Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Failing at fighting the flab

It’s amazing how easy it is to get out of shape.
I still have a shape, but it is kind of a round, soft and squishy shape.
Throughout my teens and into my early 20s I was in phenomenal shape. I was playing hockey, jogging and worked at a physical job all of which helped keep the fat away.
Fast forward about 20 years.
Playing hockey has been replaced by watching hockey and the most physical part of my job is crowbarring my butt out of the chair when I have to go on assignment.
It was in my early 30s that I got tired being a tub of goo sitting on the couch every night so took up martial arts as a form of exercise.
My wife never understood why I enjoyed it so much.
“Why do you pay to let people to beat you up?”
To which I would reply, “I don’t pay to let people beat me up. I pay to beat people up. I’m just not very good at it.”
I also took up a variety of other physical activities and even bought a treadmill for the days it was cold outside.
So you would think all that exercise would make me svelte, trim and bursting with fitness.
I guess it depends who I compare myself with.
There is a place near my home called the Stairway to Heaven. It is a set of approximately 230 stairs going up the side of a mountain from one subdivision to the next.
This is where we compare fitness levels.
My 11-year-old son would bound up the stairs with as much effort as it would take me to get to the stairs. I would barely be half finished and he would be at the top waiting.
Sometimes he would run to the top, then half way down to meet us, then back to the top again.
OK, compared to him I am a jiggling bucket of flab, but there are what I like to call ‘ego boosters’ out there.
Let me explain.
I discovered a key to feeling better about yourself is to be around people who are flabbier than you are.
When I go to the beach or the waterslides the first thing I do is look for someone in worse shape than myself. Having found said person, I then set up my towel, cooler etc. near my new friend.
Voila, I instantly feel better about myself and look better to those around me.
How good I feel about myself is directly proportional to how out of shape my neighbour is.
The bigger he is, the happier I am. Viva la greasy food.
The problem is when someone sets up next to me for the same reasons.
If you look down the line of people it’s like an ongoing before and after ad for some sort of health club.
At one end is the guy who is so large he looks like a heart attack poster child and way down on the other end is Mr. Fitness with his rippling muscles and sculpted buttocks.
Sitting somewhere in the middle is yours truly with my six-pack abs carefully hidden under a layer of fat.
If you’ve got it flaunt it.
If you don’t, then hang out with people who have less of it than you do.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cops like sunny days

Spring has finally sprung in the Okanagan.
The birds are chirping, the grass is starting to turn green and there is a cop with a radar gun every two kilometres along Highway 97.
I know all of this because I can hear the birds, see the grass and have passed roughly 598 cops who have pulled someone over during the last few days.
I may be wrong here, but it seems the nicer the weather, the more important it is to catch speeders.
How come you never see radar traps when it is sunny, but very cold outside?
Perhaps radar guns don't work in cold weather, because I do not think I have ever seen a gaggle of cops standing at the side of the road with a laser radar gun when the mercury is in the minus side of the thermometre.
But once the temperature rises, the radar guns thaw out and the next thing you know there is a Kojak with a Kodak around every corner.
It would seem busting speeders is a seasonal objective.
Now, before people get their knickers in a knot, (and every officer in the Valley looks to find out what kind of car I drive) I know it is illegal to speed and police are just doing their job. If you don't want a ticket, don't speed it is that simple.
And I don't think being a police officer is a job I would want to do, as it seems like a difficult and often thankless task. All I am saying is radar traps seem to be as much a passage of spring as the return of barbecues, birds and bugs.
For many years now I have been a good boy when it comes to observing the posted speed limit and learned long ago that saving three minutes in travel time is not worth the cost of a speeding ticket.
There was a time, however, when I had interaction with traffic cops on a fairly regular basis. This was more than 20 years ago and the rules were a lot different back then for new drivers.
In the first couple of years of driving, I was pulled over by one cop so many times we were on a first name basis. Other officers were more like acquaintances.
Every time I got nailed, it was a similar scenario: I would be cruising along, blasting the tunes and minding my own business (I should have been minding the speed limit) when I would see those pretty blue and red lights flashing in the rear view mirror.
A feeling of read would race through my mind as I looked at the speedometer and realized that, yet again, the speed limit was set too low for the speed I was going.
I would pull over and try to look innocent (which never worked.) The constable would approach my vehicle and the interaction would begin.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“Um, you suspect I have a box of Timbits hidden under the seat.”
Strangely enough, that answer never worked, and if you try it odds are you will get to know the officer a little better as he asks you to step out of the car and conducts a quick vehicle search to make sure everything is in order.
That's what they say anyway, but I suspect they were actually hunting for those Timbits.
There is also a pretty good chance such a comment will not endear you in the heart of the peace officer who has a book full of speeding tickets just waiting to have a name put on them.
And in case any of those officers are reading this, my real name is Rob Smith.

