already showed them 5 of the 6 films – no Revenge of the Sith yet as I still think a few scenes may be too much for them. I.E. Palpatine’s face getting scarred by his force-lighting, Anakin and his implied-slaying of the Jedi Younglings, a few beheadings… things like that)

That’s about it… well-packed 4-day break if you ask me.

Back to work on Monday… with only 26 days until Christmas…no need to panic just yet…

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Shout Out!

"As God as my witness... I thought turkeys could fly..."

To you and yours, have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Flashback of Babies (Part 2)

PART 2

Immediately I ran over to talk to my boss and he, seeing the look on my face, told me to get the hell out of there...

Already having a phone list and an order in which to call people the minute I got into my car. First call: my mother-in-law in Kankakee. I call her, and tell her the babies were here.

At first, she did not believe me, thinking that I was pulling a prank (for those of you wondering; yes, I could see myself doing that) But, after hearing my voice and checking her caller id and seeing a University of Chicago phone number, she stated that she and my father-in-law would leave as soon as he got home from work in about 10 minutes.

I then called my parents and they jumped in their car and began the 4-hour trip to Chicago from St. Louis to see their first (two) grandchildren.

Worried that I, or any other family member, was not going to be there when my wife woke up, I called my brother (a professor) at his DePaul University office in downtown Chicago. Without a moment’s hesitation, he hopped into a cab and rushed over to the hospital to be with his sister-in-law when she woke up. (For that, my wife and I can never thank him enough.)

Because this was, in medical terms, a ‘Crash C-Section’, my wife was put to sleep and an IV inserted. Dr. Ismail was at a meeting elsewhere on campus and, from what we were told, bolted out of the meeting when he was told the Mono/Mono twins were coming. He got there in time and delivered them both, skillfully and with a very modest incision, at 4:19 PM on May 22, 2002.

My wife and I were told later that ‘Baby A’ came out crying and that ‘Baby B’ came out floppy and unresponsive – meaning she had to be given oxygen immediately after birth. Additionally, there were five/six knots in her cord and a twin-to-twin transfusion had occurred. She was the baby that began to decell upstairs.

My twins came into the world at 4 pounds, 14 ounces and 4 pounds, 3 ounces. Very good weights for 8-week premature, mono/mono twins.

I arrived at the hospital about 2 hours after I heard the initial call at home – traffic, of course, being worse than usual. I parked the car and ran (faster than I have ever run before) into the hospital. Upon entering the Lying-In center, I saw my brother walking out of the Labor and Delivery department while reaching for his cell phone. My wife had woken up and was very happy to see a family member staring back at her, even though they did mistake him for the father and showed him a picture of the (very large) placenta…that is something that I know he will never forget. Exchange between him and an intern: “Ever seen a placenta that large?” “Not since breakfast.”

Because my wife had had an emergency c-section, she was, essentially, knocked out and woozy for the rest of the day/night. This meant that she would not be able to see our children until the next day. Again, my brother to the rescue.

He is an amatuer photographer, never leaves home without his camera, and had already taken a plethora of pictures of the girls. So he went out and got then developed so my wife could see them. Why is this special you ask? Well, the University of Chicago Hospital is NOT in the best neighborhood of Chicago... so it was a tad, I don't want to say dangerous... but you get the idea, for him to walk the streets to get some pictures developed... but got them developed he did, and my wife and I truly appreciated it.

The next three and a half weeks my daughters were living in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University of Chicago Hospital while my wife and I lived next door in the Ronald McDonald house. The care they received at the NICU was above par and words cannot express how much they were cared for and tended to. The care my wife and I received at the Ronald McDonald House was also phenomenal and has become our number one charity to give and ask donations for... (hint, hint)

On the first day they were both on oxygen and had a feeding tube with 'Baby A' having her oxygen taken out first, followed by Baby B the next day. The feeding tubes stayed in about a week.

Additionally, both girls were in incubators in order to keep their temperature maintained and to monitor their heart and pulse. Every time the alarm went off, my wife and I immediately jumped, but the nurses, knowing how sensitive those things were, calmly checked on them and then sedated us.

After one week, they both started to feed off a bottle and were not receiving any oxygen assistance.

The girls had many tests while they were in the hospital, and passed each one with flying colors. The only issue was that one of them (the one born floppy and unresponsive) was having some trouble maintaining her temperature at times, but, since that was the only issue, they decided that the girls could be released. They would be moved from the NICU at the University of Chicago to the NICU at our home hospital, Provena St. Mary’s. (I would have preferred Riverside, but we all know how insurance companies are...)

