Archive for October, 2008

Hey I forgot to tell everyone that I got my truck back. Some of you may recall that my truck was stolen over a month ago while, from the relative safety of the Pentagon, I was busy protecting my country. It made for a heart-warming surprise when I got off the train that Friday evening only to discover my ride had been snatched.

Secretly, I had hoped that my truck would be disassembled and shipped overseas, thus completely unable to return to me with its giant gas-sucking motor, but alas, no joy. The police found my truck a couple days later abandoned and lonely in Southeast, DC. Everything that was not bolted down had been taken, but graciously, the band of thieves who ran off with ”Big Red” decided to leave my collection of country music CDs. My guess is that they thought they were broken and not worth stealing. This theory is based on the fact that it looked like they tried to repair my CDs with some 100 grit sand paper and a cutting torch. None of my music could be salvaged, all of it had been maliciously destroyed. They did however leave me a pirated “Lil Wayne” album to make up for my loss. I googled that joker when I got home- shady looking fellow, looks like he ate a pie tin. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google him for yourself when you’re done with this little glimpse into my life. The rest of my truck was in pretty good shape minus a missing steering column, miscellaneous bumps and bruises, and an ashtray full of cheap Swisher Sweet Cigars. So began the process of getting it back into top running shape, enter my insurance company and a really pleasant mechanic at the Dodge dealership.

So, my truck is back in my driveway, it’s running well, but I can’t help but look at it with contempt. You see, the minute I realized that my truck had been stolen, I started daydreaming of a really sweet Altima Coupe. Ahhhh the coupe, good (well better) on gas than my truck, plus I would look like a rock star driving it. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t look like a super cool rockstar. More than likely I would resemble every other almost-middle-aged guy driving a sporty, too small for his build, quasi-race car, but at least I wouldn’t have to endure those “you must be compensating for something” jokes that you get when you drive a giant truck.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like my truck. After all, what man wouldn’t want a vehicle that could actually tow his home out of a ditch if it were to ever veer off the road after hitting a patch of black ice? The problem is my home hasn’t left the foundation since I got here and I can’t think of anything else that’s worth towing. Wait a minute, Connie bought a very big boat this summer, that’s what I’ll tow! I don’t really like being a boat person, but if you own a giant gas guzzling vehicle in this economy you better have some way of justifying it. Come to think about it, if I leave the boat hitched to my truck all winter long I might avoid all those dirty looks from my eco-friendly neighbors who are constantly haranguing me to conserve, conserve, conserve. Connie’s sea creature may be more useful than I thought. Forget what I said about the coupe, I wonder if I can trade in my truck for a Hummer?

 

Connie and I recently attended the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and if you have never been, I highly suggest it; we had a most excellent adventure (“Bill & Ted” shout out). I’ve always been interested in this period, but probably for all the wrong reasons. As a kid, I always associated the renaissance period with knights and swords, guillotines, the Black Plague, damsels in distress and chivalrous heroics. My adolescent perception of the period was questionable, so prior to heading to the festival I did a bit of research. I felt it important to be able to intelligently discuss the substantive topics of the period. After all, I didn’t want to look like an idiot (there is more irony in that statement than I can begin to explain).

So I pulled up the period on my computer and went directly to Wikipedia (all knowing internet deity) and submerged myself in renaissance knowledge. Here is an excerpt of what I found:

Renaissance- “As a cultural movement, it encompassed a revival of learning based on classical sources, the development of linear perspective in painting, and gradual but widespread educational reform. Traditionally, this intellectual transformation has resulted in the Renaissance being viewed as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era. Although the Renaissance saw revolutions in many intellectual pursuits, as well as social and political upheaval, it is perhaps best known for its artistic developments and the contributions of such polymaths as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who inspired the term “Renaissance men”.”(Wikipedia)

That’s about as far as I got; my thirst for knowledge had been satisfied (what can I say I’m a bit shallow). I would fill in the missing pieces by interfacing with all of the Renaissance regulars, the guys who make dungeons and dragons a reality.  Besides, how difficult could it possibly be? Even I could figure out that the Renaissance was all about reading, painting and sculpting stuff. Sounded a bit boring to me, hopefully there would be at least one guillotine (fingers crossed).