Tiger has nothing to fear

What I am about to say some people may find shocking, even stunning.
I don't golf.
There, I said it. My dirty little secret is now out in the open. I do not spend my spare time chasing a little white ball around a big green field.
It is just something that never really interested me. I did try it for a little while, but it never took.
A few years ago my wife got me driving lessons for my birthday. These driving lessons were of the golf variety and not the car variety, but she has said I could probably use a refresher course in the latter as well.
I have this bad habit of not always using my turn signals. I am not sure why I have an aversion to blinking lights, but I am working on it and even my wife will admit my signaling has improved as of late. Some people don't seem to mind when I don't use signals and once in a while they will give a little wave, but I do find it a odd that they wave with only one finger.
Anyway, back to my brief foray into the world of golf.
I showed up at the driving lessons with a couple of clubs and no idea how to properly hit the ball.
It was early spring so we were in a gymnasium and my first thought was, “Those balls are gonna beat the crap out of the walls in here.”
I don't know much about golf, but I do know the balls are very hard and really hurt when they hit you in the head.
I learned this the hard way (like there is any other kind of way.) When I was about 12 years old, I found a golf ball at a local school field and bounced it a few times on the nearby pavement to see how high it would go. And go it did.
As I was young and my brain was not fully engaged yet, I decided to throw it at a brick wall about 20 feet away - as hard and I could.
I remember throwing the ball, seeing a bright light and then looking up at the sky as I lay on the ground. The ball bounced off the wall with some serious velocity and smacked me right between the eyes, literally. I had a knot on my noggin that looked like I was growing a second nose.
Needless to say I never threw a golf ball at a wall again.
So I was curious how we were going to hit golf balls in a gymnasium and was wishing I would have brought my motorcycle helmet and full hockey gear.
As it turned out, we were using these little plastic balls with a slightly higher density than a ping pong ball. No matter how hard you hit them, they would only go a few feet.
After several lessons, I decided to test my skills at the driving range. I bought a bucket of balls, placed the bright orange target on the tee and swung with all my might, remembering what I had been taught.
It was a spectacular shot. My first time hitting a real ball and I smoked it big time.
That sucker was going, going, gone. Tiger Woods look out, here comes Hamster Handschuh.
Feeling rather pleased with myself, I hit another ball and this one easily went 150 yards. The problem was, it was 100 yards down the field and 50 yards to the right.
The next few balls yielded the same results. I could have shot around a building my slice was so bad.
I did a few more rounds at the driving range and was showing some improvement, but I never did play an actual game of the popular past time.
It's probably just as well, because when I hit a ball, there really is no telling where it will end up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Getting old sucks

