Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nerf Wars

Last year I was in a store with my son shopping for pots and pans that either never get dirty or that clean themselves, and we passed the toy isle.

I bought two Nerf guns and a load of darts thinking that someday my 10 year old son and I would have a little war.

This was stupid for two reasons. First, boys with Nerf guns shoot sisters without following any moral code. Eyeballs and screaming mouths are excellent targets for foam darts.

Second, boys, in general, break everything.
My son has broken rocks, lizards, pants, food, and every plastic toy that has breached his ½ mile destruction zone.

Last week, I scheduled a “play date” (I hate that term) with a boy and girl who are the same ages as my kids. I also knew that the boy had Nerf guns, so I asked him to bring ‘em along for a friendly war.

Today, before they arrived, I pulled out our Nerf guns and found that they didn’t work. Not exactly a surprise. I found all of the darts that had not been partially digested by the dogs, and hid them so I would have unlimited shots during the war – hey, don’t judge me, it’s my house.

The guests arrived and rolled out of the Toyota with gigantic battery powered Nerf guns with magazines, bullet belts, and a bag of darts. They had enough firepower to take out a village of Smurfs.

Game on.

I went over the basics, you know, “Whomever gets all the flags wins,” and “If you get hit, lay down and count to ten,” and “If you see blood, call for a time out until we figure out where it’s coming from”.

After we hid our flags, all hell broke loose for about two hours. I was sweating within the first five minutes, and I think I counted to ten enough times to hit 6 digits.

I soon realized that the children had formed a Survivor-type alliance with each other to take the old man down. Another reason to keep your kids away from reality TV.

During the mayhem, I noticed the tykes weren’t picking up the darts they were riddling me with, so I devised a diabolical plan. During my ten counts, I took every dart I could reach and shoved them in my pockets. If I’m the only guy with ammo, I will win, right?


My son remembered the goal and took all the flags while I lay on the floor guarding my groin while being peppered with darts from the other three hoodlums. Next year, I’m getting one of those Smurf destroyers…and I’m going to wear a cup.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cheap Maids

I’ve got a new idea to run by you guys… Monkey Maids!

Spider monkeys, lemurs, macaques, it doesn’t really matter, as long as they have prehensile tails.

Here’s a little background for you.

There are only two things I really dislike about being a Stay At Home Dad (there really is a group of guys calling themselves SAHD).

First, I don’t like cooking. I dig the shopping part – riding on the cart, asking elderly ladies where the prophylactics are, putting Kotex in other guy’s carts when they aren’t looking, and telling little kids that the magazines taste like candy if you lick them; but the cooking part is a waste of time. No matter how much time or care you put into the meal, it gets all mangled up with spit and swallowed, then even worse things happen to it. Picture Van Gogh finishing Starry Night, then turning and feeding it to Nermal the goat. Total waste of time.

The second thing I dislike about being a SAHD is cleaning. I don’t mind blasting stuff with the pressure washer, or smashing things in the recycle can, but the real cleaning part stinks. So, I started thinking of cheap labor…. otherwise known as children.

You can pay them a quarter to do any kind of work. And they are happy to do it! And if you start out with dimes, you can get them positively ecstatic with mention of a buck.
I bet I could get a bus-load of kids to repave my driveway for $3.50 if I threw in some Capri Suns and powdered doughnuts.

Now, picture a half-dozen kids dressed in fleece footie pajamas and amped up on Mountain Dew. They could get a hard wood floor sparkling in seconds. Now wrap duct tape around them with the sticky side out and toss some Skittles around the room. No more cat hair, no more crumbs, and no more of Aunt Bertha’s fingernail clippings. Then you get the added bonus of watching them remove the duct tape! Now that’s entertainment. You could also dip them in Tilex and let ‘em fight in the shower – shiny clean… at least the bottom half of the shower.

The problem lies in those pesky Child-Labor Laws. I’m not a fan of jail.

