Pessimistic Optimism

Life as I see it… sort of.

What’s Your Number Name?

My daughter is at the age where she just blows us away with what she says and does.  This gives us a glimpse of how she interprets the world around her.  The one that we provide for her, good or bad.  In our case I would have to say that it is mostly good.

One of my favorite quotes of hers is, “What’s your number name?”  She obviously means age.  I think that it’s great that she knows that an age helps describe someone (am I reading too much into this?).

We visited my parents this morning and stopped to pick up donuts on the way (that could be the bad, letting our kids eat junk like that for breakfast occasionally… you know, three or four times a week).  When we were on the road again she said, “When I get big I’m going to drive to Dunkin Donuts and eat Dunkin Donuts and drink coffee.”  At least she is setting good goals for herself.

Because of my daughter our house is full of live animals of all types.  A hippo grazes on our couch, a whale swims through our kitchen, a horse named Brownie bucks through the family room saying giddy-up (she attributes that noise to the horse itself, not the rider), even a sloth makes an appearance moving ever so slowly across the floor (that one’s my favorite).  Her impersonations of animals hardly stops for a breather.  If I ask her a question using her name, she’ll correct me and say, “I’m a dragon, daddy.”  Then I’ll repeat the question, “Would you like some milk, dragon?”  She probably knows more animals than I do.  It’s her passion, that and drawing… oh yeah and letting insects crawl on her.  We’ve all got our hang-ups.  

August 31, 2006 Posted by | parenthood | Leave a comment

No Food for Dinner

Tonight my three year old daughter didn’t touch anything on her plate so she’s still at the dinner table.  We had to cancel a trip to Gramma’s house and hang out and play the waiting game.  Who loses here?

This is one of those frustrating parenting moments that the experts all have different opinions on.  Luckily, my wife and I are in agreement here.  She is “fake” crying as I type this, my daughter, that is.  We tried to reason with her to no avail. 

Writing this is helping keep me sane.  Hopefully someone learned something from this experience.  I know I didn’t… except that she has a very strong will.

August 31, 2006 Posted by | parenthood | Leave a comment

Butterfly Dreams and Chocolate Kisses

Another adventure with the kids under my belt.  This time my wife joined us because of a well timed vacation day… two on two, the way I like it.  We headed to the Great White North… actually to Niagara Falls, Ontario.  The Butterfly Conservatory was our destination.  None of us had been there before and we figured it would be pretty cool, especially because my daughter loves butterflies… usually with ketchup.

Crossing the border wasn’t as easy as it used to be, but not because of customs.  The posted speed limit on the bridge was 15 mph and the bridge was empty.  There were two of those “your speed is” things on the bridge and we couldn’t come close to the limit.  The slowest we went was probably 21 mph.  Talk about nerve racking.  I’d hate to be mistaken for a group of speeding terrorists.  My wife and daughter look pretty innocent, but my one year old son can be quite menacing.  Luckily, we made it through without much of a hassle.  There was one cavity search that came up with nothing incriminating.  Man, was I embarrassed when I found out the guy was just the duty free clerk… I hope he calls.

We arrived at our destination with hardly any whining.  I got over it.  The kids were in a great mood and we (wife and I)were excited to see what this place was all about.

Right from the start the butterflies were everywhere.  I’m not afraid of insects (with the exception of the scary spider in our front garden), but it takes a second to adjust to numerous colorful creatures flapping their wings in your face.  The kids seemed more fascinated than fearful.  My son tried grabbing any that flew in his airspace and my daughter howled joyously.

There were wings of every color of the rainbow, even yellow.  I actually was excited being there.  There was something about the thousands(that’s a guess) of insects landing all over the place.  My daughter desperately wanted one to land on her, but they landed on the rest of us instead.  That was probably a good thing for the butterflies because she occasionally likes to tear bugs in half (she innocently says that she is sending them to find their mommy and daddy).  I don’t know where she gets this from.  She got over the fact that none landed on her because a couple brushed against her face right before we left.  She said that they tickled her nose.  Sounds good to me.