The day of their move, the girls were each placed in a portable incubator (that looked like it was a centuries-old iron lung) and placed in an ambulance with drivers who obviously had no idea how to drive. My wife rode home with them in the ambulance while I followed in our 'chase' car.
After being at St. Mary’s for two days, they were both maintaining their temperature and overall doing well, so they were released and sent home.

The effect of a pregnancy on couples can be anything: profound, disconcerting, inspiring, and problematic. But when you see their faces for the first time, it all dissolves away. Our (read: my wife’s) pregnancy had its share of problems; but the final results were, in no elongation, totally worth it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Flashback of Babies

Reading on ChildsplayX2’s website about another fellow blogger’s twins being born (Matt @ Abbie Update), I thought I would post our story, in 2 parts. Read, and enjoy.

My wife and I were married on April 5, 1997 and began trying to start a family in the fall of 1999.

In April 2001, with a year and a half spent with a local doctor and NO success, we decided to seek an expert opinion and, based on a friend’s recommendation and success, my wife contacted the University of Chicago Hospital and was referred to Dr. Eric Bieber, a specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. During my wife’s first appointment the ultrasound showed numerous cysts on her ovaries and speculated that she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, a condition that goes grossly undetected in many women.

On November 8th, my wife went to Dr. David Cohen's office (Dr. Bieber left the University of Chicago and Dr. Cohen took over his practice) and had a blood test that confirmed a pregnancy, saying that she was 5 weeks, 1 day along. The first ultra sound was ordered for November 16th at the University of Chicago. During that ultra sound it showed one yolk sac and that she was 5 weeks, 3 days along. They scheduled us to come back a week later for another ultrasound to see if a heartbeat could be detected.

On November 23, 2001, the day after Thanksgiving, we returned to the University of Chicago for the follow-up ultrasound. This time, the doctor, nurse and my wife and I saw and heard something that was somewhat surprising: the sight of two yolk sacs, and the thumping of two heartbeats.

We could not believe it. My wife and I always knew that twins were a possibility with us. They run in her family (her maternal Grandmother having the first set some 30 years prior) and the fact that we were using fertility drugs. The doctors told us that our twins were the result of genetics and not the drugs.

After the appointment, we got back in our car and, not able to contain our joy, called our parents to inform them that they were getting not one grandchild, but rather, two of them. (Numbers 5 & 6 for my wife’s parents, numbers 1 & 2 for mine)

After that ultrasound, my wife was released back to her local Dr in Kankakee. On December 12th, 9 weeks pregnant, my wife experienced some bleeding. The two of us went to her local Dr's office the next day and had an ultra sound done at Riverside Hospital in Kankakee. During the ultra sound they were unable to see any space between the twins and thought the twins were conjoined. The Dr’s office called and scheduled a Stage Two ultrasound at the University of Chicago for the next day. Talk about the longest waiting period in our lives – exacerbated more by a sense of fear and feelings of what might be.

We went back to the University of Chicago the next day for the Stage Two ultra sound. Dr. Abramowicz (head of the ultra sound department at the University of Chicago and another fine doctor) confirmed for us that they were not conjoined but told us for the first time that they were Monoamniotic/ Monochorionic (mono/mono) twins.

(A Monoamniotic pregnancy is when each embryo or fetus from one single zygote ( commonly known as identical twins) is located within the same amnion which is itself in one chorion (Monochorionic). Sharing the same amnion (or the same amnion and placenta) can cause complications in pregnancy. For example, the umbilical cords of monoamniotic twins can become entangled, reducing or interrupting the blood supply to the developing fetus or becoming wrapped around the others’ neck. A mono/mono pregnancy occurs when a zygote (egg) splits after the 5th week)

Dr. Cohen was informed of this discovery, contacted my wife and referred her to a high-risk ob-gyn at the University of Chicago. Dr. Cohen also told her what to expect over the next few months, saying that she would need constant follow-up, no traveling past the first trimester, and hospitalization weeks before delivery.

