Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Dinner At School

Tonight was a very nice evening for our family. Daughter13 was installed as a member of the Leo Club at her middle school. For those who aren't familiar with it, the Leo Club is the youth service program of the Lion's Club.

When she first came home and said she wanted to be in the Leo Club, we asked what that was. She said she didn't know for sure - just some kind of club that helped people. That sounded good to us!

So she has been busy this year doing bowling fund raisers, gathering money for a boundless playground, and collecting used eyeglasses to aid those who can't afford them. And tonight the club members made dinner and served their families. And the dinner was followed by a small program where new members were formally installed as members.

Daughter13 is a good kid. I think we'll keep her. :)

Monday, January 29, 2007

We request your presence...

at a party in honor of your birthday!

My wife celebrated a birthday last week. (I won't mention which birthday. My momma didn't raise no fool!) And she received gifts and cards and phone calls from family and friends. And our family took her out to dinner and baked her a cake. It was all good.

But she also got an invitation to a party. In her honor. And that struck me as odd.

Let me explain...

My wife grew up Mormon. Now I'm not here to bash Mormons or any other religion. Every person can choose their own spiritual path. And I know lots of Mormons and they are all very nice people.

But my wife has not attended the Mormon church in all the years I've known her...and for a few years prior to that. So we're going back over 25 years! In that time she has lived in several different states, found another spiritual path that is deeply meaningful to her, and has no intention of returning to the religion of her childhood.

So how does the religion of her childhood relate to her birthday. Well, it was the local Mormon church (or 'ward' in their terminology) that sent her the invitation. Here was a group of people whom she has never met, inviting her to her own birthday party at the home of someone she doesn't know.

Maybe it's just me who finds it odd, I don't know. But the cynic in me finds it hard to believe these people are very interested in her birthday. I mean, where were they the last 25 or so birthdays, if that's the case. No, I'm pretty sure this is an attempt to lure her back to participation in their church. And even then, I've got no problem with them just calling up and saying 'hey, we know you haven't been here before, but we would like to invite you'. At least that's honest. But to stage a party in her honor...as a way of getting her to attend a church function...well, I found it odd. Even to the point of being almost inappropriate.

But then I've been called a cynic before...so this won't be the first time.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Enhance: to further improve the quality of

Just like you, my e-mail gets a selection of spam every day. I get the offers to earn money in my spare time. I learn that I've been pre-approved for literally hundreds of credit cards and mortgages. The experts have chosen me, out of all the deserving people in the world, to share their secrets of making money by owning real estate. And the list goes on. And on. And on. But today I got one with the subject line - #1 in male enhancement.

Excellent! Cause I don't want to mess around with #2! Let's get the best there is!

Now I'll admit, I get these all the time. And I've never actually opened and read one of these e-mails. They could be talking about enhancing my hair so it will never turn gray and never fall out. Perhaps they have a product to enhance my smile. Maybe they can enhance my eyes so much that I won't need glasses! Or maybe they are peddling roids and I can bulk up from head to toe.

But I doubt it.

I am pretty sure they are focusing on my...other part. And it just makes me laugh and hit the Delete button. But then I get another. And another. And eventually, I start to wonder if they are trying to tell me something! I mean, continued offers to 'become a real man' start to make a guy feel like...well...do they know something I don't?

Thankfully I've lived long enough to be pretty comfortable with who I am. So I can just enjoy the silly attempts to get me to read their mail. And this week I got the best one ever. An e-mail with this subject showed up in my box...

Enhance your male sausage!

That was funny enough it almost made me open their mail.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Can I get a "YEEHAW!!"

My wife made it home yesterday! I was thrilled. The kids were thrilled. MIL is doing pretty well...and we'll see where her treatment goes next. But at least for now, our family is all back under one roof and I'm pretty darn happy!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I've been blogging for three months now and I love it! I was a lurker for a while, reading but never commenting. Then I started to comment. Then I started to blog. And I've 'met' so many really fun, really interesting people!