Boring?  Ha, not a chance, the festival proved to be a target-rich blog environment- so much so that I’ll probably have to write about it in several installments. After all, I have much to teach you about what really went down during the Renaissance.  So sit back, fill your “Holy Grail” with the honorable Mr. Rossi and enjoy. I only hope to do this brave band of Renaissance warriors justice with my simple narrative.

Connie and I were in such a rush to get away from the boys for an afternoon that we neglected to eat prior to leaving the house.  In fact, we were in such a rush to escape that Connie neglected to come to a complete stop when we pushed the kids and babysitter from our minivan. “Tuck and roll kids! Love you! Be good.”  Needless to say, by the time we got there we were famished (that’s a fancy word for hungry- it’s how Renaissance people talk) so off we went to find some authentic era cuisine.  The Renaissance took place largely in France and when you think of France two things should come to mind, rude people and fine dining. Our hopes were high that we would enjoy an extraordinary dining experience. We were not disappointed.
 
From what I observed at the festival, evidence suggests that people of the 16th Century subsisted largely on food that could be placed on a stick and dunked into a vat of boiling hot vegetable oil. Apparently nothing in the King’s vending machine was exempt from this preparation method (e.g. Snickers, Twinkies, Oreos); you name it, they deep fried it. Connie and I learned a lot about the unusual dining habits of the period from an extremely helpful gentlemen who appeared to know all there is to know about morphing unhealthy food into artery clogging morsels of death. As we spoke with him, I was awestruck by his ability to toss back fried Oreos like a 6-year old boy mowing down Flintstone chewables. On top of that, he was an encyclopedia of fried food information. He knew the correct temperature of a properly prepared fried Snickers, he could list every Little Debbie snack ever made (in alphabetical order), and he was personally responsible for the advent of the fried ”Slim Jim”; the guy was ahead of his time. We learned much from our new friend such as the Renaissance was the birthplace of the Pork Rind (see photo) which, come to find out, is the forefather of the modern day Funion.  I like France a whole lot more now that I know they gave the world the gift of Funions. I wonder if they invented Cheetos as well?
The only thing I found more endearing than the shameless act of deep frying an Oreo was the amount of effort and intelligence it must have taken to fasten cheesecake to a stick. 
But alas, that was not the only nontraditional skewered food item.  While Michelangelo may have created ”David”, his fellow artisans busied themselves with designing such Renaissance marvels as “Macaroni and Cheese on a stick”, “Steak on a Stake”, “Chicken on a Lance” and “Beef Stew on a skewer”.  Obviously forks were a post-renaissance luxury which probably made their first appearance during the industrial revolution. As my pictures suggest, Connie and I did follow the “while in Rome” approach to our Renaissance experience. I did in fact eat a fried Oreo and am happy to report the ensuing cardiac arrest that I experienced was mild and the damage I incurred is reversible with the help of a pace maker. Furthermore, doctors believe the 11 pounds I gained in 6 seconds can be worked off if I employ a personal trainer and do no less than 3 hours of strict cardio per day. Well worth the pain if you ask me.
As if all this fried goodness wasn’t enough, they had adult refreshment stands as far as the eye could see. Renaissance folks did not drink fine French wine, oh no, they washed down their daily bread (or daily breaded, deep fried food item) with frosty mugs of ale. The novice Renaissance goers drank from plastic keg cups, but if you were a sword carrying, chain mail sporting regular you most likely owned your very own beer chalice. This was an extremely classy touch (it’s all in attention to detail). I must admit I was a tad bit jealous of the 50 year old dude in drag who came to the party with his own custom cup, righteous. The best part of the whole thing was the beer was cheaper than the bottled water. Go figure, how authentic is that? Connie and I were able to rationalize our amount of beer consumption on that premise alone, but that is a story for another evening….