My wife’s high-risk ob-doctor was Dr. Mahmaud Ismail. He was brilliant! (Both my wife and I suggest anyone who is pregnant with mono/mono twins in the Chicago area go to him. He is a very religious and very "human" doctor who made my wife and I very comfortable)

Dr. Ismail worked right along with my wife’s local Dr in Kankakee. Our first appointment with Dr. Ismail was on January 7, 2002; she was 12 weeks, 5 days pregnant. My wife saw her local doctor (or one of their associates) every two weeks and went to see Dr. Ismail once a month for an ultra sound. At 23 weeks, Dr. Ismail became her primary doctor. After her appointment with Dr. Ismail that week, he called two days later and ordered her on strict bed-rest at home. She had worked up to her 23rd.

Starting with the 24th week of pregnancy, my wife began to see Dr. Ismail once a week for an ultra sound – the only activity she could do on home bed-rest. She had failed her one-hour glucola test and had to have the three-hour test, which she passed the first time.

During the 25th week appointment my wife had an ultra sound to check the twins’ movement and fluid. All was fine. On April 8 (3 days after our 5th wedding anniversary), she returned for another doctors appointment and ultra sound. On this day she was feeling very, very sick.
My wife’s morning sickness had lasted for the first 13 weeks of the pregnancy and on this day she felt like it had come back with reinforcements. During the routine appointment, they performed a Non-Stress Test (NST) and an ultrasound. Before Dr. Ismail even walked into the room, he told my wife and her father that he was admitting her to the hospital for the remainder of the pregnancy.

(I was not present for this appointment, deciding along with My wife that I would forgo this appointment so I could save my time-off for when the babies came home…if I knew then what I know now. That also, coincidentally, was the day my co-workers threw my wife and I a Baby Shower. Was this a prophecy of some kind?)

My wife and I knew that this was going to happen, but not so soon. She was admitted into Labor/Delivery because she had the flu and they were concerned about the babies. They instantly started her on a regime of steroid shots and told her that they might have to deliver the girls soon. Her first night in the hospital they were able to stabilize her and the babies. Throughout the time she was hospitalized, she was hooked up to a heart monitor that tracked each baby’s heartbeats.

They moved her to the Perionatal Special Care Unit for constant fetal monitoring the next day. It was during the second night that one of the girls decided to de-cell (the heart rate suddenly dropped) and they rushed them back to Labor and Delivery where she then spent the next three weeks with very limited movement. She was not allowed to get up to shower, use the restroom or go off the monitors. If one of the girls was not traceable, the medical students, residents and/or nurses were in the room immediately with the ultra sound machines. On average, my wife was having 4 to 5 ultra sounds a day.

Every Monday my wife had a “routine” stage 2 ultrasound. Each one showed that the girls were growing and doing well. When we were in our 29th week of pregnancy, My wife was moved back to the peritoneal ward and was given permission to be off the monitors for 1 hour each day, still with continual ultra sounds. At 31 weeks, a stage two ultrasound showed each twin was close to, or over, 4 pounds. They repeated the glucola test and she tested positive for gestational diabetes, immediately she was given insulin only when her sugar levels were high. After three days of this, they decided to give her insulin twice a day.

On Sunday, May 19, we were 32 weeks. That Monday, May 20th, my wife and I were told that we had entered a very crucial and very critical week. Her privilege of being off the monitors was revoked and she was back to being monitored 24 hours a day with limited movement. Dr. Ismail’s desire was to get the babies to 34 weeks before delivery, scheduling her for a c-section at 33 weeks, 4 days on May 30th. Also on Monday, May 20th, they started her on a second round of steroid shots.

On Wednesday, May 22nd, my wife had another stage two ultra sound in the morning - the girls and their cords looked great! She ate lunch, and was feeling fine. Around 3:30 pm, one of the girls went off the monitor, the nurse assigned to my wife came in, and without any success in finding the heartbeat, paged the resident who came in with the ultra sound machine. The resident also could not locate the babies’ heartbeat at first - once she did, one of them was falling very quickly. They rushed her back down to Labor and Delivery under the guise of doing another stage 2 ultrasound. My wife tried calling me at work, then tried calling her mom at home… neither of us answered.

She delivered both girls at 4:19 pm on Wednesday, May 22nd. I was not around, nor was any of our family. I had gotten up from my desk at work to grab some coffee before I started my nightly trek to Chicago from Aurora, IL to see her. When I got back to my desk my voicemail light was lit, yet there was no message. Sensing something was wrong; I called home to check our voicemail. At 4:33 PM, I heard the message from one of the residents, Dr. Karp, saying that my wife had been taken down to Labor and Delivery for an emergency c-section and that she and the babies were doing well.