We decided to have lunch at the Rainforest Cafe in N. Falls, ON.  This place is great for kids because of the animatronic animals that move around and make noise.  There is also a thunderstorm once in a while.  We’ve somehow convinced our daughter that thunder and lightning is fun.  It makes life a lot easier and eases my fears a little.  While waiting for our food I brought our son around to where the animals were.  He liked them… sort of.  My shoulder is still black and blue where he grabbed me when the elephant blinked.  It was a good lunch filled with good family fun.

Next stop, the Hershey store.  The two block walk was filled with all kinds of people, some of whom were actually attractive… almost.  Living so close to the Falls makes it easy to forget how many people travel from around the world to see them.  This place was packed on a Thursday afternoon.

Our daughter’s eyes lit up in the Hershey store.  What kid doesn’t like chocolate?  It was hypothetical.   My wife let her pick out whatever she wanted.  It sounded crazy to me, but we were on vacation… sort of.  After perusing all the selections she chose the very last thing she saw, a chocolate covered strawberry.  Delicious!  And messy.  Both kids devoured their treats.  And both kids were chocolate covered sticky messes.  Luckily we had baby wipes.  They work great and they’re disposable.  The kids were cleaner going then they were coming.

Everyone fell asleep on the ride home… except me (the driver).  That’s a sign of a great day with the family. 

August 29, 2006 Posted by | Humor, parenthood | 2 Comments

Dancin’ Fool

One of my best friends married the love of his life yesterday and I had the pleasure and privilege of standing up in the wedding (for reasons unbeknown to me, some people actually like having me around).  This was the second wedding I got to rent a tux for in three weeks.  Another great friend had me serve as his “best man” on August 5.  These are probably the last weddings that I will be asked to participate in for non-relatives.  That’s a shame because they both were tremendously fun… I even danced at them.  Picture Elaine on Seinfeld elaine-dancing.jpg , but not as graceful and hopefully not as feminine.  Luckily my beautiful wife looked so good out there that there is a chance that no one noticed me.

The whole day was a blast.  After dropping our dog off at the kennel I headed to my friend’s house who was also standing up in the wedding.  I was his ride (we hadn’t started drinking yet) to the groom’s mother’s house.  It was great to just b.s. with him because we both are quite occupied with our families and our careers and don’t get the opportunity too often.

The groom’s mother is a wonderful woman with great taste (she thinks I’m cute).  She prepared a great spread for all the guys in the wedding… I had two pancake and sausage sandwiches.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.  The groom was very calm… he should have been because he’s like fifty years old… just kidding!  He’s not that old.

We hung out and got dressed in an extremely purple room (sister of the groom’s).  Something about six grown men getting dressed together in a purple room with a picture of Patrick Dempsey on the wall just doesn’t seem right.  After that traumatizing experience we boarded the limo (a great big bus) and enjoyed a beer together on the ride to the church.

We sat, stood, paced and talked about everything for the next two hours while waiting for the people to show up (we were very early).  The rehearsal Nazi showed up first… she made the rehearsal HELL!  I’m still trying to block it out.  Hold me.  Really, please hold me.  Okay, I’m better now.  This time she left us alone, except for pinning the corsages on us.

The groom remained calm, cool (he did wipe his sweaty palms on his pants at least once) and collected during our purgatory… it was actually a good time.

When it was time the groom headed off to his isolation chamber with the best man.  We stayed behind to usher all the female guests to their seats.  Ah, the smell of ben gay and cigarettes… enough about my cologne.

The ceremony went off without a hitch except for a minor problem with a candle that wouldn’t light.  It was supposed to symbolize unity or togetherness or some crap like that.  If you need a candle to keep you together you’re in trouble.

The ceremony on a whole took less time than the rehearsal, I think.  At least it seemed like it did.  It was also more fun.  My buddy and I laughed so hard at times that we shook.  This seems to be a recurring problem when we’re in a church together.  Hopefully I never sit next to him at a funeral.