So, monkeys are the obvious solution. I’ve never heard of Monkey-Labor Laws, and monkeys are really just hairy children that don’t speak and have better table manners. Monkeys are the perfect house cleaners – almost. You can stick a rag in both hands, both feet, AND a tail. Try doing that with your Cock-a-poo and see if you don’t get bit.

There’s a little issue of hygiene, which might cause problems. I’ve heard that upset monkeys fling their poo. I can’t picture that going over well with… anyone. I doubt my wife would notice the dusted furniture and minty fresh toilet bowl, if there was dried monkey poo on the windows.

I guess I could make them wear diapers. Would you be more likely to hire a bunch of naked monkeys, or monkeys wearing diapers? I’ll work that out later, right now I have to get some monkeys. Used ones would be okay, but not senile ones. That has horror flick written all over it. I wonder if I should go straight banana diet or if Purina makes Monkey-Chow?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Socks and Hats

I’ve heard comedians talk about washing machines eating socks, and I used to love The Far Side’s “Land of Missing Things” which includes car keys and marbles along with the piles of socks. But, it’s not funny anymore. I’m actually upset.

I’ve been doing the laundry now for a while and I can’t figure out where the socks are going. I can account for two or three socks being statically clung to my wife’s sweat pants, suicided behind the dryer, and tucked in the elasticized corner of a fitted bed sheet, but the rest have no logical explanation.

By the way, why do they say “fitted bed sheet” when they don’t fit squat? If you get the pillow top fitted sheets they either look like a deflated balloon or you have to crank them down like a pregnant woman pulling on skinny jeans. It’s like the “One Size Fits All” hats that only fit that guy that works down at Quiznos with the really big head. How did he become the standard for heads? China makes all the hats. Does China have one model head that they use for all the hats? I thought those guys were even smaller than Americans. Was there a terrible “I Love Lucy” type accident with the model head, which got glued back together in a Frankenstein’s Monster shape, which became the go-to head for all Chinese headwear manufacturing? Why can’t they just have small, medium, large, and Big Gulp like the drink cups. The Quiznos guy can get his Big Gulp hat and the rest of us can get one that fits too. Who came up with the Big Gulp drink anyway? Who, besides a porpoise, needs that much liquid? And when the heck did “small” become a half gallon? I went into Burger King for first time in a year or two and ordered a Coke. She asked me what size I wanted, and I pointed to a healthy sized cup on the counter. She replied by saying, “Okay, one ‘kiddie’ size fountain drink.” Kiddie size!? Are you kidding me? You’re going to emasculate me because I only want a QUART of Coke? Should I order “Sippy Cup” next time if I’m only a little thirsty?

Whoa… side track, bad… what the heck was I talking about a minute ago… Socks! That’s it.

I can’t find them. I’ve looked. I found one in my wife’s underwear drawer. That’s how desperate I got. I looked in my wife’s underwear drawer.

I had a weird rotation of three orange socks because one of them went missing a year ago. The three remaining got equal wear. Then one day, without it giving me an explanation, the missing orange sock reappeared. I looked around the closet for a newly installed Lost Sock Dispenser, or a remorseful sock burglar trying to make amends, but alas, I was alone with my new mystery.

I tried putting the sock back into the rotation, but it felt wrong. You can’t have one faded, worn out orange sock and one new-looking orange sock on. So, do I just throw away the good looking one? I mean, it just came back. That feels wrong, too. And where was it all this time? Does it know where the others are? I’m thinking China is somehow involved in this.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dad's Potty Training

My children’s bladders are magnetically triggered by the Subaru. It’s either a magnetic trigger or it’s just regular voodoo.

When we leave the house, one or both of them have to use the bathroom before the car makes it a mile. I’ve tried hugging them really hard before we leave to see if I can get them to go, but that rarely works and I’m not sure if it’s legal. I’ve considered putting one of those little port-a-potties in the hatchback, but I don’t much like the smell of that blue stuff, and it might slosh out on the sharp turns. Litter boxes are an obvious solution. They could just sit on them in the back seat. People looking in the window might not immediately see the wisdom in sitting on a litter box… now that I think about it, forget the litter box. They would just kick the litter out on the floor like cats do.

