Archive for November, 2008

When is Summer coming back?

November 29, 2008

As we decompress from Thanksgiving and prepare for even shittier weather, I find myself thinking more and more about summer.  These thoughts could be spurred by Mack’s insistence that “38 degrees is good fishing weather” or maybe by the fact that I’ll be retired next summer so thinking of warm weather keeps me trudging along.  Regardless of the reason, I think about summer a lot.  To keep summer in everyone’s forebrain, I’ll occasionally post a summery picture for motivational purposes.  I’d like to post some photos where I look super cool (something Brad Pitt-ish or at least Zoolander quality), but sadly I’m not super cool, especially when I am with my boys.

I asked Connie for the closest ”cool” picture that she had of me and she said they simply don’t exist.  It seems I rarely take a serious photo.  She proved this to me by pulling up 3 months worth of pictures from our point and shoot camera and challenging me to find a single picture where I wasn’t engaging in extreme jack-assery.  The picture posted below was as close to normal as I could find.  Obviously, her point was proven.

Not sure what I was thinking when this gem was snapped.  Maybe I had a giant fish on the end of my line or maybe someone snuck some “Colon Blow” into my beer and its effects caught me off guard.  Not sure which it was, but boy that facial expression is less than suave.

This photo was taken immediately after the offending snapshot above.  What do you think was coursing through Mack’s mind as he watched me pose for the photo?  My guess is “Good God, my dad is a complete dork”.  Cayden, in the background, seems to be trying to coax the fish out of the water with deep, meaningful conversation.  It may appear that he is fishing, but my guess is that the line that should be in the water is actually a tangled mass somewhere beyond the frame of the picture. It’s also likely that the mass of string beyond the frame lacks bait anyway. These are details that Cayden often times forgets.

Regardless of the details, it’s images like these that I can’t wait to make more of as soon as the weather allows.  Summer is when the guys are at their best.  So how many more months must I endure?

Well folks, another meeting of the parents and teachers has taken place and Connie and I are happy to report that both boys are bordering on normalcy.  Cayden and Mack’s conferences were back to back so the 40 minutes of face-to-face educator interaction was a lot to absorb, but we survived.  Besides, both of us think it’s kind of cool to get third party input on our childrens’ academic agility and general demeanor.

Cayden’s report-

Cayden’s teacher loves him.  His grades are solid- most of them lie between Progressing (PR) and Consistently Demonstrates (CD).  To give you a sense of what this means a CD is akin to getting an A++, what can I say the kid’s a genius.  His teacher also went on to say that Cayden displays a lot of personality, in fact, he demonstrates multiple personalities- sort of like Cybil coming down from a Prozac-induced high.  No news to Connie and I, we’ve been dealing with Cayden speaking in tongues and morphing his facial expressions for several years. His teacher, on the other hand, is always a bit surprised when Cay answers a question cross-eyed while speaking in his Darth Vader voice.  The kid’s a kick- always willing to entertain.

More news on Cayden:  The first couple of weeks of school were dedicated to teaching Cay and his classmates to quit loving on each other while standing in the lunch line.  Seems the little ones can’t keep from hugging and touching each other whenever the opportunity arises.  It’s not like a creepy old dude squeezing your thigh when you’re riding the metro (I am not speaking from experience), so I don’t see the big deal- after all, they’re just kids, right?  Obviously, the school administrators feel differently.  I’m a bit aggravated by this. Has sexual harassment become so prevalent in our society that we need to start educating our kids about the evils of sexual harassment before they have any idea what sex is?  Should the sight of two 6 year old boys holding hands in the lunch line be labeled as yellow zone behavior, or can we just chalk it up to the fact that they’re buddies, and sometimes buddies hold hands?  I kept my mouth shut, but tonight I plan on encouraging him to stage a love-in during homeroom, Mack can make a guest appearance and play Kumbaya on his guitar and the rest of the class can hum along.  I’m not a hippie or anything, but I like the fact that my kids aren’t afraid to be affectionate and I don’t want the school system to crush that prematurely.  And “oh, by the way” they assign too much damn homework. There, my daily rant.

My Bully…Cayden’s teacher also went on to explain that Cayden’s bully is no longer in the school system.  Seems the little bruiser stole a car or something and went upstate to do some time. Cayden is both happy and sad. He’s happy because name calling really bothers Cayden and his bully will be too busy sharpening his toothbrush into a shank to give him any of that negative attention. Cayden’s also sad. I think he’s sad because his dreams of retribution will never be realized.  I believe that Cayden was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to open up a pint-sized can of Whoop-Ass.  The little hooligan will never know how lucky he was that Cayden never got his chance.  Cayden would have put him in a hurt locker, after all, the kid has no fear and is harder than collegiate trigonometry.

Mack’s report:

Mack’s conference was enlightening as well.  Mack’s teacher started off by telling us that Mack will most likely work for the United Nations brokering peace talks and cease fires between warring factions.  According to his teacher, Mack is Switzerland- impartial, fair and nobody wants to attack him because he’s such a damn nice guy.  I also learned that everyone seems to know my son- when he walks into school each morning he’s greeted with a hearty “Mack!” from the entire 2nd grade, sort of like when Norm walks into Cheers- the bar from one of my most favorite 80′s sitcoms.  That was the positive side of the conference.