 

 

Has anyone seen my Gonuts?

October 25, 2008

I was sitting in the living room working on my computer when Connie walked in with a mysterious DVD.  I didn’t pay any attention, I was busy, and before I knew it she had the TV on and the movie playing.  No problem, a little background noise would probably help the creative process.  I continued to work on my computer, head down, pounding away on my keyboard, oblivious to the dangerous situation that was unfolding before me.

By the time I looked up it was too late.  To my horror, Connie had slipped in “Secret Traveling pants of the Divine Ya Ya Sisters”, or some shit like that, and unknowingly, I had absorbed a large dose of “estrogen laden gamma-rays” that films of this genre are known to radiate.  You know the type of film I’m talking about right?  They have names like “Steel Magnolias” and “Under a Tuscan Sun” and they steal, no they suck, the man-ness right out of you.  Before you know it, you’re in the fetal position with a box of tissues, probably the kind with aloe vera built right in, and you’re all weepy and wanting to be held but you have no idea why. I immediately texted my buddies for assistance, but that was a long shot. I would have to cope with this on my own. Oh shit! I looked up again.

I tried to yell at Connie to turn it off, but to my horror when I opened my mouth all I could say, in a rather high-pitched, girlish squeal, was “Oh, this was an Oprah Winfrey book selection.” What the hell just came out of my mouth?  How did I know that?  I don’t watch Oprah, I watch Spike TV, damn it!  This movie was more potent than I thought. If I remained in place much longer, I would completely lose my grip on reality.  It was then that I noticed the movie’s full impact on my DNA and things got downright strange very, very quickly. 

I pulled open my shirt and to my horror all of my chest hair had fallen out and I’m not positive but I believe I started to lactate. Holy Mother of God, what’s happening to me?  A cheap domestic beer would probably have turned me around but suddenly all I craved was some chamomile tea and a piece of Melba toast.  While searching for my Melba toast, I noticed my cuticles needed pushed back, ten minutes ago I did not know what a cuticle was, now I had an emery board in my hand buffing my nails to a smooth glossy finish.  I was in a lot of trouble.

I walked back into the room to solicit Connie’s help and ended up watching 15 more minutes of her movie. By then I was awash with foreign thoughts the likes of which I had never contended with. I suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to put down every toilet seat in the house and buy several pairs of strappy sandals that looked great on my feet but were too uncomfortable to wear. My eyebrows were out of control and I had a strange desire to pour wax all over them and then rip them from my forehead. These thoughts were not my own, my manliness was deteriorating before my very eyes and I felt helpless to stop its downward spiral. I almost asked Connie if she had a spare pair of yoga pants that I could borrow; my jeans felt much too coarse on my sensitive skin and besides they presented a less than flattering picture of my behind.  God, please help me, I almost asked Connie if I looked fat in these pants.

I don’t know how the evening ended. I am pretty sure that I shared all of my hopes, dreams and fears in butt-numbing detail. In fact, I may have done so via conference call with all of the other women in my family. They seemed very responsive to the “new Shane” and invited me to lunch with them when they next came to visit, in fact they promised to include me in all of their activities to which I clasped my hands together and thanked them profusely. The last coherent thought that I can recall was the sinking feeling that the movie selection was not a fluke. The word conspiracy fluttered through my mind as I exfoliated with Noxema wrinkle reduction cream just before bed. Once more, I had been outsmarted.

 

What’s in a name?

October 18, 2008

Maybe some of you are wondering how I came up with the name, Dut Duts and Gonuts, for my Blog.  It’s not a profound political statement, it does not echo any deep religious sentiment, and its not a foreign language (unless of course you speak boy-ese).  The name came straight from the source of most of my written material, Mack and Cayden.