Both kids drink very little on the whole, so I don’t really know where it’s coming from. I have wondered if their esophagi have overflow valves that connect directly to their bladders, but I’m 82% sure that is physically impossible. I’ve also wondered if they absorb water through their pores… like reverse sweating.

Whatever the cause, I’ve learned to deal with it. I had to teach them both how to pee outdoors pretty early on. The day after the first outdoor-potty-training session, while we were letting them play on the school playground, my wife screamed. I looked up to see my son and daughter peeing right there in the schoolyard. My wife wanted to sell the house and move, but I convinced her that the majority of people who saw them probably thought they were just getting bark chips out of their pants.

My daughter now apparently belongs to an exclusive club that allows her to use anyone’s restroom at any time. When I was getting my hair cut, she walked right around the counter and into the back room. None of the employees even blinked. Since I was the only one who seemed distressed by it, I let it go.

My son is an expert at using the restroom in strange places (it’s like a hobby), which gives me a sense of solace if not a bit of pride. I’ve seen him spot toilets or port-a-potties from a half mile away.

I need to call Steven Hawking and NASA to check out the Port-A-Potty at the park next to the school. I’m convinced it somehow disrupts the time space continuum. My son has spent hours in there with no explanation. I’ve gone in there myself to see if there’s a hidden passage to a pizza place or a maybe a video game screwed into the wall, but it’s just a giant plastic box with toilet paper, a tank of excrement, and D-Dog’s name scratched into the door along with a misspelled message proclaiming him to be a cool guy.

I’ve noticed that while I grow gray hairs waiting for him to come out, he appears to have grown a bit younger and possibly a bit happier when he steps out. I’m beginning to think the Fountain of Youth might be a semi-nasty plastic box that smells like Scope poured over a dirty diaper. And I’m wondering if Mr. D-Dog really is cool, after all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tazers and Nuggets

Today, I decided to take the kids rock climbing. It sounded good in my head. Sort of like the way, “Hey, I think I’ll poke this wild animal” sounds good until you do it.

While scrambling to load the gear, I noticed the three dogs (Tebby, Ollie and the neighbor’s dog, Sonny) staring at me. Tebby told me that they needed a walk and that they would like to chase small animals amongst the rocks, so I put them in the car along with leashes, and told Tebby not to speak English anymore because it creeps me out. I pulled out of the driveway with the puker (Ollie) already looking green, the crotch clawer (Tebby) trying to get on my head to get a better view of rabbits, and the elephant (Sonny) in the way-back drooling on the seat and blocking my rear view.

I made it to the schools, found my children, and made sure both of them had their backpacks and shoes (you’d be surprised). When we got rolling again there was an extra boy in the back, but I knew him and he didn’t appear to be there against his will, so I kept driving.

The first comment was, “I’m hungry AND thirsty.” This was solved by a stop at the place that sells Little Debbies alongside RockStar, cigarette lighters, and hats that say, “Who Farted?”

Nutritional needs met, we drove to the USFWS parking lot to meet the family we were going to climb with. I let the dogs out next to a sign, which read, “Dogs Must Be On Leash” and started digging for the leashes. I found the leashes just as Sonny proceeded to leave a massive poo on the beautiful grass. I had no poop bags, and even if I did, that thing would not have fit. Luckily, my daughter was able to yell loud enough for Idaho to hear, “Dad, Sonny is pooping on the grass… you need to pick it up!” I smiled at the nice couple walking by who were trying to melt me with their stare, and tried to go to my happy place.

Soon enough the other family pulled up and we loaded the dogs and drove to the crags, leaving the poop and the leashes behind. We pulled off the road next to the trail to the climbing area, and I searched for the leashes. I thanked Karma for being kinder than I deserved, and started to let the dogs loose just as a cop pulled a car over a few yards down the road. My son, being a well-mannered child yelled, “Dad, can we go see if he gets Tazered?”