It’s not just the aches and pains that let me know I am getting older.
There are many other signs that I am no longer the young lad I once was. Some of them are subtle and some of them are like getting slapped in the face with a six-pound trout.
One of the subtle ones is the hair loss. Big deal, I started losing my hair when I was around 20. I decided I would go bald gracefully and not enter into the realm of the comb over and ‘fool’ people into believing I still had a full head of flowing locks.
C’mon guys, if your hair is falling out faster than sweat off a fat guy in a sauna, accept it.
It’s not so bad.
Just think of all the time you will save by not having to comb your hair. I spend more time vacuuming my hair off the floor than I do combing it.
I also haven’t used conditioner in many years, saving several dollars in the process. That’s money I can spend on other things, like hats.
As Father Time continues to slap me around, I have noticed my knees don’t work as well as they used to and several items of clothing have mysteriously shrunk over the past few years.
For some reason they all seem to shrink around the waistline.
Take a pair of pants for example. The legs remain the same length, so it is some weird horizontal shrinkage as opposed to a unilateral and vertical shrinkage. Go figure.
There are several nagging injuries that remind me of an energetic youth, but it was a conversation with my 15-year-old niece that cut me to the aged quick.
We were enjoying a coffee at a local brew house when my niece said she could smell something odd.
Try as I might, all I could smell was coffee, but she insisted a strange aroma was hovering in the air.
I knew immediately she had a bionic nose. My wife has the same thing, as does her father, so it seems the nose has been passed to another generation.
My wife has a sense of smell so acute she can pick out a bug fart in a hurricane. Maybe not a fruit fly, but a house fly or larger.
Most people in my age group will remember Steve Austin - the bionic man. A dude with two mechanical legs, a mechanical arm and mechanical eye who could run so fast that time slowed to the point where it looked like he was barely moving.
I looked at my niece and said, “You have a bionic nose.”
A blank look crossed her face and she replied, “What’s a bionic nose.”
Slap. Ouch.
“You know. The Six Million Dollar Man. Battled Sasquatch, fought evil henchmen, ran so fast he looked slow.”She gave me the same blank stare like I had been sniffing too much muscle liniment.
I took a moment to try and explain the mechanical marvel of my youth. I even told her about the bionic woman, the bionic dog and I am not positive, but I think there was a bionic hamster towards the end of the series as the producers grasped for ratings.
Same blank stare.
“You have a hyper spastic nose that can smell farther than most people can see.”
That she understood, but she did not see the point of my rant and had little interest in developing her gift for the good of mankind.
We finished our coffee and I hobbled home wondering if I should stop and buy a walker on the way.
My niece is now married and is growing older herself.
I rest assured knowing someday she will have a similar conversation with her daughter or niece.
Payback, how sweet it is.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cats are king, just ask them

I recently read an article that said the common house cat was a direct descendant of wildcats.
“Domestic cats can be traced to wild progenitors that interbred well over 100,000 years ago, new research indicates,” said a CNN website. And if CNN says it, it must be true.
So house cats come from wild cats, well there’s a shock. Let me guess, dogs are somehow related to wild wolves and a budgie is the long-lost cousin of a condor.
I am more of a dog person than a cat person, but after having my ancient and somewhat senile dog put down earlier this year, the family homestead was left with only Gilbert the Wonder Cat as a pet.
Sushi the Siamese Fighting Fish and Mario the Super Hamster have both also passed to the realm of animal Valhalla.
Fathead, as my wife calls him, is actually my son’s cat, or from the cat’s point of view we all belong to him.
We also call him Gilbutt, Gilford, Gilmeister and the Gillinator. I have never understood the point of naming a cat anyway.
The fickle feline will come when he wants, go when he wants, eat when he wants and, in general, he will act very much like a teenager all the time.
You can call a cat anything you want, because it won’t come when you call it anyway.
Cats do everything on their terms.
And when Gilfart – I am not sure who came up with that one – does want attention, he bumps against you until you pet him.
Now, could someone please tell me why he has to stick his butt in the air when you do pet him. It is most unappealing.
A dog would not do that. Mind you I have seen a dog eat its own barf, which is something a cat would never do.
A dog looks at it and thinks, “Hey where did that tasty treat come from?” A cat looks at it and thinks, “Somebody better clean that up.”
We were kind of reluctant to get Gil at first, because I can’t stand the spastic, hyper-freak cats that go through the roof at the slightest sound.
If you are going to have a pet, it might as well be one you can interact with. As far as I am concerned pets are something to, well, pet. That’s why they are called pets.
If the cat clings to the ceiling every time you walk past, it likely will not be the best critter to have around children.
Some friends of ours had a monstrous black tabby name Figaro. The cat was a freak of nature. It was not only big, it was mean.
“Uh, you better not pet him. He’s not real friendly. In fact, you should try to keep a couple feet away from him at all times” was often what the owners told people who saw Catzilla for the first time.
Figs, as he was called, would take a swipe at you just for walking by. Only one of their daughters dared touch the beast that, for reasons only a cat can understand, was as gentle as a baby fawn with her.
With the rest of the world, he was more like one of his wildcat ancestors – only meaner. They endured Figaro for 12 years. I think they were too afraid to touch him, which is why they never got rid of him.
He was the only cat I have ever seen with a tattoo and leather jacket.
Gil on the other hand, could not be any more mellow if we fed him valium. Nothing fazes him - not loud noises, sudden movements – nothing.
And that is a good thing.
When he first came to his home (it used to be my home until he moved in and declared it his own) he was an adult so we missed all the clawing and stuff kittens do.
He is also an accomplished hunter and is a killer through and through.
Within a couple weeks of his arrival, mouse and bird carcasses (or what was left of them) began popping up in our yard.
One day he left almost an entire mouse on the front steps. My son was proud of the hunting ability of his furry friend and I explained it was an offering from Gil to him declaring they were part of the same pride.
I told him it was a cat thing.
He thought that was pretty cool, until I told him in keeping in the tradition of the cat kingdom he had to eat the mouse.
His jaw hit the floor and his eyes bugged out until he realized I was, of course, kidding.
Gil was also a bit of scrapper when he first showed up. He and a few neighbourhood cats quickly established a pecking order and as far as I can see he is pecking the heck out of the other cats.
So for now our home has only a single non-human mammal living under the roof.
We are thinking of getting a puppy however, and I am sure Gil will think that is a great idea.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Freaky frog love