Dut Duts- this piece of the title was Cayden’s contribution. For the longest time, the word “Dut” was the centerpiece of the kid’s lexicon.  A reasonable reply to almost any inquiry was the word “Dut”, sometimes in combination with similar single syllable words (e.g. “Dut, Dut n’Nut Nut” or “Dut,Nut, N, Butt, Nut”. Cayden created his own language with nothing more than a few variations of the word “Dut” and various changes in inflection. As an aside, any joke that Cayden was making during this period ended in the word “Butt”.  The word “Butt” continues to be a cause of uncontrollable giggles to this day. Other words my kids find to be hilarious are: toilet,  heinie-hole (thank you cable TV), scrotum, and testicle.  Maybe I should not have taught them the correct terminology for their man parts because every time I ask them if they washed their testicles I get laughed at.

On that note, the word gonuts comes from my oldest. As I stated previously, I told the boys early on in life what the correct terms were for their private parts. This normally happened in the tub as I directed the cleaning effort.  “Alright guys, scrub your face, now your shoulders, move to your chest and belly, alright guys wash your testicles (giggles). Gonads? (more laughter). Nuts? (rolling on the floor in uncontrollable fits of hilarity)”.  Unable to cope with their inability to say the correct term, I asked Mack for an appropriate proxy for his “grapes”.  He shot back with the word gonuts (gonad/nut hybrid); it stuck.

So there is the secret of my blog title.  I would like you to believe that the term “Dut Dut” is a primal call for all fathers to become more involved in the raising of their children and that the term “Gonuts” is the masculine nature of this forum, but sadly I’m not that deep.  Instead, it’s one more way for me to capture some of the very peculiar but fascinating slices of parenthood.

Ahh Summer Time…

October 17, 2008
I am really, really going to miss summer

I am really, really going to miss summer

I just got back from a late evening fishing trip at our community pier and I’m here to tell you that summer time has left the building.  I checked the temperature gauge on my way too big, way too thirsty Man-Transport (i.e. Dodge Ram Quad Cab) when we got to our fishing spot and it registered 58 degrees.  Luckily, I was dressed for the weather in cargo shorts and flip flops and only had to get wet to my upper thighs when I carried the boys out to the start of the pier (the tide was in- typical Shane luck).  It was then that I realized that summer had somehow escaped and didn’t even have the decency to give me a kiss before sneaking out the back door.  I looked at the calendar tonight when I got home and, holy shit, its the third week of October!!!

So what does that mean?  It means no more beers poolside, no more bare feet trouncing through fresh cut grass, lightening bugs will soon fall dead to the earth and my kids will be trapped indoors for about four months until the spring thaw allows them access to the outside world.  Not sure how your kids handle the winter season, but my boys are like orangutans; they don’t do well in captivity.

So why the summery photo?  This is a photo from our family cruise last January.  This is how we survived the winter.  Right when things were at their bleakest we packed our trash and jumped on a giant boat (one that I am not cleaning, paying for, or storing) and skipped off to sunny locations in the Caribbean.  I will say that it may have been the most glorious week of my life.  The beer flowed like… well it flowed like beer, beer flows on cruise ships, they’re magical places.  We danced, we swam, we devoured an entire buffet.  Life on board a giant luxury cruise ship is fan-friggin-tabulous.

So wish me luck, economic crisis be damned, I’m going to take the family on another cruise this winter.

*As an aside ,check out Cayden’s goggles.  Little known fact about Cay, he loves the water but only if he can wear swimming goggles so tightly fastened to his head that they pressure lock his eyeballs open.

Snappy comebacks…

October 15, 2008
On the way home from work tonight I started thinking about what I could post that would actually benefit couples who do not have the years of parenting experience that I have enjoyed.  Having sifted through the numerous possibilities, I decided to provide you (the new parent) with some basic but snappy parent comebacks.  More than likely you will use some variation of the responses that I am about to provide throughout your parenting careers.  So here it goes- how to answer/comeback from some of the questions/concerns you will face as a parent.
1.  Offspring- “Dad/Mom, I have nothing to do. I am bored.”

reply- “I got it! How about you mow the lawn, clean your room, fold laundry, repave the driveway and then rotate the tires on the mini-van? Or you could just play quietly for the next 30 minutes while I finish balancing the checkbook.”