We waited a few minutes to see if the cop would leave so that we could head up the trail sans dog-of-leash citation, but it became apparent that the fellow who got pulled over was dead drunk and definitely a Tazer candidate. At this crossroads, I did what any responsible father would do in the same circumstance… I let the dogs out of the car and yelled, “Run kids!” and headed for the trail.

We didn’t stop running until we were safely in the woods. The last thing I saw over my shoulder was a wobbly guy, with his eyes closed (not touching his nose with his finger), and a cop watching three loose dogs chasing 5 children into the woods.

At the crag, we set up ropes and told the kids to climb on. While I belayed my daughter, who was 50’ up the rock, I spotted Sonny staring at us from the cliff edge 100’ above us. As the others discussed the possible super powers that allowed him to get up there, I was wondering how mad my neighbors were going to be and how much family counseling would cost if Sonny decided to come down the quick way.

Sonny made it back down without a helicopter rescue, and it was getting dark, so we packed up and left. I took my car load to a place where dirty, loud children are always welcome: McDonalds.

As I was practicing my “I’m not here” look in the booth, my son looked across the table at me with a French fry perched between his nose and upper lip, like a cartoon mustache and said, “I need more food, father.” Ignoring the mustache and the fact that he has never called me “father” before, I got him some Chicken McNuggets to go, while I listened to him and his friend making up new and interesting nicknames for their testicles.

With nuggets, dogs, nicknames, and kids in the car, we finished the trip just in time for bed. While the kids sawed logs, I fed two of the dogs, but Tebby was not to be found. After a frantic 30-minute search, which included waking up and interrogating the incoherent children, I decided to retrace my steps since pulling into the garage. This led me to the Subaru where I discovered Tebby, who had been left in the car… with the McNuggets that my son “needed”. So, instead of dog food, Tebby got nuggets, paper bag, and BBQ sauce for dinner. I had just fed this stuff to my children, yet I worried that the dog would get sick. Hmmmm.

At 10:00, with clean up done, I flopped on my bed, but something was still bugging me. Why didn’t either of the boys say anything about McNuggets when they were making up nicknames for their testicles? It seems so obvious.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shopping in a Strange Land

Some walk cautiously to a challenge. I run - like a cheap red shirt in a load of whites.
Today I blindly sprinted to a Costco shopping trip. How hard could shopping be?

The first snag came when I rolled into the parking lot. I got a sweet parking space….because they didn’t open until 10. And they don’t screw around with that rule. The door might open at 5 to10, but if you try to go in, they release an orangutan with diaper rash to knock you around a little.

The second obstacle is the little white Costco card. It’s like a passport at the Canadian boarder. There’s a code of conduct attached to the presentation of the card that I haven’t fully cracked. Some people just flash the card and the ninja Navy Seal guarding the door smiles and nods them in; others hand him the card and he scrutinizes the photo before giving the nod. Not knowing which card-holder I was, I tried the in-between. I held the card up like the Orbit Gum girl and gave him a knowing smile while I crab-walked carefully by him (never turn your back on a ninja Navy Seal). His look was a cross between pity and confusion. But since he didn’t snap me in half, or whip out some nun chucks, I must be close to cracking the code.

The third challenge was to navigate the labyrinth with the Texas shopping cart. The cart was so big, I thought I was supposed to ride in it, but I couldn’t find a start button, and the elderly lady who helped me climb in refused to push me. So, I started cranking around the store like a granny in a 70’s LTD. I bought a pallet of my wife’s favorite cereal, 3 or 4 thousand granola bars, a “bottle” of shampoo that was the size of a baby harbor seal, and an enormous shrink-wrapped thing that I can’t recall putting in my cart.