But I've also learned that I have a lot to learn! There are so many 'bloggerisms' to figure out. People tag and get tagged. There are blog memes. Thursday Thirteens. Stuff Portrait Fridays. HNT (and the more daring ...the other HNT). There are parent bloggers and mommy bloggers. Blog rings. Blog Talk Radio. Michele's Three Day Meet & Greet. And so much more.

I've not done any of these except the Meet & Greet (trust me, you don't want me doing HNT!!). But I've had a lot of fun learning about them. It is great to read what others say when they do these and interesting to see all the photos they share.

And I'm a parent. Sometimes I write about my kids. But I don't think of myself as a parent blogger cause I write more about me and my experiences...and sometimes that just happens to involve the kids.

Bottom line - I'm having fun. When I began, I wondered if I would write a week or two and then just fizzle. Lose interest. But damn, I find that my blog time - whether reading, writing, or both - has become a really nice part of my day! I look forward to it...and have a bit of withdrawal if I don't get it!!

So to all of you who have commented here and/or who write such great blogs that I visit all the time (and continue to discover more!)....THANK YOU! I love my new neighborhood!!

Friday, January 19, 2007

We Got Ourselves Some Snow!

Oh yea, baby! The white stuff. The powder. No two flakes alike. SNOW!!

Okay, so we only got about half an inch. I don't need to hear the laughter from my blogging friends in Colorado. For that matter, Tony in L.A. and Jill in Texas have had more snow than that. But I don't care! WE GOT SNOW!!

This is Connecticut. Where that kind of thing is supposed to happen during the winter. I mean, that little holiday song, White Christmas...you know the one? Sure ya do. Well, it comes from a movie called Holiday Inn. And the movie is set where? That's right! All together now....


But this year has been odd. Warm. Dry. Nary a flake in sight. Till this morning. And even though it was a measly amount, I feel like things are the way they should be again.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

By our powers combined...

My mother-in-law continues her battle with leukemia. But the good news is - she is home from the hospital! Her white cell count is up and there are no signs of cancerous cells at the moment. She is still very weak and not eating really well, but that is to be expected. And she will be back in the hospital in two or three weeks to begin her second round of chemotherapy. With at least a couple more rounds after that. So still a long way to go.

As many of you know, my wife is at their home now helping out in any way possible. And we've sent care packages, cards, etc. But we wanted to do something just to remind ourselves and others that we are thinking about her and supporting her every day.

So we made a donation to the American Cancer Society which allowed us to get a 5-pack of wrist bands. They don't have a band specific to leukemia, so we chose the red band shown below:

The Chinese characters are for Courage, Hope, and Strength.

And right before my wife left to go to their house this week, we took a photo of our whole family wearing the bracelets so my mother-in-law could see that we were thinking of her every day:

As we gathered for the quick photo, Son19 commented that the pose looked like the old Captain Planet cartoon - "By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!"

We thought it was a pretty funny comment, but I also realized it was a perfect caption for the photo and the perfect summary of our efforts to battle cancer.

When I think about the impact of cancer on our family, it is a bit frightening. My mother-in-law is undergoing her current battle. My mom went through radiation for breast cancer a few years ago, and fortunately is still cancer-free. My wife's dad passed away from a brain tumor while she was in college. Her grandmother passed away with cancer just a few years ago. One of my co-workers and friends, Mary, went through treatment for breast cancer only a couple of years ago. And my good friend and co-worker, Mike, just went through radiation treatment for prostate cancer this summer. You can read his blog of his treatment here.

And it's not just our family. I recently went back and read all the postings from radioactive girl about her diagnosis and treatment and was very moved by her writings.

None of us, alone, can do much about cancer, other than support our loved ones. But by our powers combined, perhaps one day, we will conquer this disease that hurts so many.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Mashed Potato Story

Many folks commented and supported my cooking efforts on my last post. Thank you! But Meander was the one who prompted this post when she said "I would love to hear the mashed potato story". So without further delay...