The other part of the conference centered on the fact that Mack cannot stay on task for more than 6 seconds.  Connie and I looked at her in disbelief. We’ve known Mack his entire life and have never gotten him to stay on task for half that long- what was her secret?  We honestly thought she was rewarding us with another positive comment, but it turns out she wasn’t. From what Mack’s teacher tells us, there are some kids who can remain focused for longer periods of time, like the entire school day! What kind of freaky little kid pays attention all day? I think that is extremely lethargic behavior and those kids could really benefit from a triple espresso and a pound of M&M’s.

Another interesting piece of Mack’s conference was that his teacher couldn’t tell when Mack “was really present”. This means my son is capable of appearing to be in the now, but in all actuality, the kid is a million miles away.  Mack can be staring you right in the eyes and not hear a thing that’s coming out of your mouth. Conversely, the kid can overhear you whisper the word “fishing” from 7 nautical miles away while submerged in a vat of pudding, it’s friggin creepy.  Combine this little attribute with the fact that Mack never appears flustered in class and you’ve got the makings of an 8-year old enigma.  According to his teacher, the kid never loses his cool- he is as comfortable giving the right answer as he is the wrong one.  Maybe Mack is going to be a surfer, because he kind of has this “all’s I need are some tasty waves and a cool buzz and I’m fiiiine...”(Jeff Spicolli) type of demeanor.  Whether creepy or pure genius, he’s got his teacher completely baffled.   Interestingly enough she wasn’t mad about Mack’s laissez-faire attitude, instead she was interested in learning how to master it so she could use it for the power of good, namely helping Mack conquer the academic obstacles which plague the 8-year old demographic. I liked her a lot for that. Some teachers would have given up or labeled him as being attention deficit.  On a side note, I don’t think Mack is trying to be a pain in the ass- it’s just that the guy marches to the beat of a different drummer- he always has.

We did see Mack’s grades, they were not as encouraging as Cayden’s.  In third grade, they actually assign letter grades very similar to what I remember in elementary school.  The only difference in the grading scale is that they no longer award “F’s”.  I guess the “F” created to much of a stigma for the little ones so instead they award an “E”.  Okay what the hell is the difference?  I know that an “F” stands for Failure and that’s a harsh term for any age bracket, but isn’t an “E” the same thing?  What does “E” stand for anyway Enigma, Enchanted, Enema- I honestly have no idea. For the longest time, I was encouraging him to get more “E’s” because I thought they stood for excellent.

In case you were wondering, Mack did not receive a single “E” on his report card.  He did produce several “E’s” on homework assignments, but luckily he produced an equal number of “A’s” and when you average them out, they equal a nice fat pile of “C’s”.  We can live with “C’s” for now. Mack will grow into his brain and, with a little help, crush the next reporting period.

At the end of the day, I am extremely proud of the manimals.  Neither of them had the best grades, but at this point that’s not the yardstick by which I would choose to measure them.  What Connie and I found encouraging was the fact that our boys were seen as kind, respectful, funny, compassionate and all around decent human beings.  These are the traits that we worked so hard to instill in them, and selfishly it felt good to see the fruits of our labors.  Maybe Connie and I can take a night off from all that hard character-building stuff, get a sitter, and treat ourselves to a mile-high pile of sushi. What do you say, Babe, you in?

Cayden wants to ask Santa for a “Nice Machine”.  I think in his mind it’s shaped like a gun and when you aim and shoot a person with it they automatically become super nice.  He then went on to tell me that I would be his first victim, as I am not as nice as he would like me to be.  Not sure if I should be offended or if this is simply the cost of being the guy who says “No” when they (the boys) ask to participate in activities which would surely lead them to an early demise.

He also asked for four magic wands, one for each of us, so we could spend our days wishing away people we don’t like.  I’m kind of hoping that Santa fails to produce this item because if the nice machine doesn’t work I’ll probably be the first person Cayden wishes into never, never land.

Cayden also wanted to let me know that he heard the “S” word today and he was a bit concerned about it.  Connie and I never know which “grown-up word” the kids are talking about when all they offer is the first letter.  For instance the word that Cayden heard might have been shoot, shucks, or ship.  I know it’s unlikely- chances are he heard me use the no-kidding “S” word and felt the need to reprimand me, but you never know.  In order to gauge the extent of damage incurred to our children’s moral well-being Connie and I got into the habit of having the kids whisper the word in our ear.  If the word is benign, we can dispel the myth and let them know that the word they were concerned about is safe for everyday use.  If it is a “grown-up word” we can ask them where they heard it in the hopes that it was the other parent’s slip of the tongue.  Not tonight, Cayden said the word in my ear and when I asked him where he heard it he whispered, “Daddy said it”- like Daddy was someone other than the guy laying next to him in bed.  He then blackmailed me for a quarter with the promise that Mommy didn’t need to know if I could produce the cash.  Nice- I got shook down by my 6 year old. Tony Soprano would be proud.

I always walk away from our bedtime talks a little smarter and a little more in love.

Is Santa Claus real?

November 22, 2008

If you have kids one day you’ll have to face the reality that they are growing up.  And as they mature, they will begin to question much of what we have been telling them their entire lives. This is an undeniable signal that one day they’ll leave the nest.  In my mind, there are a couple of questions that will need to be answered in the not so distant future.  One of these milestone questions is the infamous “Where do babies come from?” and the other “Is Santa Claus real?” I am hoping not to have to answer them in that order.