Spring is upon us and that means one thing – testosterone will be flowing like cheap wine at a frat party.
It’s universal throughout the animal kingdom.
In the springtime, rams butt heads, peacocks pump up their plumage and young men show off for young ladies – actually they just show off more than usual for young ladies – and all form of animal throughout the land start to strut their stuff.
In other words, spring is like Viagra for the animal kingdom.
Evidence of this can be found even in urban settings. The trees are blooming, the birds are returning to their nests and the frogs living in the creek near my home begin their nightly chorus of ribbet-ribbet.
It may not sound exactly like that, but I do not know how to spell the sound they actually make, so the cliche ‘ribbet’ will have to do.
Anyway, through absolutely no scientific measures whatsoever, I have determined what those frogs are saying. It’s a gift, kind of a Dr. Doolittle thing.
In frog language it is ribbet-ribbet, but if that were translated into English, it would mean ‘Hey baby, how you doin’? Those are some sexy warts. Want to check out my pad?’
OK, I’m sorry for that last one, but I couldn’t resist.
The croaking critter’s chorus of communication continues for some time, but slowly quiets down as spring progresses and the amphibians pair off for a summer of weird, frog love.
But there is always a few mournful ‘ribbets’ left as summer arrives. They are heard echoing through the silence of the night and I can only assume these are the nerd frogs.
The geeks of the frog world as it were.
They are the shy frogs who are socially challenged and are never sure just what to say when a web-toed honey splashes by.
Time drags on and they are left to spend yet another summer without a little female frog friend with which to frolic.
It is a pitiful sound that goes from ‘Hey baby, how you doin’?’ to ‘OK ladies one last chance, all this can be yours’ to ‘Awe, c’mon please. Look, I have flies, lots and lots of flies.’
Eventually even those frogs quit croaking and have either found a nerd lady frog, or submitted to the fact it will be another season of spending lots of time in the coldest part of the pond.
These frogs will get together a couple times a week, slam back a few water beetles and tell each other the lady frogs are the ones missing out.
They would then go home alone and imagine they were crocodiles or something and could dispose of all the other guy frogs and have the ladies to themselves.
Not that I’ve ever felt that way. I’m talking about frogs here.
I’m shocked anyone would think I am substituting my own feelings from a sad and pathetic youth onto a frog just so I could write them down in an attempt to deal with deep-rooted issues that have been haunting me most of my life, um, anyway, about those frogs…
If there are nerd humans (and I am not mentioning anyone specifically here), there is a chance there are nerd frogs, or nerd anything for that matter.
Maybe there is a nerd wildebeest out there that is just too geeky or shy to get a lady wildebeest and spends most of his time wandering the woods telling himself he is better off alone.
Maybe his horns are too small, who knows.
Human nerds at least have a chance at changing their stars and sometimes become computer experts, which can lead to a career with the potential to make a boatload of cash, and as everyone knows, cash is the antidote for nerdism.
But wildebeests and frogs don’t need cash, so maybe animal nerds are just out of luck.
What I am saying is, I am glad I am not a nerd frog, or a nerd wildebeest.
If you have to be a nerd, geek or dork, it is best to be a human nerd, geek or dork because at least we have Dr. Phil to make things all better.
We also have beer, but that is another issue altogether.