The fourth difficulty came at the checkout line. I apparently missed the training session, which provides checkout rules. As I put my items on the conveyor, a man was putting them back into the cart without my permission. The woman with the scanner was zapping stuff like a spider monkey on meth: gallons of milk, gallons of syrup, gallons of socks, gallons of babies… you name it. Without looking, she scanned all of the things that funny-boy had put back into my cart. Then I handed her my credit card – big mistake. My novice cover was blown. Check-out Lady whispered into her lapel, Funny-boy took cover, and I instinctively protected my neck with a 3-pack of family sized ketchup in case Ninja Navy Seal Man attacked from behind. I was instructed to slowly put the credit card away without making any furtive movements (I don’t know what furtive means either) and use a debit card, check, or cash. I got it sorted before the complete lock-down happened, and I made for the door.

Fifth conundrum; just when I could see sunlight and freedom, some fancy pants with a highlighter stopped me at the door. Through a series of ostrich-like hand gestures and aboriginal clicks and grunts, I figured out that he wanted my receipt for some reason. Okay, I’m game. I handed him the receipt, he swiped it with the highlighter and then gave it back. Now, tell me that’s not weird. Freak.

On the plus side, I found out that shorts and mid-calf white socks with sandals are back “in”.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Wacker

I’m wet and tired.
Although my underwear is wet, that’s not the point of origin. The wetness came from rain.

It’s usually hot and dry here in Sept. The rain came because I planned to rent an expensive piece of equipment to finish a big outside project that should have been finished a long time ago. I heard it raining this morning. I saw it raining this morning. I felt it raining this morning. Yet I still went to my summer home (the Home Depot) and rented a plate compactor, called (get this...) the Wacker.

A plate compactor is not a particularly big piece of equipment, and it only weighs enough to crush 5 or 8 bones, as opposed to all 206. So, my male brain told me that I could just bebop back to the house, unload this little beast from the trailer, compact my soon-to-be front yard, load it back up, return it to the Depot, and be back in time for tea.

I was never a good student of history. There are exactly ZERO examples from my life to indicate this would be successful.

I mud-wrestled the plate compactor to the job site, swam over to the shed for some ear protection (it was raining hard by this point), swam back, and pulled the starter cord on the Wacker.

I have a little experience with pull-start engines, and I know for a fact that the cord is supposed to wind back into the thingy. If it doesn’t go back into the thingy, there will be no wacking.

I stood in the rain and looked at the cord in my hand for a few minutes. I got on my knees and asked the thingy to suck the cord back up… pretty please. I tried to push the cord back into the thingy. I made wind up noises to get the thingy in the mood. Eventually I reasoned that the thingy did not want the cord. I called Home Depot and the nice lady told me that the only person in the Milky Way who could help me with the thingy was on a lunch break and would be back by Thanksgiving, give or take a few months. I thanked her for her cheerful message of doom, hung up, and got out a 10mm socket wrench and took the thingy’s head off.

A chunk of metal fell out, and at the same time the thingy wound up the cord again. I bolted the thingy’s head back on and pulled. This time the engine started, without the metal chunk and everything! But I was afraid to turn it off. I kept thinking that the chunk of metal was probably important, and my time with the Wacker was limited. Even after I finished compacting my soon-to-be yard, I started looking for things to compact before I had to turn it off. Dog toys, dog poo, plants, bugs… whatever.

When I got back to Home Depot, I created a new puddle at the rental counter while I dug the hunk of metal out of my pocket. I was expecting orange-aproned Will to do a proper examination with requisite "Mmmm" or "Jimminy Crickets, you're lucky to be alive!", but the guy didn't even look at it. He took it from me, threw it into the trash can, and insisted that I have a good day.

By the way, dry underwear is AWESOME.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Full Moon

I’ve got the heebie-jeebies.

Not to be confused with the freaked-outs or the willies. And it’s nothing like the case of the heebies that I had when I was 16 years old... alone in the house... at nigh... watching the Exorcist on HBO... with every light in the house on, my back to the wall, white-knuckling an old baseball bat. Apparently, I thought the anti-Christ was no match for a Louisville Slugger held together with Elmer’s Glue and electrical tape.

Tonight’s case of the heebie-jeebies started with walking the dogs down the trail under a full moon.

