Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Frantic first timers r fun

Having been a father for many years, I find it amusing to hang out with people who have just had their first child.
I call them frantic first timers because they are always frantic about the state of their offspring.
I have to admit I was the same way when kid No. 1 came along.
Every peep Junior made would send me scrambling to make sure he was OK.
If he suddenly started crying in his crib, I just knew a giant anaconda had escaped from some zoo, made its way to my house and was about turn my beautiful baby into a serpent snack.
Or perhaps a pack of jackals had some how gotten past me and snuck up the stairs, opened the door to his room and were licking their chops in anticipation of the defenseless meal that awaited them.
I would go charging into his room, ready to battle the evil creatures who dared threaten the safety of my child.
The evil creature most often turned out to be a full diaper – which was only evil to the person changing it. What did the kid care, his work was done.
I still remember changing the first diaper of my life. My wife took pictures and greatly enjoyed the look on my face when I discovered what the diaper held.
It was kind of a combination of revulsion and stoic shock.
Anyway, a fresh diaper, something to eat and he was as happy as a little kid can be.
When kid No. 2 came along, I possessed a much greater understanding of children and realized they are not going to spontaneously combust if their crying was not tended to in less than three seconds.
I also came to the conclusion that roaming packs of anacondas riding jackals were extremely rare in Canada.
Instead of dashing up the stairs every time he made a noise, I would wait a couple minutes to see if he would go back to sleep, which he sometimes did. If not, I would head upstairs and tackle the terror of the diaper. Once again, Junior would emerge happy.
And once again I would be repulsed by the diaper content, but the more diapers I changed the faster I recovered.
By the time kid No. 3 came along, I was a cool and calm and had a pretty good grip on the whole baby thing. Diapers were no more mentally damaging than wiping a runny nose or cleaning the all impressive ‘spit up.’
The joys of parenthood just never seemed to end.
So, she would start crying in her crib and I would casually stroll up to get her, with no more urgency than is warranted.
Try explaining this morphing of attitude to someone who is still tending to kid No. 1.
They look at you like you are nuts.
A few years ago we visited some friends in northern B.C. who had just had their first child.
She was a beautiful little girl who hardly made a peep, but when a peep was made, parents would scramble.
She slept for several hours the first day we were there and her dad checked on her many times.
Apparently he too had heard of the anaconda threat and was making sure his daughter was safe from the roaming band of vicious vipers.
After watching him quietly open the door and peak into her room, I tried to impart some parental wisdom on my friend.
I debunked the anaconda theory, and told him not to worry, that at six months old, she would let him know when she was awake.
He nodded in agreement, digested the information and then took a break from our conversation to sneak down the hall peak in her room.
Frantic first timers are an amusing lot.
After she woke up we decided to go for a walk to the corner store and while my three children ran down the park trail, their bundle of joy was in a stroller.
The walk should have taken about 15 minutes, but because the sun was shining, Mom had to turn the stroller, adjust the shade cover and make sure the evil rays from the glowing ball in the sky never touched her child, so it took more than 30 minutes.
I didn’t mind. It was a nice day, my kids were having a good time running around in the woods and the live entertainment was so much fun to watch.
Flying freaks me out

It’s not that I am afraid of flying, it’s the crashing part that scares me.
That rapid deceleration at the end of an unplanned landing can put a crimp in any trip.
I have never been crazy about taking to the wild blue yonder, although I have done it on several occasions.
The first time I was in a jetliner was on my honeymoon. We flew from Vancouver to Los Angeles.
The flight took around two-and-a-half hours, most of it through a storm.
“Oh, good, that will make the flight much more interesting than just sitting through a smooth ride for almost three hours.”
I had been in a helicopter before, and even flew my friend’s single-engine Cessna for about 20 minutes, but I was quite inexperienced at the mass transit approach to flying.
The problem was the turbulence. Every time the plane would bounce I would turn a slightly whiter shade of pale.
By the time we got to LAX I was almost transparent I had lost so much colour.
My wife, on the other hand, was looking out the window, chatting away and was as relaxed as if she was on the beach and not on the verge of becoming a screaming ball of fiery death.
“Are you going to eat your chicken?”
“Who can think of eating at a time like this? My life is flashing before my eyes and I have to admit, it’s pretty boring.”
It was also dark out which didn’t help matters. Have you ever seen the movie where the little gremlin guy tries to tear the wing off the plane?
I have, and let’s just say I was reliving that scene every time I looked out the window.
My wife told me to sit back and relax, every thing will be fine.
Isn’t that what Custer told his troops?
“C’mon guys, what could go wrong? You guys are a bunch of worry warts.”
I have heard that flying is safer than driving.
I have to question that line of thought. When my car breaks down – like if the engine quits or something – all I have to do is pull over to the side of the road.