Dishing it out

When it comes to loading the dishwasher, there pretty much are no rules for guys.
There are no boundaries either.
When my wife loads the dishwasher it is with a purpose and grand design. Everything is symmetrical with plates, bowls and cups all in their own special little spot.
Should a utensil dare to get out of line, a wrath would befall it that would result in it being put back in to place.
Personally, I tend to be a little more liberal in my stacking of the eating apparatus.
While her loading could be compared to the Mona Lisa, mine is more along the lines of a Picasso.
Sure I have a basic design of where things should go, but the word symmetrical does not necessarily apply.
My vocabulary of what goes in the dishwasher is more extensive as well.
I have narrowed it down to just about everything.
If I can some how get it to fit, then it pretty much qualifies as eligible for the machine. The only other restriction is it cannot melt nor disintegrate, and believe me, that leaves a lot of options for automatic cleaning.
I bought the dishwasher to do dishes - not some of the dishes, not a few of the dishes, but as many dishes as possible.
I also classify pots, pans and associated lids as fair game. Casserole bowls? No problem, if it fits, it goes in.
It has come to the point where I consider it a challenge to do as few dishes by hand as possible.
It is an insult to my personal ingenuity if an item ends up in the sink when I believe in my heart it could go in the dishwasher.
Lately I have been expanding my view of just what can be washed in the machine.
“Honey, the dog needs a bath.”
“Hmmmm, really. It’s a small dog, I wonder…….”
I am kidding of course. I would never put a dog in a dishwasher, (that would take up far too much room and I might be forced to do some dishes by hand.)
While I never had dishpan hands as a kid, I did my share of washing, but the only time dishes were done willingly and with enthusiasm was Christmas Eve.
My family opened their presents on Christmas Eve partly because it was my Grandmothers birthday and partly because it is a German tradition of some sort that my dad inherited from his parents.
At least that’s what we were told. Maybe they just didn’t want to have a house load of kids wake them up at 5 a.m. to open presents.
Perhaps my parents were smarter than I give them credit for.
I always thought being born on Dec. 24 would be a drag because Christmas would always over shadow your special day.
However, a friend of mine had it even worse. He was born on Dec. 26. That is possibly the worst birthday going because by then the party is over.
On Boxing Day, people are unwinding from their gift-giving hangover of Christmas Day and don’t feel like going to another party.
More often than not most of the cards my buddy received were Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday all in one. The upside was he usually got a present for Christmas and cash for his birthday and he made out like a bandit in the finance department more than once.
Anyway, us kids were always eager to do dishes Christmas Eve because no one was allowed to open any presents until the table was cleared and the dishes sparkling clean.
That meant the kids would hover over the adults as they ate, asking every 3.7 seconds if they are done with their plate yet.
“No, I’m not done yet.”
“Well you should be. I didn’t want to bring it up, but you are getting kind of fat lately so it might be a good idea to push away from the table, and there’s no time like the present to start. I’m just thinking about your health. Now, let me take that plate for you.”
All four of us would be crowding around the sink frantically scrubbing pots, pans and dishes. I asked my mom once why she doesn’t just get a dishwasher. Her reply was she already had four of them.
Eventually the dishes would be washed, dried and stacked, the table wiped down and the frenzy of opening would begin.
Oddly enough, none of my sisters ever asked for a toy dish set, I wonder why.