We have two dogs. Ollie is docile and mostly made up of a tongue. Probably an anteater mix. Do not get your face near her or you will get a nostril or ear plugged at lightning speed. Tebby is small. Not small enough to wear a tiara and sit in a purse, but small enough to get a bath in the sink after she rolls in wet deer poo (what IS it with that?).

Tebby is a Cockapoo. This has nothing to do with the story, I just like saying it. She is also an avid hunter and not afraid of going after a juicy elk or a fresh 200 pound bear (oh, the stories).

On this night, though, she was spooked. Something had her freaked out, and it wasn’t long before I was jumping at every little twig crack or dry grass rustle. I started envisioning a cougar or bear or wookilar jumping out of the pine trees and eating my head. I thought about holding Tebby and Ollie up on each side of my head as a sacrifice to whatever evil beast was stalking us, but that would negate the walk, and I really don’t like it when Ollie sticks her tongue in my ear. Instead I picked up a rotten stick. Nothing says “Don’t mess with me!” better that a stick that might make you sting a little or leave a red mark.

By the time we got back to the driveway, both Tebby and I were as jumpy as crack-heads at a police ball. Ollie was licking grass and apparently oblivious to the hungry dragon, or whatever it was, in the bushes.

I noticed my stick had fallen apart somewhere along the way, but obviously served its purpose of making me fearsome enough to warrant a second thought from the beasties of the night. We made the front porch with the moonlight on our backs and a sigh of relief that we were uneaten.

Do they make machine washable armor? How about shark cages with openings so you can stick your feet out? Pepper spray footie pajamas?

Friday, August 27, 2010

About Aboard Aboat

We bought a boat.

Okay, that’s vague. We bought a motor that is surrounded by enough fiberglass to keep it from sinking. My knowledge of boats is vast, though. For instance, I know that pirates like them. I know that they float in the water because of magic and pixie dust. I also know that they are not made of Salteen crackers or fur.

With this unparalleled knowledge, I ventured to the far reaches of Lynnwood to buy the boat that Jenny picked out. The nice man told me how the boat worked. I smiled and nodded. I was supposed to take notes (he didn’t tell me that). I then followed another guy around while he piled things in my shopping cart that I had to have for the boat to float; ropes, an orange flag, an airhorn (those are cool), a fire extinguisher (I thought we were supposed to use the boat in the water?), and some big white bumpers that look like King Kong’s Tic-Tacs. With my tools of the trade and my new boat, I drove the 3 hours back to Jenny’s workplace, and asked Jenny what we were supposed to do with it. She was already wearing her swimsuit.

I felt good going into the “boat ramp scenario”. I know how to back a trailer, by golly. It turns out, there is more to it than just backing down the hill. There are rules.
Rule #1You have to pay to push your expensive toys into the river.
Rule #2 If you’re drunk, you get to do anything you want.
Rule #3 If you push your boat into the river, you have to hang on to it or it floats away.

There is another rule, which pertains to this boat we now have. It really wants to go…. anywhere… now. When I started it up, Jenny was on the dock holding on to a rope attached to the front. Immediately after the engine roared to life, the boat left without my permission, and Jenny was left wondering what the hell she was going to do when the rope ran out. Luckily, the boat decided to just spin around by the dock. I tried yelling at it. I tried focusing my yelling on the steering wheel. I tried yelling at Jenny. I tried panicking too, but nothing worked. Now, what did that guy at the store tell me? Hmmm, I really should have written that down.

After giving up and waiting to be rescued by the Coast Guard, Jenny reeled me in like I was a giant catfish with a roman candle stuck in its bum. She jumped on board, and we spiraled out into the lake to fight a bit.

We’ve taken the boat out a few times since, and have had much better luck (not counting the stick in the impellor, having to get towed to the ramp, getting pulled over by the Park Ranger AND the Lake Patrol, and pulling the trailer out of the water with the boat snaking behind like a harpooned seal – dern winch strap).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Snakes or Bungees

I don't speak rattlesnake. Somebody go get Harry Potter. I need him to have a conversation with 'em.