 

So, for your benefit, I have provided a few potential answers to the second dreaded question. I’ll answer the other when I cross that bridge, hopefully just before Mack accepts his academic scholarship to Yale.

 

The Question: “Daddy/Mommy, is Santa Claus real?”

 

1.   No, actually he is the principle player in an elaborate hoax staged by your mother and I that the entire free world is playing along with. Thank God the charade can finally end! We were getting worn out trying to perpetuate the myth. Do you realize the amount of effort it takes to keep all those street corner Santas happy?

 

2.   Why do you ask?  Did someone tell you something that I should know about? Give me his name, address and social security number this instance so I can forward it to Santa’s special Non-believer Eradication Reaction Department, code named “NERD”.  Santa’s goons will get that joker back on the right path- guaranteed.

       

3.   Oh, look, a Sasquatch! (run away and lock yourself in the bathroom until they forget what they asked you)

 

4.   Absolutely, of course he’s real. In fact, I saw him today at the liquor store buying a pack of Pall Malls.

 

5.   He’s real, but the Easter bunny is a complete fraud, turns out he’s not a bunny at all; he’s an unemployed organ grinder’s monkey.

 

6.   Santa’s real- Brittney Spears’ boobs are fake.

 

7.   Gosh, I hope so because I’m broke and if he’s not coming then you’re shit out of luck on that 4-wheeler request.

 

8.   Every time a child asks that question, somewhere in the world a kitten dies.

 

9.   I don’t know. Let’s do this, instead of toys, we’ll request a DNA sample and some fingerprints. We’ll get to the bottom of this by means of forensic science.

 

10. I don’t know. You’re a gambler by nature, why don’t you roll the dice and act like a lunatic for the next several weeks and if you don’t get anything for Christmas, you’ll know he exists.

 

11. He is real. In fact, this Christmas I plan on setting a snare to capture him so we can use him for our own evil purposes.

 

12. My Father’s favorite answer to this query, “He was until I ran him over in the driveway.” When my sister and I broke down in tears (every year, mind you) he would modify his response and say “He’s not dead kids; he’s just seriously injured”- boy, that softened the blow.

 

Any one of these would probably work, but to be honest I’ve never used any of them. The one time that the question was posed to me was during a school field trip that I had agreed to chaperone. It was about a week before Christmas and Mack and I were sitting on a school bus with his entire 2nd grade class waiting to go to see the “Nutcracker” (how festive).

 

As we were waiting to leave, a little girl sitting next to Mack looked over at him and out of the blue stated (rather loudly) that “Santa Claus doesn’t exist, my Daddy told me so!”   The entire bus load of kids became instantly “pin-drop” quiet.  Now, I was not the only adult on the bus, in fact there were several other parents on the trip, but as I scanned the crowd I noticed that every single one of them was suddenly afflicted with instantaneous narcolepsy. That left yours truly holding the bag. So with 60 or so kids anxiously awaiting a response, I came up with this:

 

“Hey guys, you’re going to hear a lot of people telling you that Santa Claus is a sham.  I heard it when I was your age too, but I chose not to believe them because I wanted Santa to be real.  This is what I decided- as long as I believe in Santa he will continue to believe in me.  Now, I’m not telling you that you have to believe in him, you decide which way you want to lean, but Mack and I are going to keep writing him letters, leaving out cookies, and hanging our stockings no matter what anyone tells us.”

 

It may not have been the perfect response, but when the other parents miraculously recovered from their bouts of narcolepsy, they each had a smile and a knowing nod for me, but that wasn’t the most rewarding part.  When all of the kids returned to typical field trip shenanigans and had all but forgotten my words of wisdom, Mack put his hand in mine, smiled at me, and quietly said, “Thanks Dad”. 

 

I guess there was at least one little boy that morning not quite ready to be all grown up.

 

I would love to hear how you answer this difficult question, so please leave a comment.  If they’re good, I’ll compile them and sell the list to Hallmark for their new “How to break it to your kids softly” Christmas card series.

 

 

 

 

My poor truck.  Once again, while I, from the cushiony comfort of the “5-sided puzzle palace”, was busy protecting the American public , my truck was violated.  How’s that for unbelievable?  I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.  Here’s what went down.  When I reached the 5th floor of the parking structure last night and saw my truck parked peacefully in its spot, I felt a surge of relief.  You see, ever since it got stolen the first time, I half expect it to be gone every time I get off work, but there it was right where I left it.

Smiling, I trotted over, hit my automatic door lock thingy and reached for the driver’s side door handle.  That’s when I noticed that some paint had been scraped off-that’s weird- hey look, the door lock’s punched out and the handle is broken- that’s even weirder, right?  When I peered through my window, I noticed that “The Club”, a purchase I made after the last theft, remained defiantly in place, snuggly affixed to my steering wheel. I took some pleasure in knowing that my $20 investment had done it’s job, but I was still a wee bit upset.  In fact, the langauge that spewed forth from my mouth was so heinous that it violates my own Blogger’s code of ethics so I won’t repeat them in print, but I can say that many of the terms I used closely resembled the words: truck, trucking and trucker.

