Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Wife, the Pittsburgher

The other day when we had a little ice on the road, Nancy said to me, "Be careful, it's slippy out!" Welcome to Pittsburgh, sweetie!

Holy Crap, it's Christmas!

Well it's been a long time since I blogged. Lots has happened. We moved us; we put the house on the market; we sold the house; we moved our stuff; we bought a house; we bought furniture for the house even though we don't officially own it yet and can't get in; we decorated my folks house. We saw "The Polar Express", we bought all our Christmas presents; Nancy wrapped them, otherwise everyone would think a not very happy monkey wrapped them if I did it.

And today I realize it's just over a week to Christmas! Where has the time gone?! "A Charlie Brown Christmas", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman" have all come and gone. I chide Clay with the occasional, "Don't do that, Santa's watching" and I feel guilty for doing it. But today I think I'm starting to get more into Christmas. It all came from listening to "The Ukrainian Radio Program" today. It has been on every Sunday afternoon for over 50 years. Today they played all Ukrainian Christmas carols. Watching Drew dance and listening to Nancy sing the two carols she knows made me smile.

I still may not be in the Christmas spirit, but I guess I still have eight days to get there. This afternoon was a good start.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Adventures in Moving

Well, it's been a while since my last post. Lots happening here; Drew's 1st birthday, my birthday (I got a iPhone!), trip to Las Vegas, and the biggest news of all; we're moving. I lived in my hometown for 22 years and 11 months, now 21 years and 4 months later, I'm moving back home. Literally. Nancy got the job she's been going after and the house is up for sale. Even though we've signed with a realtor, taken one 17' truckload of stuff to my folks house, been packing boxes and all that fun stuff, it still seems a little unreal. I don't know if it will really hit me until Nancy is gone and the boys and I are here alone for a few days; or if it's when the first potential buyer calls to see the house; of if it's the day I wake up in my bed in my room in my parent's house.

But before any of that happens, there's lots to do here. Packing, cleaning, painting. U-Haul has there motto on the sides of their trucks, "Adventures in Moving". I'm not so sure I want an "adventure", but that's out of my hands. Let the adventure begin!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I took Clay to his first big league baseball game this past Sunday. We went to see our Washington Nationals take on the Atlanta Braves. Clay was kind of impressed with RFK Stadium. Remember, his idea of a baseball stadium in a softball field in West Potomac Park. We had good seat in the Mezzanine so there was no one in front of us.

The entire way there, Clay told me that all he wanted at the stadium was popcorn. So after we found our seats, I said Ok, lets go get some popcorn and get back to watch some batting practice. Holy Smokes! We must have spent 40 minutes walking around RFK looking for a vendor selling popcorn. Finally, we found it and spent $6 for a bucket of kettle corn. After the walk back to our seat; and a stop for a hot dog and beer for dad; we opened the popcorn. Naturally, Clay decided he didn't like it. So he ate the cookies that mom packed for him. She jokes that there were 9 cookies there; one for each inning. Well, sorry mom but they were gone by the bottom of the 4th, and that was with rationing.

The Nats lost 0-3, but we had a great time and I hope Clay will remember that he saw one of the last games at RFK Stadium. Next year, there's a new Nationals Park where we will go many times.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Weekend in Pittsburgh: Part 1

Well, we just returned from a whirlwind super long weekend in Pittsburgh. We drove all over: Dahntahn, Squirl 'il, Wes End, Sahs Side, Nor Side an' even ova der in Swickley n'at. For thos eof you who don't speak Pittsburgheese, I'll translate: We drove all over: Downtown, Squirrel Hill, West End, South Side, North Side and even over there in Sewickley and more.

But one of the best things was getting free tickets (Thank You Anna W!) to the Carnegie Science Center. Back in July, we took the kids to the Children's Museum of Richmond and Clay had a blast. But the CSS had so much more and I think Clay would have stayed until closing if we would have let him. The only thing that made him even think about leaving was the last 15 minutes playing at the water tables. He did the all too familiar "pee-pee dance". One hand holding his crotch and bouncing up and down rapidly, while giving us that look like, "I can still hold it another 5 minutes".