The disastrous mashed potato dish which Daughter13 has burned into her memory needs a bit of history so you'll understand my relationship to the mashed potato.

When my wife and I were just dating, we got together to share a meal. We were going to work together to prepare it...and then settle in to enjoy it. And one of the items we planned to eat was mashed potatoes. At some point in the preparation for the meal, she began peeling potatoes.

Now, I should insert here that I did eat food as a child. I grew up eating a variety of foods - including mashed potatoes. My mom cooked dinner every night. If it came in a can or a box, she cooked it. Excessively. Excruciatingly. Until all flavor and nutritional value had successfully been removed. So I knew a thing or two about food.

So I asked, with real curiosity, "What are you gonna do with those?"

To which my wife casually replied, "These are for the mashed potatoes."

Now, when you are in a new relationship, a guy is hesitant to point out to his girlfriend that she has lost her mind. But I couldn't just overlook this insanity. So I gently commented, "But honey, those are for baked potatoes, not mashed potatoes."

She paused in her potato peeling and looked at me with an astonished expression - as if I had just grown a third eye on my forehead. And she asked the million dollar question, "Well where do you think mashed potatoes come from?"

"From a box."

Some time later, after recovering from the uncontrollable laughter and changing into dry pants, she returned to peeling her potatoes and continued the conversation.

"So you think mashed potatoes come from a box?"

In what later proved to be an amazing exercise in naiveté, I pushed forward, "Yes. You must have seen then at the store. These boxes have these little potato-flavored flakes in them and you just boil some water and pour them in. You add some milk. And that is how you get mashed potatoes."

This produced another round of laughter and some gasping comments such as "Stop it. You're killing me!"

After gaining some measure of control and completing an additional change of pants, my soon-to-be wife patiently explained the amazing story of How A Potato Becomes Mashed Potatoes.

This was culinary magic! I had no idea. I honestly thought that mashed potatoes were sort of a fake food product that you only got from a box.

My wife not only revealed this secret of potatoes to me, but during our first years of marriage she also taught me how to make mashed potatoes using actual, real potatoes. Don't get me wrong, our cupboard usually has some potato flakes in it for emergencies. But we also have whole potatoes for actual cooking and eating.

And all this brings us to The Mashed Potato Story. A few years ago my wife was out of town for some reason, and I was left to feed and provide a relatively safe home environment for our three children. And one night I decided to make mashed potatoes to go along with whatever else we were having. So I did exactly like I had been taught. I peeled the potatoes. I diligently diced them into cubes and put them in boiling water. I tested them often for just the right degree of tenderness. I drained them at just the right moment. And then I mashed them...adding milk, butter, and salt for just the right taste and texture.

I got one out of two. The taste was just fine. But I made a serious error in judgment when adding milk. Way too much! I did not have mashed potatoes in the pot. I had something that looked more like potato broth.

The rest of dinner was ready. Three children looked at me with hungry, expectant faces. What do you do when your potatoes are too thin? My wife had not taught me that!

But I'm an adult. I can problem-solve. What would be the logical strategy for saving this dish?

Yes! Add those potatoes from the box!! If those are flakes where you just add water...well then they'll work just fine adding them to my potato broth. They'll soak up some of the moisture, creating just the right consistency. And they'll just add more potato-flavored goodness.

So I added a bunch of flakes. Stirred them in. Oops. Too many flakes. Now I had potato cement. No problem, just a bit more milk. Damn! Too much milk! This whole cooking thing was turning out not to be as easy as Julia Child made it seem! But I persevered.

And eventually ended up serving something vaguely resembling a potato bisque. That tasted like crap.

And while the rest of the meals I've cooked for my kids have usually come out fine. And while I've made mashed potatoes (from real potatoes, which is still just really cool!) many times without incident. That one disaster has settled into the brains of my children. And I never cook without being asked, in a hesitant and frightened voice, "You aren't making mashed potatoes, are you?"