The Mighty Club

The Mighty Club

 

I couldn’t open the driver’s side door so I went around to the passenger side and started to survey the inside of my truck for damage.  Luckily, the last group of ass-wipes who stole my truck took everything of value so the new group was shit out of luck.  Surprised, they didn’t steal my floor mats just to spite me.  Ha, that will show them- all that effort and nothing to show for it. I realize it’s a minor victory, but Shane doesn’t care about the size of the W, its always better than being in the loss column as far I’m concerned (not sure when I started talking about myself in the third person, must be a result of car theft-related PTSD).

So what’s next?  Well, I called up my insurance company (I have them on speed dial now and know most of them by their first names).  They were happy to hear from me.  It had been a whole week or so since I graced their emergency hotline and they were starting to believe that my luck had somehow turned around.  Maybe they don’t know me as well as I thought.  Next I’ll call my buddy Jason at the Dodge dealership- he’ll be happy to hear from me too.  I can’t believe all the good friends I’ve made as a result of repeatedly getting my car jacked.

To the thieves who want my car so bad- if you’re going to steal my truck, do it right, make the thing disappear. Don’t borrow it for a weekend or do just enough damage that I have to spend a month of Sundays getting it repaired.  Just drive the damn thing off into the sunset never to be heard from again. Like I’ve always said, a job worth doing is a job worth doing right.

Oh, one more thing- you can’t let shit like this ruin your day, it’s just a truck, C’est La Vie, Baby!- I crack myself up… not even I can believe I said that.

What’s Up, Chuck?

November 19, 2008
I think this weekend would be an excellent time to take my boys to their favorite “good time” place, which will remain nameless because I am going to blast them and I don’t want to get sued for slander.  I’ll refer to the restaurant, a term I use loosely, as CEC or Chuck’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy (actually hate would not be a strong enough term to describe my utter distaste for this establishment) going there, but my boys love it and if you go about it the right way, you can actually minimize the amount of pain that you must endure.  

 

For instance, you will never hear me offer to take the boys to Chuck’s place on a Saturday afternoon.  This is when birthday parties routinely occur and the place is absolutely flooded with amped up, sugar-stoned children, sprinting in their stocking feet from game to game, knocking over old ladies and each other in the process.  For some unknown reason, parents lose their status the minute they walk through the door and children lose their ability to recognize parental authority.  It’s a black hole, a vortex, another dimension where every rule that has ever been established is suddenly cast aside and your kids revert back to their primal survival instincts.  If you’ve never been there on a Saturday afternoon, you should, if for nothing more than to marvel at the “Lord of the Flies” type atmosphere.

 

I’ve been to Chuck’s on a Saturday afternoon more than once and I have walked away to tell the tale, but it was not without earning both emotional and physical scars.  Here are some candid observations of what a typical Saturday resembles and why you should avoid going there on that dreadful day at all costs…  

 

1.    Food-  I’ve never met a single person that went to CEC to enjoy a fine dining experience.  My kids don’t even know it’s a restaurant so that should tell you how memorable the food is.  Last time we went, Mack asked me if we could go out to lunch after we were finished, to which I replied, “We’re in a restaurant- why not eat here?”.   With a confused look on his face, Mack replied, “They serve food?”.  For those of you who are conscious of your weight, they do offer a fully stocked salad bar, but sadly it costs more per pound than nuclear grade plutonium, so go light on the fixin’s.

 

2.    Service-  CEC only hires disgruntled teenagers between the ages of 16 and 16.5, unless of course you count the one elderly lady who works the cash register in between smoke breaks.  I’ve always been a bit confused as to why they target this demographic.  It has been my experience that 16 year old kids don’t necessarily enjoy hanging out in giant animal costumes, singing and dancing to Miley Cyrus tunes, or cleaning up after mobs of children.  I could be wrong, maybe they love their jobs, but judging by the looks on their faces, I would venture to say that they didn’t choose their occupations willingly.  Maybe they’re paying off some community service obligation from a previous felony conviction?

 

 

3.    Games- This is a plus, CEC does have some games to keep the kids occupied and out of your hair.  As an added bonus, if you spend inordinate amounts of money on game tokens you can eventually qualify for one of the many super cool prizes that are offered behind the counter.  Just to let you know, if you don’t plan on spending at least $50, don’t bother to wait in line at the prize counter as the 16 year old prize steward will only smirk at you in disgust. However, if you’re “in it to win it” you can walk away with some pretty good stuff.  For instance, $80.00 in prize tickets will earn you a pirate tattoo about the size of a postage stamp, $90.00 in prize tickets will nab you a pencil eraser shaped like Brazil, and $100.00 worth of prize tickets will land you a fluorescent yellow grasshopper. Considering the type of high-end prizes that are up for grabs and the amount of cash exchanging hands, it’s amazing that the mob’s not involved- at a minimum I would have expected more of a Vegas type atmosphere.  I guess we should be happy that it’s maintained its quasi-family orientation.

 

4.    Parental camaraderie- You would think that you could glean a bit of comfort from the other parents that were suckered into going there on a Saturday afternoon, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  I’ve met two kinds of parents at CEC.  The first parent is as bitter about their predicament as you and is therefore about as cordial as a prison guard.  The other type of parent is wearing a “I-Heart-Chuck” t-shirt, is barefoot like all the other kids, and is using their home equity line of credit to support their skeet ball habit.  Warning: do not engage these types in conversation unless you’re really interested in learning which gaming machines are loose or when the next performance of Chuck’s mechanical band is taking place.