Well, let's just say that we cut it pretty close. But we had a full three hours at the CSS. One of the highlights for me was seeing a show in the Planetarium called "The Stars Over Mister Rogers' Neighborhood". It was hosted by the late Fred Roger; a Pittsburgh icon; and was a neat 20 minute show for the under 7 crowd. Clay enjoyed it, even though in this age of Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, PBSKids Sprout and all the rest, he hasn't really ever watched Mr. Rogers. I remember watching him almost 40 years ago and and even in college we had discussions about the Neighborhood of Makebelieve and even went to get Mr. McFeeley's autograph once ("Speedy Delivery"!).

I think I'm going to make an effort for Clay to watch less "Zack & Cody" and a little more "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saturday in the Car

What a beautiful Saturday it was here in Northern Virginia! A rare low humidity, sunny, cool day for August. Of course, I heard about this day on the radio as I sat in the car navigating Northern Virginia traffic. The I-95 corridor is awful every weekend from early June through Labor Day. A forty minute drive turns into 3 hours. Just when you think traffic has cleared out or you find an alternate route, something happens like a multi-lane closing accident and you're stuck again. This is what happened yesterday.

I passed a place called Aldo's Italian Restarant on US-1 so many times, I think I'm over pasta for a few weeks. I've never eaten there, but if I never see Aldo's again, that's just dandy with me. Throw in a bright yellow "out of fuel" light, cranky kids and poor cell phone service, noisy "new" $400 brakes and the day is complete.

Actually, the day was not a total loss. Looking back at it, it was very nice. The kids got to see their great-grandfather, gran, and assorted cousins; Clay "went fishing" for the first time; Drew got to go on a boat, and we had a couple of good meals and a nice visit with family.

But the best news is that while we were gone, the hornets nest in our "problem" tree has been terminated with extreme prejudice. So compared to the hornets, our day was a picnic.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bitch on Wheels

You might not know it by looking at me now, but I used to be a pretty good biker (the human powered kind of bike, not a Harley). I used to go out in my ratty shorts and an old concert t-shirt and ride about 12 miles a night after work, almost every night for a couple of years. Even back then, I always noticed that some other two wheelers had a bit of an attitude. They comment if you weren't going fast enough for them, if you were in "their" lane or if your "Team 7-Eleven" hat was not on at the right angle.

There was nothing I liked better than following a bunch of these "Lance Armstrong" wannabees down the trail. I thought it was kind of funny that big old me with my "The Who: World Tour 1982" shirt on my JCPenny 10-speed was keeping up with them and their $2500 titanium alloy racers, wearing their way too tight, way too bright shorts and shirts. But through it all, I was always polite and considerate of other bikers and pedestrians.

So yesterday, we were only our way to the play-offs for the softball league that the Kennedy Center plays in. It's in a very scenic area in D.C. called West Potomac Park. It's right on the river across from the Pentagon and it has about a dozen ball fields all in a row. Parking is always impossible there, so we ride the shuttle that the KC supplies for players and fans (we are season ticket holders). We pack up the diaper bag, chairs, snacks, toys and look more like we're going on a camping trip than a one hour softball game.

As we get ready to cross the 3 lane, not heavily travelled Ohio Avenue to the ball field, we see a young woman on her bike about 8 car lengths away. So we stop and figure, we're in no hurry, let's let her go by so she doesn't have to break her stride. As she passes us, she makes a smart ass comment about us "walking out into traffic". What the hell was up with her?