If the engines on the jet conk out, the road is 40,000 feet below us. We might make a crater near a road, but that’s about as close as it will get.
We eventually landed in LA unscathed - much to my amazement. The return flight was on a beautiful sunny day and I was cool as a cucumber (that was strapped into a 20-ton flying death machine).
It would be 13 years before I was to set foot in a giant tube of winged terror again. This time I was flying to New York en route to Russia.
It was around four hours to New York from Seattle and nine from NYC to Moscow. Yippee, I could hardly wait.
The plane to New York was an older model and I thought I saw Fred Flintstone at the controls – not a comforting thought.
Shortly after take off I heard this loud, almost like a grinding sound and I knew the wings were falling off and we were about to plummet into a mountain.
Or maybe it was just the flaps being raised because the wings stayed right where they were attached.
On the way to New York, the flight was smooth as glass except for the parts where the glass had been violently smashed with a hammer.
A few times the plane would be sailing along then it would drop or bounce, depending on what type or air disturbance we hit.
Every time the plane performed this unplanned aerial manoeuvre I would practically jump out of my skin.
I felt like running up and down the aisle screaming, “We’re all gonna die. We’re all gonna die.”
Instead, I just sat quietly in my seat, looking around and thinking, “We’re all gonna die. We’re all gonna die.”
We landed in New York, kicked around the airport for about 90 minutes and then it was back in the air for even more fun and games a mile above the beloved earth.
It was over the Atlantic where I was the most nervous. I figured while flying over land if we had a problem we could land somewhere, but over the ocean we would just kind of go splash blub-blub-blub.
I have to admit by the end of the nine hours of air time my nerves had calmed quite a bit and I actually ate before we landed.
The best part about eating was the food stayed down - always a bonus.
By the time I flew home from Russia, my nerves had calmed to the point where taking flight was no big deal. I kicked back, relaxed, watched a couple movies and in general found the experience tedious, but not terrifying.
I couldn’t sleep on the plane however.
At 6’4’’ it is nearly impossible to get comfortable in a chair built for a Hobbit.
Keep it clean

It’s interesting how men and women have different versions of clean.
A guy could look at a room and think, ‘Yup, that looks good to me.’
A woman could look at the same room and wonder what kind of barbaric hand-to-hand battle had occurred to make such a mess.
The difference is most noticeable when it comes to spring cleaning.
For a guy, spring cleaning means moving the couch when he vacuums. For a woman it means dismantling the couch, vacuuming every square inch of it and reassembling it to better than original.
When it comes to cleaning, men and women just do things differently.
For example, a few years ago my wife tried a little experiment.
There was a pair of clean wool socks next to my side of the bed. My wife was determined to leave them until I put them away.
After a few weeks, she was astounded they were still there.
“Those socks have been there for weeks and you haven’t even noticed.”To which I replied, “That’s where you are wrong. I did notice I just didn’t care. There’s a difference.”
I figured the socks weren’t hurting anyone, they were out of the way and if I needed them I knew where they were.
Spring cleaning for a guy means going through his closet and throwing out a couple of shirts that are too torn to wear even under a sweater and digging out the several pairs of pants that have mysteriously shrunk over the winter.
For a woman, it means hauling every single item of clothing out of the closet, trying each item on, assessing their value and comparing current fashion styles with what they have to determine what goes and what stays.
The process can take days.
“Does this still look good on me?”
“Yes it does.”
“No, I don’t think it does, I’m going to get rid of it.”
That’s what I meant to say actually, but I decided to say something else to see if you were on your game or not.
Helping in this area is not something for a man. Ladies, for future reference, call a friend to come over if you want an opinion on clothes.
Unless it is lingerie, most guys are not too interested in what you dig out of the closet.
And please, do not ask the question every man dreads, “Does this make me look fat?”
Even prehistoric cave men knew the answer to this one.
When the little woman threw on the latest in Wooly Mammoth fashion and looked at hubby while asking the infamous question, even a walnut-brained Neanderthal new enough to grunt, “No dear,” lest he get a brontosaurus bone upside the head.
The lady of the house could weigh slightly less than a Volkswagen Beetle and the universal answer would still be ‘No.’
The most frightening area of spring cleaning is the kid’s rooms.
Grown men have fled in terror as the missus’ eyes glass over with spring-cleaning fever and she seeks recruits to help with the task.
The woman will dig into the job with energy typically reserved for a piranha feeding frenzy.
Every toy car, gadget and plastic super hero has its own specific place.
I did not know this. To me, everything with wheels went in the car bin, super heroes went in another bin and whatever did not fall into those categories went in whatever bin still had room in it.
Again, for the cleaning-crazed woman of the house the job is an all day affair. For a guy it’s a two-hour task broken up by time spent playing with some of the cooler toys.
It is times like this I am thankful for weeds so I can get out of the house where all I have to worry about are bee stings and burning nettle.