Champagne, beer, mountain dew and cheese and crackers were on the menu while riding to the cemetery for pictures.  After many pieces of cheese and a couple of beers I was quite full.  While enroute the “maid of honour” told me that I looked like the guy from American Idol.  I was confused because I have gray hair and a chubby face, there is no way that I look like Clay Aiken.   I shook it off and then we posed at a grave site.  It sounds much worse than it was. 

After the pics were done we headed to the reception at an upscale restaurant on the waterfront.  Cool stuff.  My beautiful wife walked onto the outdoor patio with some of our friends that weren’t in the wedding party and blew me away.  Damn, she looked good!  We ate hors douvres and sipped on (yeah, right) our beverages of choice.  The view on the patio was awesome.  It overlooked the marina, the lighthouse and downtown Buffalo.  City Hall looked as though it was wearing a burka because of the renovations taking place and it kind of scared me.

Next were the introductions.  This is fun.  It makes me feel like a sports star.  They announce your name and the crowd cheers.  I think I’m needy.  This experience was different than any other wedding I was in because I was involved in a threesome… there was one more guy standing up than the girls.  We shared the occupier of the purple bedroom with the picture of Patrick Dempsey on the wall.  She’s a lovely girl and took it in stride.

Dinnertime.  Delicious prime rib.  ‘Nuff said.

The party kicked into high gear when the bar reopened and guests (mostly women) invaded the dance floor.  Most of my friends and I stood near the dance floor and talked and laughed and passed gas.  Oh wait, that was just me.  It was kind of embarrassing because it was sooooo bad.  I’m a rather honest person so I admitted it and was shunned for a little while.  Even by my wife.

Like I said earlier I, too, ventured onto the dance floor once in a while.  Joan Jett’s “I love Rock ‘n Roll” sent my wife and I into a fit of fury (happy fury if that’s possible).  People were staring, but that’s okay.

The last song of the night was Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”.  We all headed onto the dance floor and formed an impromtu circle.  By the end of the song it was made up of about forty people including the bride and groom and most of the wedding party.

My wife and I had a hotel room for the night so this is where my story ends… Boom-chicka-boom-boom!

August 28, 2006 Posted by | Friends, Humor | Leave a comment

Do Fish Eat Sticks on a Picnic?

I just got back from an adventure with my kids.  We drove to a swamp to have a picnic… there is a park next to the swamp so neither, a boat, nor scuba diving gear was needed.  It took approximately five hours to get there.  Actual drive time was about five minutes, the rest was spent on the preparations. 

This is a big step for me to take the kids someplace other than the grocery store or my parents’ house without my wife.  I’m outnumbered and too often, outsmarted.  I thought about bringing our dog but that seemed like I would be biting off more than I can chew (like I wasn’t already).  I easily get fooled into thinking that the dog is on my side.   The next thing I know he chases a squirrel one way, my daughter runs another way and my son sits in the mud eating sticks. I think I made the right decision.

My daughter, who’s three, led the way over the “bridge”.  She liked looking at the ducks in the beginning, but wanted to keep moving.  Too many things to see I guess.  My son, who was in an umbrella stroller, wasn’t happy with my daughter’s decision to move on.  His hands were glued so tight to the railing that anything short of an ice cream cone wasn’t going to pry him loose.  Luckily a bird distracted him enough so that I could push him down the “bridge” with minimal damage left behind.

The troop leader,my daughter, pointed out all the dead leaves on the ground.  ALL of them.  This snail’s pace kept my interest peaked.  Then we hit pay dirt.  A part of the swamp opened up before our eyes that with a little studying we noticed several turtles on moss covered logs and a few more swimming in the water.

“Do you see the sea turtles, daddy?” she asked.  All turtles are sea turtles at this point of her life and that is fine with me.

“I see them.  Can you count them?” I asked.  She likes to be challenged.