2.  Offspring- “Can I ride my bike around the block?”

Translation: “Can I weave dangerously in and out of traffic on my bike, which I can barely manage to control, to an undisclosed location far from the prying eyes of you and mom and act like a I was raised by a pack of wolves?”

reply- “Absolutely, but first I need you to undo the mass of knots you created in your school shoe laces and then weave a basket large enough to hold the heap of toys that are sprawled across our living room.”

3.  Offspring- “Can I have a soda?”

reply- “I am all out of soda, son, why don’t you siphon the fuel out of the weed whacker instead, it has about the same nutritional value and I don’t have to travel to the store to get it.”

4. Offspring- “Can Billy (names have been changed to protect the innocent) come over to play Dad?”

reply- I don’t think so, son, your teacher called before you got home from school today and said that Billy’s probation officer revoked his play date privileges until he completes his community service obligation.”

5.  Offspring- “I am asking Santa for a real dirt bike.”

reply- “Don’t count on him bringing you one buddy, the elves are being sued for union violations.  Seems the motors they’re making in their engine plant are trademarked by GM and as a result of their irresponsible behavior several hundred of your closest friends are being laid off. Damn elves.”

6. Offspring- “I’m not doing my homework tonight!”

reply- “No kidding? Well I’m fine with your decision, just let me write a note to your teacher explaining that you would rather be unemployed, homeless and hungry than spend another 5 minutes watching her face flap about social studies.  Man, I hope she doesn’t take this the wrong way; it could really hurt her feelings.”

7.  Dad- “Mack did you lift a $20 out of Mom’s wallet?

Offspring- “No, Dad, honest- I never saw it. No way, not me. Mom’s insane, Dad, she loses money all the time, very irresponsible.You should put her in time out for her lack of accountability.”

reply-  “You know what? You’re right. I’ll talk to Mom, but first let me call the crime lab down at Quantico so they can send up a finger print expert to dust Mom’s purse for fingerprints, they owe me a favor anyway and it should only take about 5 minutes.  Those guys are awesome, I’ll know exactly who took the money and then Wham! Off to jail they go! Mack, why are you crying? Do you have something you want to tell me?”

8. Offspring- “Dad, can we going fishing when you get home from work?”

reply- “Sorry guys the bay is closed for maintenance.  All of the fish have been removed and sent to “Big Ed’s Fish Emporium” for a thorough detailing. I guess your teacher was right, they are trying to clean up the bay.”

9. Offspring- “Can we get a puppy?”

reply- “Can you spell the word ambidextrous? 

Offspring- “No”

reply- “That’s the same answer I was going to use next!”

10.  Offspring- “Dad, is the tooth fairy real?”

reply- “Not anymore, buddy, I accidentally left the bug zapper on last night, nothing left but some wing remnants and scorched dollar bills” (I am only joking I would never say this to my boys, I don’t even own a bug zapper. Fly swatter, yes; bug zapper, no)

Just to clear the air, I am a smart ass, I use and believe in the power of sarcasm.  Luckily, my boys have grown accustomed to my smartassedness and can come back quite quickly with witty responses of their own.  Furthermore, my initial response is rarely my final response; in most instances, I fold like a cheap suit.  If my boys want to do something as a family I rarely say no, because I am well aware that these times are fleeting.

I once had a buddy and his kids over for lunch. As I loaded the kids plates up with chicken nuggets and French fries my friend’s son asked if he could have more ketchup. He already had quite a heap so my buddy told him “No, you have enough”. I quickly countered with ”Of course you can, Jimmy, ketchup’s almost free. Chug-a-lug buddy, enjoy”.