Little dog, big attitude

If I had known how long my dog was going to live I would have named her Gollum.
Mikah is a mixed breed of Scottie terrier and a bunch of other hounds.
When people ask me what kind of dog I have, I say, “A black one.”
She is small, with a long body and short legs and has never weighed more than 15 pounds in her life.
Like most little dogs, she came with a big attitude and when she was only six months old she charged a full-grown Husky.
I have never seen a dog laugh before, but this 80-pound pooch was definitely snickering as this little black terror raced up to it yipping and yapping.
I’m sure all the Husky could think was, “Aaaah, shaaaduuup.”
The Husky did not move, flinch or do much of anything really. It just sat there and stared until I collected Mikah and carried her off kicking and barking.
I don’t speak dog, but I am sure Mikah was saying, “You’re lucky he’s here. You better hope he doesn’t let me go or you and me will have a real problem.”
I never said she was the brightest animal God has ever placed on this earth.
She was a cute little dog with fluffy black hair that made her look bigger than she was. But when she got wet she looked like a rat with a collar.
When we got Mikah 16 years ago we also got her brother, Homer, who was named after one of the greatest actors of our time – Homer Simpson.
The name was fitting because Homer the dog was about as smart as Homer the cartoon character.
He was not too bright, but he was a fun dog, always ready to run and play.
Some good friends of ours also had two dogs and we dubbed them all the Fab Four. Minnie the One Eyed Warrior – a cocker spaniel with only one eye which is a story in it self – was the first to pass on to the great doggie park in the sky.
Homer was next, felled by congestive heart failure. Our friend’s second dog died shortly thereafter, leaving only Mikah to carry on as the last of the gang of mutts.
One of our group activities was to go for walks with our dogs. It was a merry old time as we watched the dogs run and frolic – none of us had kids yet so the dogs got all our attention.
At the time, we thought raising dogs from tiny puppies was hard work. We had to feed them and clean up after them, it was grueling. Now I have kids, so raising dogs compared to kids is like comparing a mosquito bite to a shotgun wound.
There are certain advantages to raising hounds over kids.
When you are mad at your dogs for doing something wrong you can throw them outside and close the door. If you do that with kids, they just open the door and come back in.
Dogs also will never want to go to college, they don’t talk back and all they want to do is serve their masters and make them happy. With kids none of those statements apply.
Also, the older dogs get the more they sleep.
In this way kids and dogs are similar. Except the older kids are called teens and with age comes attitude – lots and lots of attitude.
Anyway, back to why Mikah should have been named after a hairless, big eyed, freakish looking creature from “Lord of the Rings.”
Over the past couple of years Mikah has developed several medical problems that dictate we give her a variety of medications. Yes, we are getting prescriptions filled for a beast.
The combination of her meds and her ailments has caused her hair to fall out, leaving her this bald, scary looking creature, ie: Gollum.
We bought her a sweater to wear to keep her warm and I would just like to take this moment to apologize to all the people who I used to laugh at for putting clothes on their dogs. (Although I justify it by saying the sweater is for practical reasons and not a fashion statement so I still might snicker if I see a dog wearing booties. I mean, really.)
Mikah is deaf as a post and is becoming senile. She often barks at the closet, the dresser and the wall for no particular reason.
Gollum also had “unusually long life” due to his possession of the ‘Ring of Power.’ I have checked several times, and Mikah does not have a ring, but somehow she has lasted a lot longer than anyone expected.
It is time for her to pass, and we keep telling her to go towards the light, but she has been a stubborn little critter her entire life.
She didn’t listen to us then and she is not about to start now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Being tall aint that great


My wife and I are proof God has a sense of humour.
I am 6’4” while my wife is 5’ even. That is a whopping 16 inch height difference.
I have to admit I never notice the difference - probably because we have been together for more than two decades – but when we meet someone for the first time they tend to comment on it (as if we didn’t know).
I usually don’t notice height – at either end of the spectrum – unless it is extreme. A very short person will get my attention, but not as much as a very tall person.
I am just not used to looking up to talk to people and when it does happen it is a strange feeling.
Another time I took notice of height differences was when we attended a family reunion on my wife’s side of the family. When I walked into the banquet hall, all I could think was, “I’m off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
The average person in the room came up to my shoulder and it looked like someone had left the gate to Smallville unlocked.
The pride of the family is my wife’s cousin who stands 6’2”. He is spoken of with reverence and there is an underlying hope he will spawn tall offspring.
My side of the family is a different story. My mom’s relatives are all average size, but my dad’s family is like the land of the giants.
The men are big, the women are big - everyone is big.
But for the height-challenged among us, believe me, being tall has its drawbacks.
It is a rare thing when my wife bumps her head on something. I have cracked my skull so many times I have calluses on my forehead.