This isn't the first time something like this has happened here to us, but I notice that these people are really brave when they can keep going past at 15 MPH. Ahhh, the friendly, laid back attitude of D.C.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tree House

Yesterday at about 5PM, I heard a horrible noise outside like a Ryan Zimmerman broken bat homer. Then I looked out the doors to the deck and all I could see were leaves. We had a 25 foot branch come down about 60 feet from a tree in the back yard. This was strange because there was no wind or storm or anything. It shattered our stairs to our new deck and snapped the handrail like a toothpick. But, I still feel lucky for a few reasons. The kids weren't out there; I don't even want to imagine what would have happened (Boys, no more playing on the deck or backyard until the tree guys come out)! If the branch would have come down 8 inches closer to the house, there would have been 4 times as much damage (of course if it had come down 12 inches the other way, we'd just have a big old divot in our yard).
Clay of course thought this whole thing was pretty cool and proceeded to tell me how his friends Josh and Brandon can climb trees and how he wanted to go out and help me with the tree. I was not in the mood. By the time Nancy came home, I had about half of the branch removed, but it was still a mess out there. It was a crappy afternoon.
When something so bad happens, I usually think "This is a good time to buy a lottery ticket. Surely my luck must be about to change". Alas, no, it was not to be. Let's just hope no more trees come crashing down; at least until I win the lottery.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

It's the BLUE jump rope!

On Monday, I showed up at Clay's Vacation Bible School to pick him up. I got there early and there was Clay running up to me "Dadddy, Daddy!" I hugged him and watched as a bunch of four year olds {Note: they had "4"'s next to their nametags} went by and told him to join his friends who were all holding a purple jump rope and go upstairs with them. He looked at me funny, but I insisted, "Go on, I'll be right up." I noticed that none of the other kids were talking to him and that the group leaders, (a.k.a. 13 year old girls) were kind of ignoring him too. Strange. After we got upstairs in the church, Clay sat down with his "friends"; then came back to sit with me. I told him to go back and sit with his friends until the last part of the days activities were done. So he did; then he sat back 2 rows further all by himself. I was starting to wonder what was going on. Now we've been going to this church for 5 years, but we are not the most well known or "social" of the flock, but EVERYBODY who knows him for more than a few minutes LOVES Clay.
After a few minutes, Clay comes to sit with me again and I let hi. If no one wants to sit with him, well that's their loss! After another minute, another group of 4 year olds come by holding a blue jump rope with their older, more responsible leader who comes up to me and says, "Oh, thank goodness he's here with you! We've been looking all over for him!" Oooops! I guess my early arrival shook things up and Clay grabbed onto the wrong jump rope with the wrong kids.
Maybe I shouldn't arrive too early next time.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Hill High Orchard

One of the reasons that Nancy let's me go to the aforementioned Berryville Hamfest, is that I can stop at Hill High Orchard in Round Hill, VA. I was introduced to this place almost 20 years ago by friends who lived nearby. They'd get a pie from there on Sunday mornings and it was amazing! This is a little general store with a Conestoga wagon in front which bakes these wonderful pies. You usually have your choice of 12 to 15 different pies and there's not a clunker in the bunch. Nancy loves their French Apple, but I don't like raisins. They should know there place! Not in bread! Not in pies! Just in Raisin Bran, where it belongs! Anyway, this gives me a perfect excuse to buy a second pie, but since we only do this once a year (OK, sometimes twice) I don't feel guilty. Also, every year for the last three, we've heard rumors about it closing, but so far the wagon, the duck pond, and the pies are still there. So if you're ever on Route 7 in western Loudoun County, get a pie; or two.


Today I went to the Berryville Hamfest. What's a hamfest? It has nothing to do with pork. It's an amateur "ham" radio flea market. The one in Berryville, VA is one of my favorite to go to and I've gone to it about 12 out of the last 15 years. It's a really pleasant drive, it's a nice place to walk around for a couple of hours, and it's fun. Now, my version of "fun" is looking at old radios, cables, connectors and other bits of technology. But the best part is Hill High Orchard in Round Hill, VA; but that's another story.
Amateur radio is a fun hobby and also provides communications in time of emergency. But there are three types of people who go to hamfests; fat guys with beards (me), old guys with baseball hats, and "others" (kids, women, non-geeks). The number of "others" are getting less and less every year, while the other groups seem to be getting larger and larger. Soon the two groups will merge into "old fat guys with beards and baseball hats". I hope that soon we'll have a bigger group of well adjusted young people who'll feel that listening and talking to people around the world by attaching a wire thrown up into a tree to a box is kind of magical.
I hope that my sons think it's as cool as I do.
--... ...-- -.- ....- -- - ...