Rocky racoons

Our home has been under attack lately.
There has been a series of stealthy, night-time assaults on our garbage cans by a renegade collection of critters we suspect are raccoons.
I think it was raccoons because we saw raccoon footprints in the snow. CSI eat your heart out.
For a while now the striped bandits have been knocking over our garbage cans and feasting on leftovers that I did not think were fit for man or beast.
It would seem a raccoon’s culinary standards are drastically lower than my own, leading me to think it would suck to be a raccoon.
It became tiresome to wake up in the morning, go to fetch the newspaper and find three bags of garbage spread all over the driveway.
Bad words formed in back of my mind every time I would see such an atrocity. Words such as ‘darn it’ and even ‘fiddle sticks’ were among the terms I felt like uttering.
To counter the scourge of the scavenging mammals, I took drastic and decisive action – I bought a garbage can with a lid.
Problem solved, and without bloodshed or the use of firearms and explosives, as was part of my original plan.
I now grab my morning paper from a garbage-free driveway, life is good.
However, we do share our home with a cat and the other day I came strolling up our driveway to find half of a mouse next to our van.
It was the lower half of a rodent which I assume was deposited by said cat.
I was going to grab a shovel and dispose of the remains, but I got busy and forgot.
The next day however, the carcass was gone thanks to those wonderful raccoons.
The same thing happened the next day and the woodland creatures were fast winning favour in my heart.
I have never had much interaction with raccoons, having rarely seen one before this year.
The first time I got a good look at a raccoon was several years ago when my wife and I were on a kid-less vacation.
We decided to go for a walk one evening through the quant little resort town simply because we could do so without a caravan of kids in tow.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw something crawling up a tree.
My first thought was, “That is the biggest squirrel I have ever seen in my life.”
I wondered if there was a nuclear plant nearby and had visions of an army of giant, mutated and generally agitated squirrels tearing through the town.
“Squirell-zilla, squirell-zilla!”
Just as I was about to run for my life from the flesh-rending creatures, a closer look revealed it was a raccoon and not a Chernobyl-sized cousin of Chip and Dale.
My wife found this whole thing quite amusing actually, as I explained my theory on mutated nut eaters and the peril we barely managed to avoid.
“How much wine did you have at supper?”
It had nothing to do with wine, but with survival.
Had it actually been a mutated, deformed squirrel, she would have appreciated my fast thinking and ninja-like reflexes.
In less than a second I had spotted the threat, determined it was a Jurassic squirrel and was ready to lead her to safety by showing the best way to escape from the fierce beast.
Is that cause for mockery? A little I guess.
I would like to blame my jittery nerves on a traumatic childhood incident with a member of Mother Nature’s home team, but there were none.
Growing up, we lived in the sticks so there was an abundance of wildlife all around, and I loved it.
Deer were as common as zits on a teen. We also had a few resident bears that would leave bear landmines in our yard. Fortunately they were easy to spot because they were roughly the size of a 1968 VW Beetle.
I also had encounters with porcupines, bush rats – which were big, nasty creatures – and a whole pack of coyotes could regularly be spotted on the hillside behind the homestead just about every morning.
It’s amazing our cat died of natural causes at almost 14 years old and didn’t wind up being a coyote pate.
There was also an abundance of snakes. They were mostly grass snakes, but there was also the occasional rattle snake sunning itself on the nearby mountain side.
How cool is that.
But something I do not recall is raccoons.
We had a compost bin that would attract coyotes and bush rats, but none of the masked mammals.
I now live in a regular suburban type neighbourhood and we are infested with raccoons. Well, if one or two can be considered an infestation.
I saw one in the middle of the day, calmly walking down the road next to a local school, with out a care in the world, heading to his next dinning experience no doubt, which proves man and animals can live together, just make sure your garbage can has a lid.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Frantic first timers are funny

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 shinning, 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.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Boys are gross

Boys can be gross little critters.
They don’t necessarily mean to be, it’s just the nature of possessing testosterone without the maturity to wield it.
Testosterone is kind of like the Force - once you learn how to control it, it can be of great benefit, but if it is unchecked it leads to the dark side and the dark side usually involves something that will gross out mom and dad.
Mind you when boys grow up, testosterone can still lead to some uncouth situations. I highly doubt it was a refined woman who invented the globally popular ‘Pull my finger’ gag.
Anyway, not too long ago I was talking to a lady who was appalled by the actions of some of the young boys in her neighbourhood.
The lads were around 10 years old and full of vinegar and puppy dog tails or what ever else they are supposed to be made of.
It would seem these future leaders of our nation decided it would be more fun to pee in their water guns and squirt each other than to just fill them with boring old water.
When she said this to myself and another father, I had to chuckle.
They looked at me like I was demented.
“You both only have girls, don’t you?”
They did and were thus unfamiliar with the minds of little men.
I doubt a girl would ever think of doing such a thing.
I know it is disgusting and I am certainly not endorsing it, but it is something little boys do, and parents who only have girls simply do not understand.
Most girls are all cute and sweet, while boys are more like chimpanzees on a sugar high. I am sure boys are where the term ‘perpetual motion’ came from, because it seems little boys never stop moving, doing things or looking for new adventures – which translates into getting in to trouble.
They don’t necessarily mean to get in trouble, it just kind of happens.
One day, my oldest son was looking at this small, black thing he took out of his pocket.
I assumed it was a rock or something and I asked what he had.
“It’s a bird’s stomach” was his matter-of-fact reply.
I stopped dead in my tracks and contemplated his response.
“A what?” was my somewhat horrified reaction.
“I also have what I think is a heart and a lung.”
My mind raced at the information I was hearing.
“OK, calm down. There are plenty of good psychiatrists in town. That’s it, all he needs is a little assistance. He will be fine. All little boys carry animal parts in their pocket – right?”
My next concern was how he came into possession of said body parts.
He went on to explain that he had found a dead bird behind the shed and decided to take it apart to see what was in it.
He always enjoyed taking things apart which, until that moment in time, I thought was a good thing. He was expanding his knowledge, exploring how things worked – now it was just a one-way ticket to Barf City.
He did not have any surgical tools or even a pocketknife, so he pulled it apart with his fingers.
I would just like to say – eeeeeeeewww. Now that is disgusting.
He did not know it was gross, he was just a curious seven year old with no concern for minor details like germs, bacteria, malaria or the plague.
Again, I doubt most girls would ever do that.
While girls are playing with dolls and having imaginary tea parties, Junior was performing a do-it-yourself autopsy.
“Go in the house and wash your hands – a lot. Use the entire bar of soap and don’t touch anything on the way in. Just keep your hands in the air. Wait, let me open the door and turn on the taps. NO, don’t touch me. NO, don’t touch the cat either.”
“Can I keep the stomach?”
Boys just do things differently.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cubs r cool