Somehow, rattlesnakes spread the word this year that this canyon is the place to be. They've been moving in like it's a condo fire-sale in Hawaii. Only, it's a total screw up. These snakes are getting bad info. Every human up here has it in for them. Can you imagine getting a great tip on a cheap condo, buying it, then showing up with your sweet new luggage, and having the next door neighbor crack you in the head with a shovel? It would ruin your day.

So, I've tried to talk to them... the snakes. They just look at me with this "I don't have a medulla oblongata, dude," look on their reptilian faces. How am I supposed to work with that? So, we kill them. I'm a shovel guy myself. The uphill neighbor uses her SUV, and she does not differentiate between species. I've seen her careen off the road just to get both tires on a bungee cord. News Flash, crazy-lady: snakes aren't orange with black plastic hooks on each end.

A friend of mine was disgusted with me for killing the rattlers. He said, "Why don't you leave them alone?" and I replied, "Because they are a hazard!" His retort was, "Then, why don't you just go around getting rid of every hazard? Your mountain bike is a hazard, your car is a hazard, your ATV is a hazard.... you should get rid of those too!"

Okay, okay, I get your point, friend, but your logic is flawed. I have never been biking down the trail and had my sprocket latch itself onto my leg and inject enough venom to kill a dumpster-fed raccoon. Bike and car mishaps are operator error. Stepping on a reptile with an IQ of negative 10, sporting deadly weapons in it's mouth, sunbathing on my walkway is NOT my idea of a "whoops, I left the coffee pot on". Sorry buddy, but unless you want to come over every day and milk them, feed them, and put little corks on their hideous fangs, I'm going to keep my shovel handy.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Scrub Your Mussels

While at my mother-in-law's house on the bay in Massachusetts, I told my son to go look for stuff down at the water. After I made the fridge a little lighter, and wandered back into the yard, my son reappeared with a bucket & a big grin, and announced he "found" dinner. He held the bucket out to me with both hands. I considered running away with my fingers in my ears and my eyes closed doing that "La la la la, I can't hear you..." thing. If you knew how good he was at catching live animals and enslaving them, you would not fault me on this. Instead of running, though, I stared at the bucket for signs of unnatural movement. Eventually, someone else must have decided I had gone comatose, and looked in the bucket. "Mussels!" came the happy response.

Sure enough, he had brought us dinner in the form of a bucket full of live mussels. When he asked if we could eat them, and he received the thumbs up, you would have thought he had just found a Nintendo DS Super Mario Brothers Super Kart with Rumble Pack. I don't know what that is, but I'm pretty sure it's good.

Everybody bailed out for the swimming pool (they waited for my son to bake in the sun, then broke off the mud layer like a boiled egg). And alas, I was left with a bucket of disoriented mussels to clean.
First, I tried cleaning the algae off with my mother-in-law's kitchen "scrubbie", which looked like it had been accidentally ingested, digested, and regurgitated by the last bucket of mussels (now I know what to get her for Christmas).

Next, I rummaged in mom-in-law's shed and found a stiff brush. The brush worked great in removing algae, muck, and human skin. I wondered if the mussels had any idea why I was spiffing them up and dropping them into a bucket of fresh water. Perhaps they thought they were all going to a nice aquarium with plenty of detritus to filter feed on into their old age.

With my beautifully exfoliated hands, I dumped the critters into a boiling pot with garlic and butter, just in time for appetizers (when I dropped them in, I plugged my ears and did the "La la la la, I can't hear you...." thing just in case mussels scream when you boil them alive... don't tell me if they do).

I must report that they tasted wonderful and my boy had more than his share.
Now it's off to the scrubbie store. It's never too early for Christmas shopping.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thickly Settled

I'm in New England. It's an appropriate name for the region, because the locals speak English, but I can't understand them.

A few things you should know about New England.