Friday, August 3, 2007


Here's a "game" that I completely forgot that Clay used to play when he was about Drew's age. Over the last few days, I have had a hard time finding Drew's pacifiers. This morning I had to resort to the old white one that he's not too fond of. About an hour later, I'm trying to clean up the living room; yes a red letter day, I'm cleaning (more on why later); when I start discovering "hidden" pacifiers all over. In the air grate, in Nancy's knitting bag, under the assorted pillow. So here we go again. Things are going to start disappearing all over the house. And I thought things were looking up when Clay's "Cars" shoes which have been M.I.A. for four months turned up last night.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Kidz Bop

OK, I've got to get this off my chest. I HATE Kidz Bop! If you have kids between the ages of 3 and 11 you probably know. For the rest of you, Kidz Bop is a group of smarmy pre-teens who sing really inappropriate pop songs for the kindergarden set. Wh have Sirius satellite radio and Clay's favorite channel is Kids' Stuff, which plays everythig from the (slightly hokey, but lovable) Wiggles, to Sesame Street tunes, to really cool artist like Laurie Berkner and Dan Zanes ("Both of which daddy even likes" [Clay's comment]). But unfortunately this is where we hear Kidz Bop. One of the first times I hear Kidz Bop, they were singing the James Blunt song, "You're Beautiful", which is already one of my least favorite songs on the planet. But having these little kids singing a song about an apparently disturbed individual who obsesses over a woman he saw exactly once on a subway, who smiled at him is too much for me. Then there's the KT Tunstall song "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" which they also do. There's something not right about that song in the first place, but it's even worse when they do it. Now I'm not for censorship ("Yea, daddy listens to Howard Stern when I'm sleeping" {Clay's comment]), but I change the channel as soon as anything by Kidz Bop comes on. Kidz Bop must be stopped!!! Thank goodness that Clay has developed better taste in music; Mozart, The Who, The Clash, Led Zepplin, The Ramones; you know, "the classics".

Friday, July 27, 2007

Look at me!

Yesterday I was in a waiting room with a group of about 25 other people. I sat down in one of the last empty chairs and picked up a magazine. After a minute or so, I noticed the woman sitting next to me had an iPhone. Pretty cool. Then I thought, why is she holding up to her chest with the screen pointing away from her? Then it hit me, she's pointing out to the rest of us lowly slobs that she has an iPhone and we don't! Under normal circumstances, I would have asked how she likes her iPhone and what she doesn't like about it. But this woman looked like she would be annoyed and have a "oh, so you noticed my iPhone; and yes I am much more important than you" attitude. I don't know what bothered me more, her showing off her iPhone or my wishing that I had one to show off. Oh well, maybe when the iPhone Nano comes out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Goin' to Chicago

This morning, Clay was packing some of his toys in a box. When I asked him why, he said "They're goin' to Chicago." Why are they going to Chicago?!? "Because they need to build something". The the box gets dumped out on the sofa. Why? "The sofa is Chicago" he says. Welcome to the Windy Sofa.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Secret Code

With Clay getting older, we have to be very careful what we say around him. Not so much about saying anything bad; although that is a concern too; but with saying anything at all about going somewhere or doing something. For example, if I say "I wonder if we should go to the pool this weekend?", I will be inundated with endless questions about when we are going, why we are going, why can't we go right now and why aren't we there already! So we talk about the aquatic recreation area instead of the pool. Forget mentioning "Chuck E. Cheese"; it's Charles the Rodent. IHOP is the multinational destination for flat breakfast pastries; Bob Evans is Robert, Roy Roger's brother-in-law's place. Chocolate milk is brown bovine byproduct, Toys 'R' Us is the place of which we do not speak. We even try to speak about the boys as #1 and #2, as in "#1 didn't take a nap this afternoon", but recently Clay has figured this code out. He's starting to get to be too smart for us. Soon S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G will not work for us either. Even now he says, "Daddy, what's P-O-P-C-O-R-N spell?" I need to teach Nancy more Ukrainian.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Big Wrench