My daughters had arrived…

END OF PART 1. CONTINUED TOMORROW…

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You're kidding me, right?

No, I am not kidding. I am 100% serious... it is on its way.

What is? Christmas. And herein lies the problem.

Let me get this out of the way and just say that I like Christmas. In fact, I have nothing against Christmas as a holiday and as a Christian holy day. I don’t even have anything against Christmas becoming commercially crass in the last few years (Evolution baby! “Intelligent design” that, Pat Robertson!) as it was bound to happen.

Having said that, I feel I must rant about this topic, as if I don’t, I may very well have my head explode.

It is WAY too early for Christmas commercials… way, WAY to early.

It is to early for Christmas displays in department and retail stores.

It is to early to hear Christmas ‘muzak’ coming out over the loudspeakers.

There, I’ve said it.

I feel a little better now… actually I don’t. While watching football yesterday, I saw so many Christmas commericals I could feel my holiday anger and anxiety grow.

It is six weeks away… six freakin’ weeks!!!

Six weeks is too far in advance to see a little girl leaving an Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion out for Jolly Old Saint Nick. (and let’s just think about THAT for a moment. Do you really want Santa to be eating a great big glob of grease before he slides down your chimney? Ewww)…

… or to see beautiful people dancing around tossing gift boxes around for to push Target…

… or to see the plethora of toy commericals that, with every one, brings the inevitable uttering from at least one of my three-year old twins’ mouths: ‘Daddy, I want one of those.’ Never mind that the last one was for snow tires…

This past week, I saw houses putting up Christmas lights (never mind the one house I pass on my way to work, on a daily basis, who decided this past week to take down their icecicle lights… from last year! At this point in the game… wouldn’t it make more sense to leave them up?) I saw people taking down their Halloween lights (a separate rant altogether) and stringing up their Christmas lights. Now, this one I can almost forgive, as I almost did the same thing so I could get them up while the weather was nice and warm’ish’… but I wouldn’t turn them on yet, I wouldn’t even set up the extension cords yet… but these people turned them on THAT night…

I mean, shouldn’t there be a law? That is one reason I would want to become President, so I could pass a law making it a federal crime to put up Christmas decorations, play Christmas music or Christmas ads, or have Christmas sales until AFTER Thanksgiving.

Who's with me?? Leave me a comment and let me know.

It’s still 6 weeks away! Can I, for the love of all that is holy, get through Thanksgiving before I have to get inundated and see lights and holiday traffic coming out the yin-yang?

I understand marketing and advertising, but the commercials can start the Monday of Thanksgiving week, since that Friday is the big shopping day. That I would allow.

The rest of it though has to wait until AFTER I have gotten my fair share of L-Tryptophan, watched football and taken my nap!

I mean, come on now.

And why, when I hear the word turkey, do I think of... never mind, I'll save that comment for another blog.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Today's Shameless Plug


If someone as smart as Albert Einstein were to read The Bush-Whacked Administration, shouldn't you?

Friday, November 11, 2005

SHOUT-OUT!

Today is Veterans' Day, and while I could post about our brave men and women who have been fighting and dying for our freedom, I won't. Rather I will give a great big shout out with a very, very, very, very big:

THANK YOU!!

And special shout outs to Veterans in my own family: My Uncles Jimmy, Eladio, Henry & Warren, my cousin Tom, my father-in-law Bill and my brother-in-law Frank. Thank you all.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

The Great Lakes cover over 90,000 square miles and supply one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, with Lake Superior being the largest. The Chippewa Indians call Lake Superior “Kitchi-gummi” which means “great-water”. Later discovered by French explorers who named the lake, “le lac superieur”, which translates to upper lake.

Lake Superior is one of the busiest shipping lanes in North America and is connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence Seaway. More than 1000 ships travel its waters each year landing either in the port of Duluth in the United States or Thunder Bay in Canada. Lake Superior is also large enough that it has considerable effect on the weather, especially when winds blow across its surface. Duluth sees over 50 days of fog between spring and fall and sometimes during a particularly cold winter the entire lake will freeze over. Another weather phenomenon common to the region, and particularly to Lake Superior, are the sometimes-vicious “northeasters”, which are gales that occur (mostly in November) and are formed when intense low pressure systems pass over the lake, thus creating hurricane-force winds that churn up enormous waves.