As a clumsy teen it took a while to adjust to my height and to this day I look straight up before getting out of a chair. I learned to do this after killing more than one chandelier with my noggin.
Being two metres tall also presents challenges in other areas of life a smaller person may not even think of.
A couple years ago we went on a day trip to the Enchanted Forest, a fun little tourist stop along Highway 1 on the way to Revelstoke.
There is a huge tree fort to climb, a big pirate ship and trails winding their way through the numerous statues and huts.
Sounds easy for a tall guy right? Guess again, shorty.
It also had a bevy of fairy tale characters and settings, and this is where things got interesting.
Hunching over slightly to get through the door to some little mushroom house, my then five-year-old daughter said, “Daddy come in here.”
Looking at the tiny opening I thought, “Why couldn’t it be Snow White and the Seven Former NBA Players?”
No, they had to dwarfs, with dwarf-size doors and dwarf-size ceilings.
My wife and kids were scampering in and out of these structures of agony like forest nymphs while I had to fold up like a ventriloquist dummy being stuffed into its carrying case.
My daughter pretended to make tea in one of the little structures while I sat compressed in a corner wondering if I would actually be able to unfold and get out.
She cheerfully poured some imaginary tea while I felt my knees and back seizing up.
“Hello 9-1-1, my husband is stuck in the munchkin chateau. Can you bring the jaws of life and a stretcher please. Thanks.”
Another time being height enhanced was not so great was at Cody Caves near Nelson. Taking a guided tour of the natural caves was a blast for the entire family, but I knew I was in for a rough time less than 10 metres past the entrance.
While the guide gave a little speech about the caves and how they were discovered, my attention was drawn to a tiny opening that had handrails going into it and it was obvious that was where we were heading.
Sure enough, our fearless leader headed out and went straight down the opening.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I mumbled as I looked around and watched as everyone else cheerily scampered down the metal walkway.
I approached the opening and willed myself to become shorter. It didn’t work and I had to squeeze my 250-pound frame through an opening just big enough for an anorexic Hobbit.
I had to bend almost into the fetal position and shuffle my feet a couple inches at a time to get through the opening. I went through last as to not hold up the rest of the tour. Besides, that way if I got stuck they would be more motivated to get me out, because if I am not getting out, no one is.
Fortunately the cave opened up after that and no more mini openings had to be tackled.
I was thankful for the hardhat they made us wear as well.
A couple of times there was the distinct sound of plastic hitting rock followed by, “D-oh” as my cranium bounced of yet another stalactite.
Maybe I should wear a hardhat all the time. It might look strange, but I would probably have fewer headaches.
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The mame game


I wonder why it is so humorous when bad things happen to our friends.
Not really bad things, but minor bad things that are more of a nuisance than anything else.
I can narrow it down even more – minor things that hurt, like when your buddy stubs his toe and starts dancing around the room moaning and groaning.
You try not to laugh, but you have to because it is so funny. Some of you are probably laughing right now as you remember such an incident.I have both laughed at and been the subject of laughter on many occasions.
Riding dirt bikes was the source of many good laughs – usually for the other guy. We had a rule: you had to make sure the person was OK before you laughed.
When someone crashed, you ran over to ensure they were alright and then you could breakout in uproarious laughter.
I fell off my dirt bike one time and the handlebars hooked my jacket and the bike dragged me for about five metres.
My buddy rode up to ensure I had survived, and then laughed so hard he fell off his bike.
He talked about that crash for years, using the words “flailing” and “like a fish on the beach” in his description of said accident.
I failed to see the humour, but he had a great time.
I guess that’s the secret. If I may quote one of the great minds of our time, I believe it was Homer Simpson who said, “It’s funny because it’s not happening to me.”
When I was in elementary school, a friend and I invented a game we called ‘Hey let’s maim each other.’
Why did we call it that? You guessed it, because that’s what we did.
The object of the game was to inflict pain on each other without causing any serious or permanent damage.
It must be a boy thing because none of the girls I knew ever played this game - although some of them were pretty tough and probably could have done quite well.
Actually, I think we were the only two people in the entire school who played.
I wonder why?
I don’t remember how it started, but at first it was little things like throwing snowballs at each other from a few feet away, or tripping the other person when they ran, or stabbing them in the arm or hand (I still have a scar) with one of those compass things that came in those little metal cases you had to get for math class.
What a great learning tool that thing was. You could use it to figure things out and you could stab bugs, trees and your friends. Now that’s higher education.
Anyway, as most games tend to do, the intensity of the maim game kept growing as we tried to out do each other, and things were getting downright painful.
I scored the first knock out of the competition. My friend was standing about three meters away when I calmly said, “Hey, Jeff.”
Jeff turned around just as I threw a basketball at him as hard as I could. There were two smacks – the ball smacking him in the face and his head smacking the floor after he was knocked cold.