When I saw my buddy at work about a week later, he told me that he really admired my “Dadness”. When I asked him why, he said “because ketchup’s almost free”. 

Here is what it means- Try to say yes more often. If you’re about to say no, ask yourself ”is someone going to lose an eye if I allow this to happen?”  If not, let it go, ketchup’s almost free.


I expected that one day I would be unable to help my kids with their homework. What I didn’t expect was that it would happen in third grade.  Nothing makes Dad look like an idiot more than having to google for instructions on how to complete his 8 year old son’s math homework.  Honestly, folks, if the great minds of yore were subjected to these types of academic acrobatics during their early developmental years, they would have all given up and pursued careers outside of academia.

A couple of nights ago, Mack and I were working on his spelling, something that I can still accomplish thanks to Microsoft word and spell check (as long as my laptop is within arms reach I can look very much like the smartest man in the world).  While working on the mechanics of the long and short “O” sound, I noticed several graphs in Mack’s homework folder.  Curious, I asked my son what the papers represented.  Mack broke out some audio visual equipment and quickly shot a power point presentation up on our wall. Next, he pulled a laser pointer from his pack and told me that he would appreciate it if I did not eat while he was lecturing. Then things got weird.

Mack explained that the first graph illustrated activities that children his age normally participated in and that the numbers associated with each activity represented academic value equivalence on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=rolling a booger; 10=building a cold fusion reactor).  Most of the activities that Mack had graphed such as tossing a baseball, playing army men and shooting a BB Gun were assigned academic values somewhere between booger rolling and paste consumption.  It would seem that these activities do little in regard to developing cerebral functioning and, as such, are not really valued in the fast-paced world of elementary education.  This is my own assumption, I’ve never received a note from Mack’s school saying not to do these types of activities, but the sheer volume of homework that he totes through the door daily seems to tell me just that.

On an average day, Mack brings home a couple of math worksheets, spelling exercises, projects and, oh by the way, translate Homer’s Iliad in Latin by Friday!  Of course, after an 8 hour day sitting in a classroom, Mack would rather eat a pile of steel wool, so you can imagine the amount of time I must invest to get him to produce even a marginal academic product- painful.  Sorry, I started to spin out of control. I get fired up when I talk about the number of competing interests that define my boy’s day.  Let me explain. If you’re a parent, this will probably sound familiar.

I get fired up because both Mack and Cay walk through the door at 3pm.  They go to bed around 8pm. Connie and I have approximately 5 hours per day to accomplish everything that needs to be done prior to sending the kids off to Dream Land.  So what needs to be done?

Like every other set of parents in modern day America, we have character building activities like team sports, guitar lessons, swim class, etcetera.  For a while, we even had the guys going to hip hop dance class and cub scouts.  Hip hop was Connie’s idea.  We are obviously attempting to cultivate the most well rounded children in the universe.  Maybe we have fallen prey to the idea that our childrens’ resumes are a reflection of our parenting ability and to not get them involved in multiple activities/sports/hobbies will send them spiraling into social disgrace. Sounds serious, doesn’t it?  Connie and I are by no means the most extreme parents in this regard either.  We know plenty of parents who go above and beyond in the activities category.  Their kids are headed in so many directions they need personal assistants, Blackberry’s and a case of Red Bull each morning just to keep them in the game.

So, add in the pile of homework I mentioned above, plus somewhere in there we have to feed, nurture, clean and love on our kids and suddenly that 5 hour block of time seems pretty inadequate.

Therein lies the dilemma, what’s most important at this stage in my sons’ lives.  Do I really need to worry about the progress they are making toward their college entry exams or should I be more concerned that neither of them has learned how to properly “hawk a loogie”?  Should I encourage them to spend time dissecting the quadratic equation or should I be kicking their butts in a hot game of Yahtzee.  Do Mack and Cayden really need to know how to “pop-lock” and spin on their heads or should I help them master the front yard cartwheel first?  Bottom line, what’s most important to the development of a 6-8 year old boy?