Growing up in a rural area meant, as a community, we had to find our own fun and one way we did that was through the Cubs
The Cubs would hold weekly meetings at a school near my home where we would learn such vital things as how to tie a knot 1,467 different ways.
In the years since – which are many – I have had a need for about three different types of knots and they are all a variation of the same method.
But I guess it is better safe than sorry, so if the need arises where I must use a double-twist-super-grab-upside down-inverted-bow knot with a full locking mechanism I am prepared.
Actually I am not prepared, because all I can remember is the three knots I use to this day – the bow is not among those claimed fastening systems because I learned that before I entered the Cubs.
The Cubs also instilled such life skills as helping little old ladies across the street – which is something I never did – but they did teach us to be good citizens. Well, as good as a group of young boys can be.
We also played a variety of games to help burn off some of our youthful energy.
One of the games involved a Scout leader kneeling in the centre of a circle of uniform-clad kids while swinging a rope several inches off the ground with a bean bag attached to the end of it.
The idea was to jump over the rope as it came around. The problem was if you didn’t jump in time the rope would wrap around your ankles like a bolo and you would go crashing to the ground.
Once in a while someone’s head would bounce off the varnished hardwood floor with a splat. The game would stop until that person regained consciousness and then it was back to the fun.
We would also play dodge ball – a game the token fat kid hated because he presented a bigger target than the rest of us.
It was a game that I was quite good at, and is yet another skill I possess that is completely useless in the real world.
The object of the game is simple – don’t get hit by the ball.
I could duck and dodge and twist and was often the winner.
There is not a lot of need for skilled dodge ball players out there so I knew I would never go pro, but I will always be comforted by the knowledge I could have.
Cubs were also big on badges. Some of the veterans – Scouts who were at least 15 – had more badges than Hugh Heffner had pick up lines.
There were badges for community service, sporting events, model building and, of course, for tying knots.
You even got a badge after getting a certain number of badges. The badges were worn with pride and there was one keener who had more than the rest of us and made it his life mission to collect all of them
He had so many he had to wear two shirts just to fit them all on.
I had a few badges, but I can not remember what they were for. I think one was for not setting anything on fire which is another story.
They did not have a dodge ball badge, which I harbour bitter feelings about to this day.
Overall, the Cubs were a positive experience and I will likely write more about my time with the intrepid organization that is not afraid to get a group of boys with pocket knives together.
Until then, does anybody know how to tie a sheep-shank?