I took off like a cheetah on Nitrous as teachers rushed over, frantic to find out why one of their students was prone in the middle of the gymnasium.
Jeff declined to co-operate with authorities, claiming it was an accident and deciding to settle things himself. After all it was just fun and games.
His vengeance came during a lunch-hour game of softball.
I was on first base and heading to second. I remember looking down the baseline as I started to run and then the next thing I knew I was staring at the sky as teachers huddled over me trying to figure out why I was laid out in the middle of the field.
It turned out after the ball was hit, it was Jeff who grabbed it in the infield and instead of throwing it to second – which he claimed he did for years until finally coming clean – he threw it at my head, scoring his own knock out.
I have to admit it was a good throw. He managed to hit a moving target the size of my head with such force and precision as to lay me out cold. Good job.
I had a headache for about a week. He had a sore nose and jaw for about a week from the basketball incident, so we decided to call it a draw and put the game on hiatus.
But for several months, we were both a little jittery and guarded in each other’s presence. It was kind of like a junior version of post traumatic stress.
Mind you, taking a softball to the bean may have played a role as well.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To snip or not to snip

Before my wife and I had children, I thought it would be cool to have twins.
A boy and a girl, get it over and done with in one shot.
But after my oldest son arrived I realized how naive - and somewhat delusional - the thought was.
Two at once! Are you crazy? I could barely handle the one I had let alone a second one.
They would tag team me into a straight jacket.
I don't even want to think about multiple births like sextuplets. Six kids all throwing up at the same time. Six overflowing diapers. Six midnight feedings. I don’t think so.
I have witnessed the devastation one child can bring upon the land, I couldn't imagine what a small army of them could do.
My home would be awash in kid kaka.
Thanks to a merciful and loving God, we only had one at a time. Son No. 2 came along a couple years after son No. 1, and a few years after that our daughter was born.
After some discussion we decided three was enough. I had bagged my limit, they were all keepers and it was time to close the baby factory.
It was time to get “The Snip.”
Normally, having sharp objects around that area of my physique is cause for alarm, but my wife assured me that I would be in the hands of a skilled doctor and it would be fine.
So I made an appointment and prepared to be neutered.
I was quite calm about the decision and was excited I would no longer have to worry about hearing the two words that struck terror in the very depths of my soul - "I'm pregnant."
Whenever I had a dream like that, I would shake uncontrollably while lying in bed hoping for a nightmare that involved a flesh-rending creature, not kid spew and diapers. Oh, for want of a relaxing dream of being chased by some unspeakable horror while I ran through the forest (in slow motion of course) wearing only a Speedo and shower cap.
I had no concerns about the procedure until a good friend of mine called and told me about his “minor operation.”
Why is it whenever you are about to undergo some form of procedure you hear nothing but horror stories about someone else's procedure?
"Yeah, so I went in to get the "Snip" and I came out a woman. It was a bit of a shock at first, but once you get used to it..."
For my friend, Mike, the problems didn’t start until after the procedure. The doctor did the job as planned and Mike went home to rest and recuperate.
He had a couple days off work so Mike decided to do some light work around the yard while he was healing and that’s when his problems began.
He must have exerted himself more than he should have and he said one of his, um, well you know, swelled to the size of a softball.
Along with the swelling came extreme tenderness to the point where the weight of air was causing him pain.
I would have enjoyed the situation much more had I not been next in line for the same procedure. Knowing it could happen to me took all the fun out of watching his misery.
During a phone call with Mike, he described the tragedy that was unfolding and said the following, “Man, you should see it.”
No thanks.
The last thing I want to see is a deformed, softball size one of those, especially his.
He also used the word grapefruit to describe his self-induced tragedy. (To this day I cannot even look at a grapefruit the same way.)
His situation lasted for a couple of weeks and I was growing concerned about what the future held for me.
The fateful day came and I went to the doctor’s office to have the ‘procedure.’ I was not sure exactly what to expect.
I had never met this doctor before and I half expected to see a Dr. Frankenstein wannabe who was eagerly looking for that one final body part he needed to finish his monstrous creation.
But he turned out to be a regular doctor with no beakers or a hunchback assistant or anything out of the norm.
“Hi doc, how are you doing today?
“I’m fine.”
“That’s good. Hey, you don’t like grapefruits do you?”The doctor checked the chart to see if he was dealing with a mental patient rather than someone who had fathered his limit.
Fortunately the ‘procedure’ went off without a hitch. No grapefruits, softballs or any other abnormally sized fruits or athletic equipment.
I spent the next couple days lounging as the doctor had told me to do and had no adverse affects whatsoever – much to Mike’s disappointment.
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Children's songs are evil

“It’s raining, it’s pouring the old man is snoring. He bumped his head, went to bed and didn’t wake up in the morning.”