I wrestle with these questions mostly because of my own childhood experiences.  I think I played one year of t-ball as a kid and then didn’t see organized sports again until high school.  I wasn’t a cub scout, but spent an inordinate amount of time in the woods with my buddies hunting gardener snakes and building forts from scrap lumber.  I don’t remember homework in 3rd grade, to be honest I don’t remember 3rd grade, but I think I was learning how to color, not building graphs to reflect my poor time management skills.   That being said, even though I didn’t get the benefit of all of those organized activities and homework assignments, I still turned out fairly normal (fairly meaning almost normal).

Have we, as a society, complicated our childrens’ lives so much that they can’t find the time to enjoy just being kids?

Fantabulous sunset

Fantabulous sunset taken from the USS Dow Jones (with me as a passenger it's likely to sink faster than its namesake)

The boys just noticed the beautiful sunset

Dad, is that a glorious breathtaking sunset? We must pay homage to the beautiful sunset God, with uncoordinated, non-rythmic dancing.

We celebrated the beautiful sunset with uncoordinated and non-rythmic dancing

And dance we did....

I got Tagged…

October 10, 2008

For some reason, Connie, my beautiful wife who is also an uber-talented local Annapolis baby and child photographer, felt compelled to tag me with a crazy chain email/blog thingy.  According to my wife, I am supposed to list 7 little known Shane factoids in a public forum or else I am going to suffer a horrible painful death.

Here’s the thing- not only is my wife asking (practically begging) me to embarrass our family name by revealing all of the strangeness that is Shane, she is telling me if I don’t I’m certainly going to die.  Holy shit, I better get typing, the way my luck’s been running an anvil could fall out of the sky any second.  So, in the interest of self preservation and pleasing my wife, here are seven little known Shane factoids:

1.  I have a titanium plate in my neck that looks like a shoe horn and is held in place by (4) large wood screws.  I would imagine that if one of those screws ever backs itself out of my spine my head would fall clean off.  I have a bowling ball bag in my closet in case that happens- I don’t want my gourd getting all scratched up on the way to the Doctor.

2.  I am afraid of nothing…except rats.  I am friggin’ terrified of those nasty vermin and it’s all my Dad’s fault.  I was 8 years old riding in the back of my father’s car when for no apparent reason he turned around, looked me square in the eyes and said, “You know, son, a rat can chew through a block of concrete if he wants to get at you”.

First off, I have never heard of a rat with a vendetta against human beings so no idea why a rat would be out to get me.  Secondly, what the hell, Dad?  Did you really think that bit of info was going to help me develop into a healthy well-adjusted adult?  I don’t think so. What were you thinking?  That’s like me telling Cayden, “You’re right, buddy, there is a good chance that the Boogeyman does live under your bed. I haven’t seen him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t there. G’night buddy- sweet dreams”.

3. I can’t read a road map to save my friggin’ life.  If Connie had lived several hundred years ago she would have gotten old Chris Columbus to the new world in about a week using nothing but stars and her internal GPS. Not me.  I can live in the same town for 20 years and still have to ask for directions to get to the corner quick-mart.

4. I am practically deaf.  I blew out my ear drum shooting anti-tank rockets in 1990, so I can barely hear anything anyone says, especially when Connie and I get lost due to my piss-poor navigation skills, then my hearing really shits the bed. “I can’t hear a word your saying, honey, what’s that- take a left?”

5.  I love donuts- they are delicious, they are cheap, they play well with coffee (another fantabulous creation) and you’re encouraged to eat them first thing in the morning so your body can be shocked back into activity with a 3 zillion gram sugar rush.  The little known fact is I don’t eat them because if I did there’s no guarantee that I would be able to stop.