Last Saturday night my brother's family drove out to the monthly "Star Party" at Sky Meadows State Park. It's a beautiful drive and it's very dark out there. Amateur astronomers bring their telescopes out and allow the public to view the sky through them. Some of these scopes are hand made and cost thousands of dollars. Clay was a little bored standing in line at each of the scopes, but he seemed to really like looking into them when it was finally our turn. An astronomer was giving a talk to a group of people talking about what could be seen with the naked eye, so we stopped and listened for a while. He began pointing out the Big Dipper and telling us all about it. I pointed it out to Clay and said, "Clay do you see those stars? That's the Big Dipper". "Daddy, what's a dipper?" I said, "It's like a big spoon." "No" he said. "A spoon would have another star in it. I think that looks like the Big Wrench!" I guess we'll have to keep an eye out for the other constellations; the Race Car, the Slip-N-Slide and the Chicken McNugget.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

50 cent iPhone

OK, any one who knows me knows I'm a huge geek and I lover every new piece of technology, especially from Apple. Clay knows I want an iPhone i the worst way. Every time an iPhone ad comes on he says, "Daddy, do you want an iPhone?" "Yes Clay." "Why don't you buy one?" he says. "Because they cost a lot of money." Then the other day he added, "Yeah, they must cost like 50 cents or somethin'!" Yeah, something like that.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Me and Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is in DC for his inaugural golf tournament. I'm not much of a golfer. In fact I haven't golfed since 1985 with my Sigma Nu brothers. I was usually the fourth when no one else (and I mean no one) wanted to play. But listening to the radio today I heard someone make a comment about Tiger that someone once said about me; "I've never seen a human being hit a ball like that before!"

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kids, Don't Try This At Home

Every year around this time, the Consumer Product Safety Commission brings out a truckload of watermelons and mannequins along with a crate of all the illegal (fun) fireworks. Every local news station from around the country shows the footage of exploding produce and disintegrating PVC limbs ad nauseum along with terse warnings of "Kids, don't try this at home!" Don't try this at home? Even at 43, the inner teenager in me looks at this footage and says, "Cool! I wonder what would happen if I put two firecrackers in a watermelon?" This yearly pre-Independence Day ritual does nothing to discourage kids from wanting to play with illegal fireworks. Just the opposite. Exploding melons and mannequins don't put the fear of God into kids. I think we need to have the offending fireworks held in the hands of death row inmates or certain members of the Congress and then light 'em up. Now that would turn kids away from illegal fireworks! Or maybe not.

Blind Spot

Clay's been asking a lot of questions recently about things like skin color and other differences that people have. At the end of our neighborhood there's a sign that Clay asked about. It says "Blind Pedestrian". I told Clay that there must be someone in the area who can't see and that the sign warns drivers to be careful. This, of course, started the usual cascade of questions; "Why can't someone see?", "Why don't they wear glasses like you to see?", "How do they know where they are?" After trying my best to answer these, Clay says, "Well if they drive and get into a wreck, they will have their car taken away, right?" Right. How can I argue with that. The way most people drive around here, they might be blind.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Brother can you spare a bottle cap?

OK, I know this borders on being crass and begging, but I've been saving these stupid my coke rewards points since February to get a Clay a basketball and I'm getting real tired of drinking Coke. My gawd; words I never thought would come out of my mouth (or keyboard)! So far I have enough for a subscription to "Seventeen" or a DVD of the South American telenovella, "Ayiiieeee! Mi Corazon de los Amore es Meurte" or something like that; neither of which are on a 4 year-old's wish list. So I'm asking if anyone drinks Coke and doesn't collect the points, look for the 12 digit code under the cap or inside a 12-pack and send them to me. I need to get Clay a basketball before the end of summer. He needs to practice. Now. Have you seen the cost of college now and imagine what it will be like in 14 more years?