 

 

5.    Ho-Chi-Ming Tunnel Complex- Beware of the huge sprawling multi-colored tunnel that covers the ceiling.  At ground level, you can see the rate of speed at which children sprint from game to game.  Now imagine the same energy being expended in a confined space- it’s a potential powder keg.  A few different things occur each time my kids enter the tunnel complex.  One, they mysteriously lose their socks- this phenomenon is similar to what happens in your dryer at home- two socks in, one sock out.  Next, they get injured, obviously due to the velocity and corresponding trajectory of hundreds of other kids co-located in the same cramped space.  Finally, two kids go in and one comes out, sort of like the sock phenomenon, only you’re slightly more invested in your children than a pair of tube socks. Retrieving your lost child is next to impossible as the tunnel complex is only load tested for 70lbs and if you crawl your big ass up there, you’re likely to come crashing down on top of a group of already pissed off parents.  If they survive the collision, they’ll likely beat you to death, or worse yet, force feed you the pizza that they just spent an entire paycheck on.  So, keep your feet on the ground- when your kids get hungry enough, they’ll resurface.

 

6.    Adult beverages- There are none- how’s that for a slap in the face?  Not only are you basting in kiddie-hell but you can’t even douse the flames with a cold glass of barley and hops.  Who is the genius that came up with that policy? Obviously, a non-parent.  They do offer coffee, but it’s a specialty item.  Unlike every other eating establishment on the planet, CEC does not maintain a scalding hot pot of coffee on the premises.  If you want a cup of coffee, you must engage the 16 year old employee behind the counter, explain what coffee is (they think it’s a $9 luxury item found only at Starbucks), and then read them the directions for the dusty coffee maker located toward the back of the kitchen.  I only did this one time.  The coffee was so bad, I nearly cut out my own tongue to get rid of the taste.

 

So having said all of that, how could I possibly alleviate the pain of this little road trip to Hades?  Here’s the deal, CEC opens at 9a.m. on the weekends.  If you get there as the doors open, you’ll have the entire place to yourself.  The only kids running amuck will be your own.  It’s so much easier to decode calls for medical attention when the only kids in the place are yours.  I normally get $15 in tokens and split them up two ways with the disclaimer that what they have is all there is- when they are gone, so are we.  I then sit at a booth that affords great observation of the entire operation and turn off my brain as I sip my $9 coffee that is so worth it when compared to what they have behind the counter at CEC.

 

This trip will cost you $24- $15 in tokens and a $9 designer coffee, but it will earn you the undying love, devotion and admiration of your children for at least the rest of the afternoon.  How much better could it possibly get?  I’ll take pictures this weekend. Fire up the skeet ball game, Chuck, here we come!

 

 

 

Veteran’s Day

November 16, 2008

Veterans Day has recently come and gone and I realized that I failed to mention it.  I guess I got wrapped up in thinking that Veteran’s Day was my holiday, sometimes it’s easy to do.  The wife takes you to lunch, family members call to thank you for your service, people stop you on the street to shake your hand. It can be a bit overwhelming.  However, this is no excuse for my negligence.  Currently my Marine brothers and sisters are deployed around the world fighting a war that is less than popular against an enemy who refuses to fight by the rules.  These are the folks that Veteran’s Day is meant for- the 19 year old kid making life or death decisions that no one should ever be faced with, not the guy enjoying the relative comfort of a desk job at the Pentagon.  At least that’s my take on it.

So I pulled out a letter I wrote when I was deployed to Iraq in 2003.  At the time, I was a company commander with 180 Marines to lead and we had been conducting operations in Iraq for several weeks.  Somehow, I came across an article discussing the “Greatest Generation” describing those folks who fought during World War II and contrasting how this new generation of young warriors matched up.  It was less than flattering, so I scribbled down some thoughts as a rebuttle.  Things got busy so I never published my thoughts, but I’ll do so now.  Maybe this will explain to you what it’s like to serve with this generation of men and women.  Maybe it will explain why I’ve been a Marine for so many years- or maybe you’ll pick up on the admiration and flat-out love I have for those so willing to give everything they have to our great nation.

I had reservations about posting this letter- some of it may appear to be politically charged, but that’s not my intent.  I serve at the discretion of the President of the United States, and I have served both Republican and Democrats in my 20 plus years.  Simply stated, I’ll serve President Elect Obama, just as I served President Bush- with loyalty, devotion and honor.

So here are my words from May of 2003 while deployed to Iraq:

I have heard so many speak of the troubled youth of today.

I’ve heard the complaints aimed at the Pepsi Generation or Nintendo generation or whatever title it currently holds.

“When I was a kid we played baseball, kickball, and spin the bottle”

Kids today have Play Stations, experiment with synthetic drugs, and have an alarming rate of teenage pregnancy.

They are a motley crew; lazy, inconsiderate and self absorbed.

They have no respect for property, authority or their elders.

“When I was a kid we recited the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of every school day, this new generation has no concept of duty, pride or patriotism”

What an ugly portrait we paint of youth and freedom; of our sons and daughters.