That is one of the time-tested rhymes children have been singing for years. In fact, my daughter was singing it the other day because it was raining.
It got me wondering what kind of sick puppy decided to make a children’s song out of some guy’s untimely death.
“Did you hear about Bill? He took a whack to the noggin, went to sleep and never woke up.”
“I did hear about that, and you know what - I think that would make a great children’s song. Untimely deaths just beg to be turned into rhythm and rhyme.”
So poor Bill – someone’s dad or grandpa or something – died a tragic death and this clown decides it should be immortalized forever in song, and not just any song, preferably a song that is sung mostly by small children because who else is better to cheerily sing about the work of the Grim Reaper than an innocent child.
However, I understand the song has been edited in recent years with a better ending. Instead killing off poor old Bill, the new version goes “and he didn’t wake up until morning.”
And he is no longer called “the old man.” From now on Bill is referred to as the “age experienced gentleman.” It doesn’t have the same pop, but it is politically correct.
All this got me thinking about other popular children songs that millions of people, my self included, used to chant without giving much consideration to what was actually being said.
“Rock-a-bye baby on the treetop, when the wind blows the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks the cradle will fall and down will come baby cradle and all.”OK, first of all who is the nut bar putting their kid in a tree in the first place.
“Better come quick, Crazy Martha put her kid up in the tree again.”
“Again? Are you serious? I tell ya if the wind kicks up that tree’s gonna rock and before you know it down comes baby, cradle and all. Actually that might make a good children’s song, because what can be more fun than placing a small sleeping child atop a tree in a wind storm? Write that down, will ya.”
Where was the child protection agency through all this? They didn’t call her Crazy Martha for nothing. Perhaps it was hubby who was a couple crayons short of a rainbow.
Maybe it was Crazy Murray who decided tree-top sleeping arrangements for the kids would be loads of fun, especially on blustery days.
Either way, I have never put a sleeping child in a tree, nor have I seen a sleeping child in a tree and if I did, I would call the fire department and the police and I would probably never think to write a song about it.
This song is also traditionally sung to children to lull them to sleep and the more I think about it, the more I am convinced the person who wrote it was the first person on earth to tap into subliminal messaging.
It wasn’t so much a song, as it was a warning. It was probably around 3 a.m. and our song writer had been up for hours trying to get the little one to quiet down and go to sleep.
As sleep deprivation started to kick in she got a little loopy and started mumbling something about “If this kid doesn’t go to sleep soon I am sticking him in a tree.”
The harried parent puts the thought to song more for her own guilty pleasure than an actual threat, but even at the young age Junior hears “baby” and “treetop” and thinks, “Maybe I could just go to sleep and take this up with mom in the morning.”
It works. The kid goes to sleep and mom (I assume it is mom because dad would have gone to bed hours ago) finally gets to go to sleep herself.
The next night, Junior starts fusing and mom thinks, “The song worked last night, I wonder….”
A couple versus later and Junior is fast asleep. Mom realizes she is on to something and shares her story with every mother in the village.
Soon all the children are sound asleep by bed time – they are all terrified of trees – but they are sleeping.
And as everyone knows, a rested mom is a happy mom and a happy mom means a happy home.
So maybe the song isn’t as bizarre as it would first seem. There appears to be a method to the madness.
What we need now is for a modern songstress to come up with something that would get the kids away from the TV, the computer, the Playstation…..

Saturday, December 6, 2008

City slicker

By Darren Handschuh
I have never felt more like a city slicker in my life.
I grew up in a rural area with hills to climb and creeks to fish in, but after spending four days at a real working ranch, I realized I am seriously out of place on a real, working ranch.
We were visiting relatives who owned the ranch which was a fair drive down a winding, forest-lined road.
The ranch house was an amazing log home, and the 400 acres came with a full compliment of ranch-type critters.
We arrived in a mini-van loaded with people pulling a tent trailer loaded with stuff.
We don’t visit, we invade.
Working on one of the corral fences when we pulled up, was a cousin who was in amazing shape. He had spent the last few years working hard at the physical job and it showed. I am not gay or anything, but damn….
He, of course, was shirtless and I figured the only way I would take off my shirt was if it was on fire. And even then I would try to roll around and put it out first, lest the people and animals be frightened by my pasty white complexion and hard-earned layer of flab.
We said hello to everyone and set up our trailer before exploring the wonderful world of ranching.
Among their stock were a few cows, a bull, seven big dogs and a quite a few horses.
On the second day of our visit, there was a commotion near the barn. One of the horses had gotten out of his stall and was having words with another male horse.
The alpha mail horse – the one who got out – was not taking kindly to this upstart pony trying to muscle in on his ladies, and he was not shy about letting his feelings be known.
He was huffing and puffing and clomping his feet on the ground while the other, and somewhat smaller horse, did the same in an effort to save face in front of the girls.