6.  My best friend in the whole wide world is Sonny Kirk, he’s 74 and absolutely the greatest human I have ever met, minus my immediate family of course.  The guy is an inspiration, never has a bad day, is always ready to lend a hand as well as share his well-stocked frig full of Budweiser.  He just had a quadruple bypass a few weeks ago.  I never worried cause Sonny is as tough as they come, but my eyeballs did sweat a bit when his wonderful wife called me after the surgery and told me that Sonny woke up before the doctors had planned and wanted to know if I was watering his plants regularly.

7.  I love Marines, not the ones with all the rank and prestige, but the young enlisted guys who get paid practically nothing, but willingly risk everything.  If you have had the priviledge to work alongside these young patriots, you’ll understand what I mean. If you haven’t had that honor, track one down and thank them for their service.

That’s it, folks, seven Shane factoids.  Don’t you feel like you know me so much better?  I’m off to pick up the boys from the bus.  Cayden’s been getting bullied by a 2nd grader and I’m going to go down there and attempt to look intimidating.

Rules of Engagement…

October 6, 2008

For the longest time, my boys and I would engage in a little hand-to-hand combat after the evening meal. The protocol was quite simple. I would leave the dinner table, walk into the living room, push some furniture out of the way, and then flop my fat-happy self down on the floor. Once my carcass hit the carpet, it would only be a matter of seconds before little boy bodies were hurling themselves at me with reckless abandon. One of the great things about being a little kid is that your skeletal structure is mostly comprised of the same material that fruit roll ups are made of. That’s to say, when you hit an inanimate object, you don’t really break, you more or less bounce. On the other hand, I have 38 years of physical abuse in the bank, 20 of which were spent in the Marine Corps which is none too forgiving on things such as knees, spinal columns, and other miscellaneous joints. I am not made of Jello. I am made of muscle and bone held together by a very fine webbing of tendons and ligaments that are about as sturdy as a single thread of cotton candy. If stretched or torqued the wrong way, I am liable to experience incredible jolts of ass-puckering pain which will likely cause me to forget my name and curse uncontrollably. But still I fight.

Why do I challenge my boys to nightly grappling matches? The number one reason is because they are still young enough for me to appear to have super human strength and a degree of invincibility. This is something they will remember all their lives, the exact reason most men believe that even though their father is 95 years old, wheelchair bound and toothless, he is still capable of unleashing a serious can of whoop-ass. The other reason I wrestle with the boys is because it is what men do. You’ve all seen monkey island at the zoo, the only difference between them and us is that Connie will not allow us to fling poo.

So the boys and I are having a nightly match. I am flat on my back and have Mack wrapped up, completely unable to move. I often wrap my legs and arms around Mack and then make him work for several minutes to free himself; this is extremely good exercise. It was while I had Mack wrapped up that Cayden decided to come to the rescue. I have talked about how tough Cayden is in past posts, but what I didn’t mention is the fact that he is the dirtiest fighter on the planet. He does not follow any rules of engagement, meaning nothing is off limits, he is in it to win it. So Cayden runs into the room and makes his approach from the direction of my feet. At this point Mack is pretty much on my head so that didn’t leave a lot of openings for Cayden to get in his cheap shots. I saw him coming, I saw him pause, and then, terrifyingly, I saw him raise his shoe-clad foot above my groin. At that point, I knew what was coming so I tried to find my happy place quickly. Graciously, Cayden waited until I found Camelot before stomping on my groin like he was putting out a camp fire. Honestly, I have seen jackhammers beat concrete into dust with more compassion than Cayden showed me that evening. I am not positive, but I think he stomped my crotch at least a dozen times in a period of 20 seconds, could have been more, but I lost consciousness somewhere in the middle of my beating. The only thing that stopped Cayden from continuing was he had gone 15 seconds beyond his internal snack alarm and needed to refuel on some simple carbs, so off he went to track down some animal-shaped crackers.

As I applied ice to my crotch, I began to question our nightly ritual. Are the boys too big, too powerful, too vicious to fight with every evening? Or am I just getting soft in my middle-agedness? I went with option two and started training for the rematch.