 

I have heard so much in my short life about the “new generation”.

Was there ever a time when one generation looked to the newcomer and said, “Your generation is airtight, locked on, squared away”?  I doubt it.

Here is what I believe about this new generation.

 

These are my observations from the front lines of this rising generation.

What I see everyday is amazing.

I see 18, 19, and 20 year-old men and women working hand in hand 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

They do not receive time off or a bonus for their efforts.

They live in the dirt away from their families and all they have known their short lives.

And yes, they have families.

They have 19-year old wives and brand new babies.

Yesterday’s high school sweet hearts suddenly caught up in the reality of nation at war.

Their families live in substandard housing and they receive paychecks that most would consider an insult.

They will endure months of separation often unable to even speak to the one’s they love.

 

And late at night they will suddenly find themselves praying for the safety of their mate even though they’ve never been a firm believer in any faith.

They will cry.

Some will be strong and some will not.

Babies will learn to crawl, walk, speak, and run while their fathers are away.

Sons and daughters will learn the word “Daddy” but only in the context of a photo.

Daddy is a glossy 8X10 sitting on his son’s nightstand.

His son will talk to the picture but it will never answer.

The picture will never caress his head when he is scared or bandage a boo-boo.

How sad for the child who has nothing but a photo.

 

But the new generation tries not to think about such trivial things as family.

They are preparing for war, our nation’s war, yours and mine.

They are the chosen few who showed enough courage to step forward instead of looking down.

Somewhere in their 18, 19 and 20 year old minds they heard the words courage and patriotism.

They heard their Nation’s call, to risk everything for something that was much bigger than any one person could be.

They are the men and women that historians will write about taking part in things that will shape nations.

They are a motley crew.

They are yesterday’s high school prom king, captain of the football team, gang member, or misfit.

They came from everywhere and no-where.

They did not believe the propaganda that their generation was a failure doomed to obscurity.

They came to fight.

They came to carry a rifle, drive a tank, stand a post.

They are 18, 19, 20-years old but they carry the weight of a million people on their shoulders.

Yet they stand tall, defiant as if our Nation’s hopes weren’t a burden at all, but a blessing.

They have faced the dragon, putting their lives on the line for at best a fickle public.

Perched on the cutting edge of the sword they face-off with a multi-dimensional threat, terrorist and combatants alike, and still they somehow manage to smile when they look to their left and right at the buddies who serve beside them.

And when I look at them I know with all my heart that I love them.

 

Here is my dilemma I am a company commander up from the ranks.

I have been in tough situations before; I am what some would consider a veteran.

And when your 33-years old surrounded by today’s youth it is almost impossible not to become someone’s Dad.

You are the old man.

You are the father some never knew.

You will praise those who have never been praised before.

And you will discipline those who are used to running free.

You can clip wings or release someone’s potential in an instant.

You may be the only person who truly understands that the youth of today will become the saviors of tomorrow.

I do.

You will feel the sting of their problems and accept them as your own; you will guide them through troubled times whenever you are needed; leadership is a selfless act.

I have.

You will come to know them in an intimate manner that can only be fostered when faced with the threat of danger, and you will love them for their courage.

I will.

What I have discovered through my career is that above all else I fear for their safety.

Right or wrong that is my greatest concern, I fear for them because their youth does not allow them to fear for themselves.

I am faced with the reality that I would never fully recover from the loss of one of my Marines, and sadly I can say with regret that I know this to be true.

 

For those of you who have the luxury of sitting in your homes and questioning our President’s course of action, good on you, that’s your right.

Just understand how your criticisms impact the 19-year old Marine about to cross the line of departure.

If you have never carried a rifle in the defense of those liberties which you so freely exercise, then support those that do.

Support YOUR president for he is faced with the decision of putting young men and women into harm’s way.

He is faced with making decisions beyond what any of us could ever fathom.

And he will live with the consequences of those decisions for the rest of his life.

Few men would willingly take his place.

 

These are the rambling thoughts of one Marine.

Other than that I am simply a husband who misses his wife.

A father who wants to hold his children.

And a wayward son who should call his mother more often.

 

I’ve got to give a shout out to Mary Hanson of Blogs of Photogs who recently featured myself and my wife on her web blog.  Now, her blog is actually a review site of photographers’ blogs, so getting a mention there seemed pretty unlikely.  I mean, you’ve seen the pictures here on my site.  While perhaps humorous, I wouldn’t call them awe-inspiring or even technically adequate from a photography sense.  All that magic was created with a point and shoot camera with a caveman at the controls- see, you really can teach chimps to do the work of humans, if you’re willing to invest the time.

I may just have to use Mary’s words as my first real testimonial.  Here’s a bit of what she had to say:

“…so hilariously funny that if this man does not get a paying job as a writer soon I will lose my faith in the literary community. Truly, it is actual laugh out loud funny– pee your pants funny. It is even “I get excited when I see an email from feedburner about it funny.”’

To say I am surprised is an understatement.  My site was originally designed to capture the wacky stuff my boys engage in on a daily basis and then filter it to the extended family so they can remain in touch.  To have someone outside of the Groah/Kocsis clan follow my boys’ adventures, and actually find some enjoyment while doing so, is a huge compliment.  I hope that others will follow along as well.  Because if my strange, funny, sometimes even painful parenting experiences bring a smile to your face and somehow lighten your day then it makes it that much more worthwhile to continue.