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Man On His Own

Well, my wife left mid-day today for the 6 hour drive to visit her mom and step-father. You may recall the earlier post right before Christmas when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia. Well her first found of chemo has come and gone...and she is getting her strength back. Her white blood cell count is rising. And there is hope of her coming home soon! She'll go back for at least three more rounds of chemo, but this was the most intense.

So now that visitation restrictions are removed and a trip home seems near, my wife drove there to lend a helping hand - buy some groceries, clean the house, run errands for them, offer some emotional support to my father-in-law who is pretty exhausted, and to provide some all around help and support. She might be gone a week. Might be a couple of weeks. Who can say?

And that leaves me and the three kids to manage without her. And they seem fine with that. Oh, they did have a few questions. Son19 asked this afternoon "With mom gone, what we do about eating?" Daughter13 reminisced about my failed attempt at mashed potatoes several years back and asked that I please not try that while mom was gone. But Son16 supported me! He said my cooking was...well...his word was 'creative'. That's a compliment, right?

Pay the children no attention. I'm not helpless. I cooked dinner tonight and no one died. So I don't know what all the worry is about.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A comment about comments on comments

I'm still getting to know my way around my blog neighborhood, as Dirk affectionately calls it, and I've come upon an interesting question or two. And those questions all have to do with comments.

We all get them. It seems we all enjoy getting them. My questions relate to the idea of...what do we do with them when you get them???

I suppose we all read them. I know I do! Though a few blogs seem to get so many comments that is must be very time-consuming to read each and every one.

But some bloggers seem to be very conscientious about responding to comments on their blogs by leaving comments of their own. Bardouble at My Crazy Life is good about that. So is Chucky and May. And Jonathan down in his basement. Winston does it. And so does Baron, the professor of all that is unnecessary. And those are just a few.

Others read...but don't respond or add to the conversation. They move on to the next post and share something new with their visitors.

My question is...do you care? I sometimes respond, sometimes not. Does it matter? I mean, if you leave a comment on a blog, do you go back to see if the blogger responded?

I don't think there is a 'right' or 'wrong' way to do it. Both seem fine. I guess I'm just curious what people like. What do you like to do with the comments you receive? And what do you like to be done with the comments that you leave all through your neighborhood?

Another Playoff Victory

Gotta say...I'm very excited! The Patriots were victorious this afternoon over the Jets. This hasn't been their most dominant season, but they are still fun to watch!


Friday, January 05, 2007

Meteorological Musings

I just have to point out that Mother Nature has lost her mind. Seriously. It is the first week of January...in Connecticut. And as I write this at 7:15 in the evening, it is a balmy 57° outside. And you can see in the little graphic what we expect tomorrow. This is wrong!

We've got our bulky winter coats hanging by the door. Gloves stuffed in the pockets. Various hats and scarfs nearby. Forty tubes of chapstick ready to fight off the dry lips from the winter winds.

Nothing. No snow. No ice. No arctic breeze.

I'm not really complaining. Just pointing out. Just in case you're keeping track of signs of the end times. Cause this might be one.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy 2007!

I've been reading everyone's resolutions today. A few of the 'usuals'...lose weight, procrastinate less, eat less, etc. We all have those...but they are so hard to live by. But I wish each of you the best!

Teena had a great scheme for combining her blogging and her fitness...that she says she got from someone else...but still, a fun idea.

Some folks have deeply moving resolutions about new directions in their lives. And I hope each comes to life for you.

For me, I don't usually make resolutions. But anyone reading along knows I turned 50 this year. So I am trying to work a little harder on good fitness. For me, that means exercising more, eating more fruit, eating fewer potato chips (my greatest weakness when it comes to snacking), flossing, and going to various doctors and dentists when they say I should and not just when I'm in pain. Not because I'm 50 and getting old. But because I'm 50 and I'm giving myself a tune-up so I'll be ready to kick butt for the next 50 years!

Hope you have a great 2007...and beyond!