She counted to twelve, which was close enough.  I counted about nine, but she might have saw a couple more than me.  She probably has better eyesight, anyway.

The boy and I really enjoyed watching the turtles do nothing much, but our leader told us we must press on.  Who’s in charge here?  Not me.

Another duck swam toward “the bridge” and we all got excited.  It went right under us so we each went to the other side and watched it try to swim into the high reeds.  It fought its way in and we all laughed.  This time we were allowed to stay around for a while because the leader enjoyed every minute of it… except when I refused to let her throw a stick to the duck.  I explained that she needs to keep the stick throwing to our dog… I contradicted myself in less than ten minutes.

We moved on to dry ground for a short stint on a path.  The leader carried a stick and liked smashing the dry leaves.  She really likes leaves for some reason.  She noticed a large colony of ants going berserk where she disrupted the leaves and she got very excited.  She also loves bugs.  The more leaves she moved the more ants there were.  This was fine with me because she got very giddy and my son tried reaching down to touch them, too.  Soon I actually made a decision to head back toward the bridge.  My daughter tried to over rule me, but the numerous ants crawling on her legs were enough evidence to make my decision final.  At this point I didn’t know they were also climbing on me.

On our way back, my daughter insisted on throwing a stick in the water.  I relented on one condition, I get to pick where she throws it in.  That suited her fine, so we looked at the turtles quickly… they were getting hungry (the kids, that is).

“Don’t throw it yet.”

“Okay, daddy.”

We looked at the ducks.

“Not yet.”  I could see it in her eyes that she wanted to launch it.  

 “Okay, daddy.”

We got to an open area of the swamp without any visible animals so I told her to throw her stick.  To my surprise, she broke a little piece off and dropped it in the water.  Immediately a fish came up and ate the piece of stick.  Someone shrieked… it might have been me.  She got a huge kick out of this so she dropped another little piece and the same thing happened.  Even my son got excited on that one.  The fish stopped coming up after the fifth piece.  They probably couldn’t open their mouths any wider with sticks clogging them up.

“Daddy, The fish ate my stick.”

“Yes, he did.  Let’s eat.”

“Can I have jelly and peanut butter, daddy?”

“Of course you can.  Jelly and peanut butter.”  I said it the way that she has said it from the beginning.  She is definitely the boss of me.

The three of us strolled and rolled to the picnic area and enjoyed our jelly and peanut butter sandwiches.  For how much I stressed about taking the kids somewhere by myself, it was a completely enjoyable day… except for the mosquito bites where I swore I sprayed repellent on.  Oh yeah, I think I still have ants in my pants, literally.

August 23, 2006 Posted by | Humor, parenthood | 3 Comments

Sleep Deprivation

I’ve been awake since 6 am Friday (give or take a couple of cat-naps) and I’m getting cranky.  Every time I doze off something unnecessary wakes me up.  Here are a few examples: a man was beaten to a bloody pulp and needed our help… give me a break; Someone was possibly trapped in an elevator… can’t it wait until morning?; another guy was beaten bloody… not to a pulp though, so he definitely could have waited.  Those were during the night.

During the day my kids demanded my attention… like I’m any fun.  They even insisted on eating… more than once.  My wife told me to go to bed, but I refused unless she would join me.  She said no… I’m hoping it was because someone had to be with the children and not because I still haven’t changed my underwear.  I asked her if we could put them in the crate with our dog because he’s old enough to watch them (4 years old x 7 = 28 in dog years).  I even promised to make it quick… like I have a choice.  She still said no so I stayed awake.

I finally fell asleep while watching television at 3:40 pm. Unfortunately, I had to leave for work at 3:50 pm.  Things keep coming up at work that make it hard to sleep… obligations, duties, bosses, etc. 

So here I sit in my crankiness hoping that tonight I’ll finally be able to sleep.  I want to reach James Frey’s supposed level of unconsciousness in his memoir without the aid of any drugs or alcohol.  Wish me luck!