Mary, thanks again for the super-cool shout out and sorry about your pants. Maybe you should cut back on the water intake before reading my posts?

Top Ten Nicknames…

November 15, 2008

Last night, I crawled up into Cayden’s bunk bed to get what we in the Groah household refer to as ”snuggle time”.  Snuggle time is a routine event- 3 minutes of holding, followed by about 2 minutes of back scratching, ending with a brief discussion on any thoughts that may still be cluttering the dudes’ minds.  I enjoy this ritual, so I was pretty happy when Cayden invited me to snuggle, so much so that I mistakenly referred to him as ”Boo-Bear”.  Cayden quickly shot back with “Don’t ever call me that again, Dad”.  I sensed some tension, maybe even a bit of hostility in his terse reply, so we decided to forego the back scratching and head straight to the discussion portion of the evening.  So at 8pm, Cayden and I engaged in a discussion with the hopes of identifying a more appropriate nickname than Boo-Bear.  The following is a list of possible candidates and Cayden’s brilliant insights regarding their potential for boosting his street creds as a bonafide hard ass.

1.  Snuggum Wugums

Cayden- “That’s beautiful, and I don’t like beautiful. I’m a boy, try again Dad” . 

Sarcastic Commentary (SC)- Seems Cayden’s not in touch with ”Sesame Street” level cuteness or his feminine side.        

2.  Sunflower

Cayden- “Don’t make me angry, Dad. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”.   

SC- You must have known it was coming; I can’t help myself.  In the Marine Corps this is referred to as “flicking someone’s nuts” or “busting their stones”.  Simply stated, Cayden let me know that cutesie nicknames were not appreciated and that to continue down that road would most likely result in physical harm.  He did emphasize his point by applying a vulcan death pinch to the inside of my elbow accompanied by a Hulk-like facial expression and a grunting noise.  Extremely intimidating coming from a guy who occasionally still solicits my help to wipe his butt.  I’m much larger than Cayden, thus willing to push the envelope a bit, so I offered option 3.

3.  Sugar plum-

Cayden- Okay! 

SC- Honestly, what the hell, he damn near took my head off for suggesting Sunflower and Snuggums, but somehow Sugar Plum made the grade, who would have known? 6 year olds are so inconsistent.

4.  Destructo- 

Cayden-“Raaaahhhhhhhh! I am Destructo, must smash, crush, crush, crush!” 

SC-  Nice going ass-wipe (me being the ass-wipe of course) What the hell did I just do?  Did I just give Cayden a license to break shit around my house?  It’s a fitting handle, I’ll give you that, but really, did I need to give him carte blanche authority to run amuck obliterating knick-knacks like it was his destiny to do so?  I don’t think so. Let’s look for something a little more benign. 

5.  Smelly Sock Snot Monster-

Cayden- snort, giggle, snot-bubble, laugh“ 

SC- He liked this one a lot, I think he would have gladly taken this one for a no-kidding legitimate name, but he had difficulty articulating it- too much “She sells sea shells by the sea shore” action going on.  Let’s try again.

6.  Nipple Lips Booger Boy-

Cayden- “Gasp” (I think he was trying to laugh but no noise came out)

SC- Unable to provide input we moved forward in our quest to select the perfect nickname.

7.  Commander Ear Wax from the planet Altoid

Cayden-   “Dad, is an Altoid those things that Grampa gets on his butt from sitting to long?”

SC- I had no response, I’ll have him call Grampa in the morning for an explanation. 

8.  The Miraculous Mucous-Man (aka the Furious Rectum)

Cayden- “Dad what’s a rectum?”

SC- Moving right along. He can ask Grampa about that one too.

9.  Little boy with gigantic gourd and extremely short temper who is prone to fits of rage when everything does not go his way-Man 

Cayden-What are you trying to say Dad?”

SC- I knew it wouldn’t work but thought I would put it out there for him to chew on.  Who knows, maybe he got the underlying subliminal message that on occasion he can be a tad bit difficult.

10.  Poop-stain O’Hoolihan-

Cayden- “Dad can I put that on the back of my soccer uniform?”

 SC- Absolutely my son, as soon as mommy goes out of town. In fact, I’ll have some business cards made up as well. 

Cayden was satisified with our finished product, as such he slid into sleep fairly easily.  As I walked out the door, I tried out his new moniker to see how it would sound when we weren’t laying side by side giggling together in bed. 

 

Dad- “Good night Poop-Stain O’Hoolihan”

Cayden- “Love you Daddy” (giggle, snort, snot-bubble, laugh)

 

What do you know, it works…

 

 

 

Honey, you shouldn’t have…

November 12, 2008

 Last night, Connie and I shared a laugh at our kids’ expense when we reviewed their Christmas wish list.  Truth be told, we shouldn’t be throwing rocks in the glass house that we built for our little nuclear family.  After 16 years of marriage, both of us have floated a couple of turds under the old Christmas tree. So really, who are we to laugh at a couple of little boys who seem to think that fake cigarettes would make an excellent gift?