(Locals refer to these storms as “the witch of November.” It’s little wonder that the bottom of Lake Superior is littered with the skeletons of no less than 350 ships, most of them falling victim to the temperamental November ‘witch’)

That’s fascinating Kemp, but why the hell are you telling us all of this? And why the hell so many links?

Simple. Today (Thursday, November 10, 2005) is the 30th Anniversary of the most famous sinking on Superior (as well as the most baffling): that of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald.

This is a story that has always interested me and I knew, after realizing that the anniversary was today, that I had to write about it and give all you loyal readers the means to find out more, thus the superfluity of linkage.

The Fitzgerald was one of the largest lake vessels of her kind at 729 feet long, 75 feet wide and with a cargo capacity of 27,500 tons. The 7,500 horsepower engines were built by Westinghouse Electric Corporation and helped the ship set different shipping records.

The captain was Earnest MacSorley and gale warnings had already been issued when MacSorley steered the Edmund Fitzgerald, loaded down with taconite, out of Superior, Wisconsin’s docks shortly after 2PM. Meanwhile what looked like a typical November storm was intensifying. On the morning of November 10, heavy rain was falling and winds were gusting from the Northwest in excess of 60 mph as the storm tracked toward Canada, pummeling the Fitzgerald. A little after 3PM that same afternoon, Captain MacSorley reported that his ship was suffering damage and listing. At that time, another ship (The S.S. Arthur M. Anderson) that was sailing close to the Fitzgerald, agreed to stay close until they reached the calmer waters of Whitefish Bay.

In less than a half hour, the storm intensified with wind gusts clocking in at over 100 miles per hour. Shortly thereafter MacSorley again called in to the Anderson, and reported that the ship had lost all radar. Both ships continued on through the worsening conditions, the Anderson keeping track of the Edmund Fitzgerald on her radar screen. By early evening, around 7PM, meteorologists believe the storm’s pressure reached its lowest point; this combined with energy from the jet stream and created a series of enormous waves that first slammed into the Anderson and then into the Fitzgerald. The Anderson sustained damage but survived the onslaught and immediately The captain of the Anderson, Jesse Cooper, radioed the Edmund Fitzgerald to warn the crew of what to expect. The last words that came from Captain MacSorley were, “We are holding our own”.

Ten minutes later, around 7:25 PM… the big freighter had disappeared from all radar screens and the ‘witch’ had claimed yet another victim.

The day after the wreck, Mariners' Church in Detroit rang its bell 29 times, once for each life lost, a memorial that continues to this day. Every year on the anniversary, the church reads the names of the crewmen and rings the church bell.

An investigation by the Coast Guard suggested that the Edmund Fitzgerald had likely suffered enough initial damage that she began taking on water, causing the ship to list. Already unstable, the Fitzgerald was unable to ride out the onslaught of the massive waves once the northeaster worsened and she foundered, plunging to the bottom of Lake Superior with enough force to snap her in half. That report proved controversial, with the most common alternate theory contending that inoperative radar forced the crew to rely on maps that were woefully inacurate and, as a result, the Fitzgerald ran aground on a shoal without the crew knowing it and received bottom damage, thus causing it to gradually take on water until it sank.

The Edmund Fitzgerald now lies rusting under 550 feet of water. None of the sailors bodies were ever recovered. On July 4, 1995, a submarine expedition salvaged the ship’s bell and replaced it with another (as a tribute to the sailors and their families) with the date of the disaster and the names of the dead engraved on it. The bell is on display at the Whitefish Point museum near Paradise, Michigan.

The mystery of exactly how and why the Edmund Fitzgerald sank has never been discovered and the attachment of the ship and the story lives on, helped by the Gordon Lightfoot song: “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” (lyrics to the song can be found here)

After reading a piece about the sinking in Newsweek, Lightfoot was inspired to write one of the signature songs of his lengthy career (and also one of his greatest hits) that turned into an improbable Top 40 smash.

Maritime historian Frederick Stonehouse, when speaking about the song, states: “In large measure, his song is the reason we remember the Edmund Fitzgerald. That single ballad has made such a powerful contribution to the legend of the Great Lakes.”

Three decades after the tragedy, the Fitzgerald remains the most famous of the 6,000 ships that disappeared on the Great Lakes. And the reasons for its sinking will probably never be known.