August 20, 2006 Posted by | Still Awake | 1 Comment

I was Robbed (literally)

I arrived at work one person and left someone else (I’m actually still at work, but I liked the way that sounded).  I was robbed.  Robbed right where I work.  Some nice kids stole my cell phone… and my sense of security and well being.  Granted, I left it sitting on a sandal, but I did cover it with the other one.  A lot of help that did. 

Three ten year old boys robbed my cell phone while getting a glass of water from one of my co-workers.  It made me sick to my stomach.  I felt dirty (that had nothing to do with the robbery).

We figured it out through discussion and deduction.  A few of us were gone from the building for about an hour.  When we came back I noticed my sandals were separated and my phone wasn’t there.  People mess with each other at my work so I didn’t think the worst.  A guy had driven through where the sandals were and insisted that the cell wasn’t there then.  He helped me look everywhere and It didn’t make any sense.  We called it and it went straight to voice-mail (this made me upset for two reasons: I knew that the power was on; and that I had to listen to my whiny message on the voice-mail).

We gave up looking (me first) and I attempted to eat dinner.  It was hard to swallow.  I felt angry and started to believe that it had been stolen.  That’s when one of the guys casually mentioned that he gave three kids water.  He still didn’t suspect them, but another guy said they looked like they hurried out of here.  Ah ha! 

He said, “I know what they look like.  Let’s find ’em.”

I said, “Good idea.”  I kept telling myself to keep my cool if we find them, because I don’t need to be the one getting arrested.

They were only two blocks away under an overpass.

Four of us got out of the truck at the same time and questioned them.  We’re all in our 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and the kids are about ten.  Who’s smarter?  Probably them, but that’s beside the point.  One of them immediately pulled the cell phone from his pocket and said, “We thought it was my cousin’s.”

“Does your cousin work there?”  The obvious answer was no.  Only eight of us work at the same time and his cousin (if he has one) isn’t one of the eight.

Luckily the guy doing the most talking kept his cool because I was blowing up inside.  I told them that I should make them get off of their bikes and take them and asked how they would like it.  I also banned them from ever stepping foot in our building ever again, even if it was on a school field trip.  Why they would have a field trip to a cat-bathing facility I don’t know (see “Self Awareness” entry).

In the end we drove over to one’s house and told his parents.  His father wanted us to have him arrested.  The kids, not the father.  Unfortunately we didn’t.  But I have a feeling that this kid is in a lot of physical pain right now and I hope that he learned his lesson.  I know that I did.  I’ll never leave my cell phone or anything else valuable out when we have to leave the building again.  And I’ll always wear clean underwear.  Well, not always.

I know that having a cell phone stolen isn’t a big deal… unless it’s your cell phone.

August 19, 2006 Posted by | Robbery | Leave a comment

Baby Steps

My wife and I recently enjoyed a major milestone in my son’s life: his first steps.  It’s been a little over a month now and he’s walking more and more.  He looks like a duck and falls quite often, but he’s getting there.  It’s amazing to watch the progression of skills and his timidity is disappearing by the day.  I know that before long it will be old hat, but for now, though, I’m trying to relish this moment in time.

The next milestone will be talking so I better watch what I say and how I say it.

August 17, 2006 Posted by | parenthood | Leave a comment

Self Awareness

I posted my first blog yesterday.  It’s been a while since I had or did a first of anything that I can think of and I can’t get it out of my head.  On one hand it’s good for me because it keeps me a little on edge knowing that something I wrote is out there standing naked in the rain being gawked at (by about four people, if I’m lucky); on the other hand it can be a negative thing because I want to know what people think (unless it’s unfavorable, of course).  Lucky for me, I’m a great writer (ha, ha!).  Did I just call myself a writer?  Cool!

I’m hoping to write something everyday.  Even if it’s only a couple of sentences.  We’ll see how it goes.  If I can make one person laugh it will all be worth it.  That’s a crock.  I’m doing this for me.