 

For instance, many Christmas’s ago I thought the one gift that would earn my love’s undying gratitude was a pair of slippers cleverly crafted to resemble the face of an extremely angry/horny gorilla.  You’ve probably gathered from earlier posts that I have a rather unhealthy fascination with primates.  In fact, I was so enamored with gorillas and monkeys that I failed to realize that my adoration was not shared by all.  I guess I was looking at the world through a pair of  “Shane Goggles”. After all, I would kill for a pair of Gorilla slippers so I can’t imagine someone not feeling the exact same way.  It’s only after 15 additional years of marriage and many months of professional psychiatric help that I can look back and see just how warped my perceptions were.

 

Profound True Statement- Slippers designed to resemble a horny Gorilla, though exceptionally creative and humorous, may not be the perfect gift for your new spouse on the first Christmas of your union.  Who would have known?

 

The look of pride on my face the night that Connie opened them was matched only by the look of utter disappointment (actually disgust) on hers.  I have to give her credit though, she didn’t cry or hit me- nor did she call me an insensitive boob.  Nope, she didn’t do any of those things. She simply grabbed our credit cards, marched directly to the nearest mall and proceeded to purchase those items which Santa/her husband failed to produce.  Strangely, none had a wildlife theme. To my dismay, I never saw the slippers again. Sometimes, late at night, I wonder how they’re doing. Did they find a loving home?  Are they warming the feet of some other lucky person?  Or did they simply escape back to the lowlands of Africa to join other unappreciated gorilla-themed holiday gifts?  I may never know, but I’ll always wonder.

 

I didn’t get redemption for the gorilla fiasco for 12 long years, but I am a patient man and I knew one day Connie would be the agent of her own undoing.  Along comes the Christmas season of 2005- a season I like to refer to as my delivery from “Inappropriate Gift Hell”. 

 

Two days before Christmas eve, Connie cornered me in the kitchen.  The kids were still awake- I’m sure they were somewhere in the house shaving off their eyebrows or creating giant mounds of Fruit Loop dust which I would later find in the recesses of the couch cushions.  It was during this relatively calm moment that Connie approached me with a Christmas gift. Judging by the glowing look of pride on her face, it was something tremendous.  The box itself was quite large, approximately 2ft x 3ft and about 8 inches thick.  The minute I looked at the box thoughts of power tools and extremely large handguns danced like magical sugar plums through my brain. What else could possibly make my wife so proud?  Obviously she had found the perfect gift for her Marine.

 

She explained she could no longer wait to present me with this amazing gift. She tried, but the anticipation was too much to bear and she wanted me to open it immediately.  Always willing to oblige, I tore through the wrapping paper positive it would be an item designed for destruction or construction, either way it would be manly enough to make John Wayne weep with joy.  It was neither.  Instead, what I held in my hands was a “Roomba”- in layman’s terms, a vacuum cleaner.  This is an excerpt from the conversation that followed.

 

Connie- “What do you think, isn’t it the coolest thing you’ve ever seen?”

Shane- “It’s a vacuum cleaner.”

Connie- “No, no honey, it’s a robot.”

Shane- “Funny, it says on the box that this “robot” cleans the floor using an amazing innovation called suction. It sounds like a vacuum.”

Connie- “Shane, it’s a robot that will vacuum the floor for you, that way you can do other manly things like the dishes for instance.”

Shane- “Can the Roomba do dishes?

Connie- “No.”

Shane- “Can the Roomba talk?”

Connie- “No.”

Shane- “What else does the Roomba do then?”

Connie- “Ummmm…nothing I guess.”

Shane- “Sounds like a vacuum to me.”

Mack- “Hey, Dad, what do you have?”

Shane- “Mom says it’s a killer droid straight from the Star War’s trilogy sent to annihilate dust bunnies without the slightest bit of remorse.”

Mack- “Looks like a little vacuum.”

 

I imagine that I gave Connie the same look she gave me so many years ago when she opened up her gorilla slippers.  I tried to be gracious- I did attempt to build rapport with the Roomba but we never really seemed to recover after I referred to it as a vacuum that first night.  I even named it- in fact, I named it “Little Shane” because I felt it was the only other creature in the house specifically designed to clean things.  Connie referred to it as Shane too, but I think her reasoning was that “Little Shane”, like its namesake, had a one-track mind.

 

My relationship with Little Shane was short-lived and a tad bit strained.  The damn thing was noisy, inefficient and prone to throw itself down the basement stairs.  The suicidal stair episodes were my own doing- I often left the door open to see if Little Shane was capable of developing artificial intelligence- he wasn’t.  When I say inefficient, I mean it.  Little Shane would take approximately 9 hours to vacuum a 4ft X 4ft patch of hardwood flooring, roughly the same amount of time it would have taken me to scrub an interstate with a toothbrush and a bar of soap.  I knew it was time to set him free when both of us started to act openly hostile toward each other when we occupied the same room.

 

So when we put up “Little Shane” for adoption, it wasn’t a sad day for me.  After all, everyone deserves to live in a healthy, love-filled environment where it’s possible to reach one’s full potential as a global citizen.  Shortly after placing “Little Shane” on craigslist, his new parent came to our door with his $80.00 adoption fee in hand and a smile on his face.  When I asked him if he was prepared for the responsibility of parenthood, he told me, “Oh no it’s not for me; I am buying it for my fiancé”.  I no longer feel bad about the gorilla slippers.