A camping we will go

Spring has arrived and a young man’s fancy turns to love.
For us middle-aged guys it turns to yard work, helping the wife with spring cleaning – not a man’s idea, but mandatory to maintain marital harmony – and to go camping - that wonderful activity where said hardworking man leaves his big house to drag a little house behind the family wagon to a place where bugs roam unchecked, rain is likely and “a little dirt in your food never hurt anyone” is repeated to children from one end of the campground to the other.
Camping actually goes back to biblical times. Moses did it for 40 years. It may not have been by choice, but he still spent four decades pitching a tent and looking for just the right fauna for personal use.
I get tired of camping after just a few days.
Like camping through the ages, my personal expeditions into the untamed wilds of B.C. have evolved.
My earliest camping experience was when I was in the Cubs. My family was not really the camping type, using our tent trailer only for our annual marathon road trips into the United States, so I was excited to spend time with the woodland creatures I had heard so much about.
Learning to pitch a tent, set up camp and gaining information about the fauna and critters of the region were fascinating and I soaked it up like a sponge in a monsoon.
I have to admit, as a novice camper I was not really thrilled with the whole outhouse concept and I waited as long as possible before using the age-old contraption.
The most distressing part of the outhouse was the aromatic essence of the structure. Outhouses have a special smell that just can’t be described without actually experiencing it.
Having adjusted to the non-flushing, wood-surfaced, bug-laden loo, I looked to yonder camping adventures and learned they included a fire.
OK, now this was cool. Our Cub leaders are not only encouraging us to burn stuff, they are showing us how to do it.
The big thrill for the troupe of lads was to cook our own meals on the open flames of a crackling fire. I use the term ‘meals’ loosely as it was actually a can of beans, but to us it was a feast.
We learned how to open part of the lid to let the pressure out and to stir it so the middle was not cold – a big accomplishment for a 10 year old.
Once this skill was mastered, all we wanted to eat was beans.
There were three little boys per tent, each of whom had been eating beans once or twice a day for three days.
I am sure you are starting to form a picture here.
By the morning of the last day, we woke up and the walls of the tent were actually forced outward and anyone who zipped their sleeping bag up to tight looked like a giant, bloated grub.
With eyes watering, the first one awake had to crawl to the tent flap and unzip it. There would be this rush of air out of the tent – sounding not unlike a balloon that was not tied up.
Birds would fall from the sky, squirrels would flop around on the ground having seizures and dogs several kilometres away would be sniffing air wondering what that smell was and how could they roll in it.
Let’s just say the car ride home involved open windows and a gaggle of giggling boys who found the entire situation quite amusing.
Our Cub leader, who drove remarkably well with the entire upper half of his body out the window, was less pleased.
Thus was my first experience with sleeping among nature.
There are more tales of camping to come and fortunately, none of them involve beans.

Monday, April 6, 2009

You're OK

The way children interact with mom compared to dad is different in a variety of ways.
When my boys were younger and they wanted a hug or something, they went to Mom. If they wanted some good old-fashion rough housing they came to yours truly.
They are teenagers now so they don't want either one of us to give them hugs, but if you sneak up on them when they are not looking you can get them in a vice lock before they have a chance to escape.
One of the greatest threats I ever devised is I will show up at their school and give them not only a hug, but a big ol' kiss on the cheek in front of all their classmates.
It is amazing how fast those dishes get washed once they realize I am serious.
Anyway, as little guys they determined mom was the giver of affection and Dad was the jungle gym, punching bag and wrestling mat.
One day as the two of them were tackling me and generally acting like young bucks I asked, “Why don't you ever do this with your mom?”
“Because we love mom,” was the reply before a double team took me to the ground yet again.
But that is just the way it is. Mom was always the one to provide the hugs while dad was the go-to guy when it came to full-contact fun.
It's just the nature of the difference in genders. Mom's tend to be nurturers, while dads tend to deliver noogie-filled headlocks.
Just like how kids interact with their parents is different, the way parents interact with their children is different.
When a kid gets a minor injury like a scraped hand or tiny cut or something, mom will hug the kid and gently wash it before putting a bandage on it and getting ice cream for the injured party.
Dad will also assess the wound and if he determines it to be minor he will respond, “You're OK,” before moving on to the next topic.
I have witnessed many of my friends do the same thing.
“You're OK, it's fine, you'll be alright. Now pick up your arm and put your bike away.”
Of course, if the injury is more than a little scrape, the dad knows exactly what to do and immediately leaps into action.
“Quick, where's your mom, she will make it better.”
Mom then comes to the rescue, assesses the situation, takes care of the injury and both child and dad get ice cream. The kid gets it to help them heal and dad gets it to help him get over the mental stress of such an ordeal.
It's not that dad's don't care, they just do things a little differently than their female counterpart.
For example, my oldest son loved to climb trees when he was small and the apple tree in front of our home was a perfect place to hone his skills as a monkey.
One day he fell out of the tree, a distance of about two metres. I ran to the window in time to see him get up, dust himself off and give me a big grin.
I made sure he had not hit is head or broken anything before giving my official diagnosis of “You're OK.”
When I told his mom about it a couple hours later, she called him over for an examination that came just short of a full body CT scan.
When she was done, she reached the same conclusion I did, he was OK.
I hate to say I told you so, but...