I’ve been writing for about three years now and have been hesitant to put myself out there.  Luckily I make a decent living doing something else (I’m a professional cat bather.  The biggest obstacle I face, besides the fact that cats in general hate the water, is my severe allergy to the feline persuasion.  By the time I’m rinsing the shampoo off of Morris I look like Rocky Balboa after fifteen rounds and breathe like Darth Vader.).  This might be the kick in the behind that I need.  If not, at least there will be proof that the intentions were there.

Here goes nothing.  Time to hit the publish button.  Oh yeah, I need to only write the interesting stuff.

August 17, 2006 Posted by | All about me | Leave a comment

Camping: Two kids, a wife and a whole lot of bullfrogs

My family went camping… sort of, we pitched a tent by a pond on someone’s property whom we know.  It seemed like a fun thing to do.  Wear the kiddies out at the birthday party all day, on same said property, and let the kids crash while Mommy and Daddy(me) hang out by the camp fire and relax.  Did I mention the rain?  The monsoon in the evening?  Yes, it poured during the gift opening ceremony (thank god!).  This has to be the most boring ritual (except for when it’s for my kids, of course).  “Look another stuffed animal.  Ooh, a pair of socks.  What do you think the next one will be?”  SHOOT ME!!!  Be prepared for tangents, I’m new at this blogging thing.

Back to the campfire… were we even there yet?  My son drooled his way to sleep on a lap at the fire.  He’s fifteen.  Fifteen months, that is.  My daughter overindulged on s’mores and giggles and reluctantly stayed laying down in the tent on the second try.  Mommy and Daddy(me) sauntered back to the fire with the hopes and dreams of a comfortable night in nature.  That is when the rain decided to make an encore appearance.  Calling it rain doesn’t do it justice.  Torrential downpour fits nicely.  Throw in some lightning for fun and we had a hell of a party going on.

Our daughter screamed out as I struggled with three chairs and two beers.  I’m sorry to say and am quite embarrassed to reveal that the beers didn’t make it.  For you chair lovers out there, you’ll be happy to know they made it to the tent mostly dry.  Aaah!  Safe and sound in the tent.  Dry, too.  For now.  Drip!  Drip!  Drip!  The spot in the three room tent where our little girl was had a leak.  Oops, we never water-proofed the tent.

My daughter ended up between her mommy and daddy(me) in the middle of the tent. My space was limited so I could only lay on my side with my daughter’s knees digging into my ribs and I kept slipping downward toward one of the puddles created because we forgot to waterproof the tent.  To put it mildly, I was a little uncomfortable.  My son stayed asleep in the playpen on the other side of the one remaining partition… that was until we draped it over said playpen to prevent the most recent drips from soaking him.
After what seemed like three hours of nature’s fury raining down on us it stopped.  I think I slept a total of three minutes at that point.  That is when bullfrog mating season began.  I thought I was in a Budweiser commercial.  You know, the one with the girls wrestling.  Never mind!

Those #%&^ing frogs wouldn’t shut up.  Did I mention that we didn’t bring pillows and that we forgot the pump for the air mattress?  At this point I needed something to comfort me so I grabbed the nearest thing and tucked it under my head as a pillow.  It was a burlap bag full of things we thought we needed and didn’t.  I still have pockmarks in my face from the hour I used it that would make James Woods jealous.

While enjoying Kermit and friends’ greatest hits I had an epiphany.  For anyone that needs to look that up, go to dictionary.com.  There was toilet paper in the sack.  Aaugh!  Now that was a pillow.  It gave me just enough neck support to help take me to the sandman.

The fifteen minutes I caught were like heaven.  If heaven’s mattresses are made up of rocks, sticks and toddler’s elbows and knees.

The frogs finally stopped and I could rest peacefully… I thought.  I never slept in a tent with small children before.  When the sun comes up, they want to get up.  In July in Western New York the sun comes up just after 5am.

My wife and I never felt better… er worse.  It sucked!!!  But the kids had fun and that is all that matters. 

August 16, 2006 Posted by | Humor, parenthood | 1 Comment