Ol' Yeller

Well as you may have read in Nancy's blog, I had some visitors the other day; three nuns and a priest. I do some freelance work for the diocese and they needed to ask me a few questions. After offering them some beverages and making them comfortable in the recently cleaned family room, the boys begin to entertain them. Drew just coos and smiles and laughs; what a 9 month old does best. Clay politely introduces himself to everyone. Just when I think, "Wow, things are going great; the usual chaos of the day (screaming babies, throwing toys, choruses of Why?'s, No!'s, and Why not!'s and innumerable counting to 3's) has subsided. Just then Clay cheerfully pipes up, "My daddy yells at me!" Then a brief moment of silence. Great.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

The best thing about hearing the baby cry at 5:45 AM on Father's Day morning is knowing that Mom will get up with him and I get to roll over and go back to sleep! Happy Father's Day to me!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Steal This Car!

My folks have been here all week and we always enjoy having them. I always worry a bit when they travel because they drive down in my dad's dream car; a 1985 Lincoln Town Car. If you remember the infamous Exxon Valdez, this car is about as large, handles as well and leaks about the same amount of oil as it did. We noticed some drips of oil on our driveway, so we figured, let's make sure all the vital fluids are topped off for the ride back. Since I couldn't find the transmission fluid dipstick, we took it to the local Ford dealer. I think there were audible gasps as we drove up. It must have been like seeing a World War I Fokker Tri-plane land next to a field of F-22 Raptors. I ran past a few salesmen with their mouths agape to ask someone in the service department to help me find the transmission fluid dipstick. By the time I came out, a salesman was already giving my mom his card and offering to buy the car from her. I think he was shocked when my mother informed him that they were keeping the car.

My dad loves this car; duct tape on the glovebox, chrome peeling off the bumper, AM/FM cassette player, no safety features of any kind and all. He thinks the car is worth around $15,000. He was shattered when he found out that it's true value is $683.

I thought about leaving the keys in it with the windows open overnight while they were here. Maybe next time they visit, I'll have to park it in DC.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Yesterday I spoke to my mom on the phone. Happily, they're planning a trip to visit us for a week. My mom knows I'm a real fan of Apple and I talked her into buying a few shares a couple of years ago. Mom is not very savy about technology so when I excitedly tell her about Core 2 Duo processors, Adobe CS3, or OS 10.5 Leopard, I might as well be speaking Urdu. So after my obligatory, "Apple's up to $122 a shre today", she followed with her usual, "So should I sell it yet?" "No!!!" But after that she shocked my by saying, "So did you see that iPhone they're coming out with. It looks like you can watch a movie and make phone calls with it. It's like and iPod and a Phone!" Maybe there's hope yet for my folks; now if I can only convince them to get more than basic cable.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

That'll be "To Go"

Yesterday was Clay's end of year pre-school picnic. Every family has to bring a contribution to the pot luck lunch and it has become our tradition to bring Popeye's chicken. A great tradition since we usually have "Buy 11 pieces, get 11 pieces free" coupons. So on our way I stop at the local Popeye's leaving the rest of the family in the proto-Canadian-like, air conditioned comfort of our Prius (which is Japanese for "why won't the stroller fit in the trunk?). I'm greated by the bespeckled teenage poultry engineer; "Hey" he says. "Hey", I say. "I'd like 22 pieces of chicken please." "Uh, Is that for 'here' or 'To Go'?" For a moment I think, I'm a big guy and I like my Popeye's; but what the hell is wrong with this kid? Then looking slightly vexed I said, "That'll be 'To Go'".


Well, since my wife has been posting all the little cool stories about the boys for the last few months, I thought I'd better get in on the act and put in my $.02. Let's face it, she's doing a great job of it, so I won't try to duplicate what she's done. I'll probably just use this space to vent and talk about the daily annoyances that I come across, and man do I get annoyed easily. Which leads me to my next entry.............