If it came down to a good old fashioned horse brawl, I had my money on the alpha male.
The ranch hand cousin then stepped into the middle of the melee and tried to herd alpha male back to his coral.
Being all worked up, Alf, as I started calling him, was not interested in being confined and trotted around in a show of horse defiance.
We were asked to stand between two fences with our arms outstretched to make a human fence, while Cuz’ tried to move the beast into his pen.
For a brief moment Alf ran straight at me. This was the biggest horse I had ever seen and I figured if it got any closer, I would keep my arms outstretched, point to the wide open hills behind me and say, “There you go” while stepping to the side to make room for him.
However, he decided to go back into his coral, only to escape again a couple hours later. It would seem Alf had figured out how to undo the latch on the gate. Smart horse.
The latch problem was soon solved, but my personal interaction with ranch animals was far from over.
The next day I was walking with my 10-year-old niece when I noticed the bull had gotten out of his pen.
“What is with animals getting out of their confines around here? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of a lock?”
Anyway, I was looking at this bull and he was looking at me. The day prior, I had pulled a muscle in leg and could barely walk let alone run, so I calmly said to my niece to slowly move to a nearby fence, crawl through it and we would be safe.
Just as I said the word “safe,” I looked over to see a trail of dust as my niece sprinted for the house faster than Elvis heading to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
This got the bull’s attention and left me and the beast in a classic stare down. Let’s just say I blinked first and hobbled to the fence as fast as I could while he strutted over to check me out.
Safely behind the fence, I felt a surge of courage, and besides, the ranch hand cousin had shown up on his horse and all his bulging muscles and was moving the bull back to the coral.
In both cases, I felt rather inadequate and thought maybe the ranch life wasn’t for me, at least not a ranch that has animals on it.
I don’t even know if I could handle an ant farm.
Brain full of useless info

By Darren Handschuh
I am not sure why, but for some reason I can remember the name of, and who starred in, dozens of movies.
Many of the movies I haven’t even seen, but I can tell you who was in it and what it was called.
All I have to do is watch a commercial for the movie and it is locked in my cranium like a brain tattoo.
The gray thing in my head catalogues the information for future use and is yet another skill I possess that is completely and utterly useless.
What are the odds of needing such an ability in real life?
“Quick, name three of the actors in The Breakfast Club and I will let all of the hostages go. And not their movie names, their real names.”
I can almost picture the police calling me for the answer knowing I hold the key to releasing the terrified hostages.
Or, they could just Google it and find out for themselves.
Of course, the odds of a crazed bank robber caring about a 1980s teen flick is doubtful, but should the emergency arise I am ready to respond.
My average-IQ brain also remembers a myriad of bizarre and worthless details that I can dredge up on a moments notice.
Again, what’s the point?
I can’t use the vault of knowledge I carry around on my shoulders to make money, influence people or help mankind.
I could go on Jeopardy and try to beat the record of that Jennings guy who won somewhere in the neighbourhood of a zillion dollars.
But with the pressure of being in TV and having millions of people watching me, I would probably choke and just stare at the camera and make animal noises every time Alex Trebek asked a question.
Alex: What is the capital of Equador?
Me: Mooooo.
Alex: What the hell are you doing? Somebody get this moron off my show.
The next thing I know I am flying out the back door of the Jeopardy studio. One of the last things I hear is Trebek ordering his gaggle of goons to lay a beat down on me because I sullied the brilliance of the show.
Having a brain brimming with worthless knowledge does come in handy when playing a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit, which, by the way, is my favourite board game.
I can’t remember what my wife wanted me to pick up on the way home from work, but I can remember a cockroach has its teeth in its stomach.
Now there’s a piece of information that will come in handy no matter the social setting.
“Congratulations on getting married, and by the way did you know the cockroach….”
Pointless information just seems to gravitate to my brain like a fat guy to a buffet table.
In school when I studied, OK maybe not so much in school, but in college when I studied I had to really concentrate to keep the needed information from leaking out of my brain and into the atmosphere where it did me no good.
But I hear a piece of useless information once and I remember it forever.
I fear the useless information has staged a coup in my brain and is forcing the useful information into tiny information refugee camps somewhere in the far reaches of my gray matter.
So if anyone is in need of useless information, just let me know. I am full of the stuff and I am looking for any excuse to let it out.
Whathe %$#&^ r they saying

By Darren Handschuh
Watching my oldest son talk to his cousin via online messenger made me realize just how old and out of touch I am.
I am not exactly a computer dinosaur, but I am also far from a computer genius.
I can usually get a computer to do what I need it to do with little hassle (sometimes I feeling like smashing the beast with a five-pound axe, but I always manage to suppress the urge. So far anyway)
But what amazes me the most is watching a whole new language emerge from the tapping of keys and the click of a mouse.
There are the standard words such as megabytes and RAM and all the other technical ramblings that have besieged the Earth over the last few years, but I am talking about a completely new form of communication that, to me, looks like some sort of secret military code.
He let me read a message he sent and most of it I could figure out, but some of it needed explaining.
When he had to sign off, he typed g2g.
To an old, balding guy like myself that is a couple of letters and a number. At least that’s all they were when I was a teen.
But to my son, and the zillions of little computer whiz kids out there, it means ‘got to go.’ Get it, g2g. Very clever.
I was able to figure out p2p on my own, which is person to person. I was quite pleased with that until I came across the term noobs.
I know of a similar word that starts with a ‘b’ but it is not even close to what this word means. It seems the term noobs stands for newbie, or someone who is new to the Internet.
That makes sense, sort of.
There are some obvious ones. The letter R can be used for are and our, and CU stands for see you, but there are some that I would likely have never figured out and would eventually have to feign a heart attack just to get out of the conversation.
Apparently, AFAIK means ‘as far as I know.’ It is just the first letters of each word, but to a youth-challenged, middle-aged gentlemen such as myself it means WTHAYTA, which is ‘what the hell are you talking about?’
KTHXBYE means OK, thanks, good bye.
I can sort of see how a collection of normal English words mutated into a jumble of seemingly random letters in that one, but there are many more out there that do little more than baffle my brain and give me a headache.
To make things even more complicated, some terms have double meanings. Oh good, now I can be confused twice as much.
POS is such a double phrase. One phrase is ‘parents over shoulder,’ an obvious coded warning that the sender is under observation so be cool. The other use of POS is not fit for print in this fine publication.
I am still using TTFN (ta ta for now) when I sign off. It would seem that term is so outdated it is akin to sealing a letter with a dab of wax and pressing the family seal into it.
There are however some carryovers from the older generation who, after having to say and write full words for generations, became tired of such lengthy communication and birthed the appreviation form of communication the youth of today have claimed as their very own.
Most people know what BYOB means. At least anyone who went to college does because how many college parties are there where BYOB is not manditory?
We older folk came up with a couple more terms, but the youth of today have created their own language that takes the age gap to new and dizzying levels.
Boneheads in the news

By Darren Handschuh
Being a news junkie, I take the time to read newspapers, surf Internet sites and watch broadcast news on TV.
I simply have to know what is going on around the world all the time.
I have come across a variety of bizarre and unusual stories.
A while ago I read the story of an 82-year-old grandma who laid a beating on a man who was trying to rob her.
The 20-something bad guy attempted to grab granny’s purse, but the feisty senior refused to let go, took the guy to the ground and proceeded to give him a good, old fashioned whoopin’.
When police arrived and saved the culprit, super granny was quoted as saying, “It’s too bad the police got here so soon. I was really going to kick his ass.”
Now that’s my kind of granny.
No sitting around baking cookies and knitting for her. This granny is probably down at the gym pumping iron and taking full-contact kick boxing classes.
She may have been the only person collecting an old age pension to hold a title in her weight class.
I wonder what happened to the thief wannabe after he was sentenced.
How rough was prison for this guy?
Fellow inmate, “So what are you in for?”
Purse snatcher, “I killed 92 people with a fork.”
Fellow inmate, “Wow you are one bad dude. No one better mess with you. Hey, wait a minute aren’t you the guy who got beat up by an old lady?”
The prison explodes in uproarious laughter and the purse snatcher knows his reputation as a tough guy is done.
How much respect could this guy possibly get?
Purse snatcher, “No, that wasn’t me. It was, um, my evil and much wimpier twin. I pled guilty for him to spare him the embarrassment of dealing with this in prison. Honest.”
More prison laughter.
I’ve never been to prison, but I am assuming you do not want to be known as the guy who got his butt whooped by a member of the blue hair club.
Another story involved a lady who ran over her husband because she thought he was possessed by Mickey Mouse.
I guess the eight-foot tall mouse trap didn’t work so she had to take matters into her own hands.
The part I can’t figure out is what’s the big deal? Even if her husband was possessed by Mickey how bad could it?
Granted, he is a giant rodent, but it’s Mickey Mouse for crying out loud. Kids love the guy. He’s an icon of the Happiest Place on Earth.
If her husband was possessed by Donald Duck then maybe she could plead self defense because that guy has some anger management issues that really should be addressed. Counselling or maybe some self help discs would be in order for The Donald.
Mickey, on the other hand, takes everything in stride, is friendly to everyone and would never hurt a fly.
Perhaps living with that high, squeaky voice could be a little irritating, but hardly a reason to flatten someone with a Buick.
I don’t know what happened to the lady, but I am sure it involved interacting with some form of mental health specialist.
I believe the husband survived the car incident, but was later eaten by a 90-foot tall cat, a tragic ending to a bizarre story.