#1 It's under construction. Pretty much the whole place... in general. They may call it "restoration", but let's not kid ourselves, shall we? The place is old and in a shambles. These guys are used to the construction in a scary, dangerous sort of way. Just up the road from my mother-in-law's house, they're redoing all the sidewalks. They're not stopping traffic... Oh no, that would be safe. Instead the workers have randomly chucked some cones about, and are just standing in the road with rakes and stuff while cars dodge them at 40 mph. Where the workers are completely blocking a lane, drivers have a special ESP that allows them to know whose turn it is to go. I don't have the ESP, so I consider myself lucky to have returned Mom-in-law's car with the side view mirrors intact (for the record, I totally missed those two teenagers on bikes).

#2 The traffic signs are for entertainment purposes only. Don't pay any attention to the speed limit signs, they will just distract you from the cars hurtling by. If you're on a bike, watch out for a gold colored Lexus SUV over the next couple of days. The driver is seriously distracted. Oh, and just down the road, there's a sign that reads, "Thickly Settled". It seems to me that this warning belongs on a container of Metamucil and not on a road, but who am I to second guess the road sign geniuses of New MassaVerConHam Island?

#3 The young people have been removed. In reality, there are a few little kids running around, as well as the two teenagers that I almost killed with the car, but other than that, rural New England has no young people. I have facial hair, so I felt reasonably safe being out in daylight.

#4 The states are really tiny. Back home, after a 3 hour drive, you're sill in the same county. Here, it's like, "Oh jeez, I dropped the crab pot. I think the float rolled over there into Vermont." Seriously, I got lost here on a bike a couple of years back and the lady at the junk shop gave me directions that INCLUDED the state name, "Fuhst, ya go down 103 to Massachusetts, then tuhn right towahd Rhode Island..."

So, if you ever make it here, enjoy the experience, but ask someone else to drive, and use a Sharpie to make some mustaches on your children, or else they may be taken from you right in the middle of your clam "chowda".

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Power Tools Rule!

A man did not invent cleaning house. I’m sure of it. If a man had invented it, power tools and yard equipment would have dual labels. The leaf blower would have instructions for blowing leaves off the lawn AND instructions for blowing spider webs out of the corners of the living room. Seriously, what real man would use a little dainty cloth and a little bottle of Pledge, when there is a leaf blower in the garage that will blast bread crumbs off the night stand from twenty feet away.

And what’s with those little wimpy brooms? I don’t have all day. I’ve got the coarse bristle shop broom for gathering up the kids dirty clothes off the floor, and the soft bristle shop broom that can gather up thirty Cheerios in one swipe.

Hoover, you say? Genie Shop Vac, I say. Have you ever tried to suck up a marble or a Happy Meal toy with a Kenmore or Dyson? Not happening. You’ll just get that horrid rattling sound like a 70’s pinball machine with dry-rotted rubber bumpers. Put on the ear protection and fire up the Genie, and BAM, Shrek is playing marbles inside my 15 gallon Wet/Dry canister of doom, baby!

Okay, next revelation comes in two words: Pressure Washer! Or is that supposed to be one word? Anyway, don’t go blowing me off before you hear me out. Pressure washers take regular water pressure and amp it up so that the water can blow off any amount of dirt, mold, mildew, or melted orange Popcicle. You can even add detergent to them. It works in your dishwasher, so why not on the rest of your house?

Obviously, there would have to be some redesigning of houses in general. First of all, there would have to be floor drains in every room. Secondly, there would have to be an impressive array of bungee cords keeping everything in place. Even a 1500 lb pressure spray can knock a lamp off a table, so there’s the whole “strapping, screwing, and stapling things down” aspect to this. Gorilla Tape, of coarse would be a necessity. You may also have to improve the quality of your stuff slightly. I would think a good pressure washer would shoot a hole right through a cheap set of blinds. I haven’t tried it yet, I’m just saying. But, think about it! After everything was waterproofed, you could just load your pressure washer with your favorite environmentally friendly detergent and let it rip. After a good sudsing, flick it to clean water and rinse! Plus, the kids would be fighting over who got to do the cleaning. It’s a win-win situation. Switch to the Windex compartment, and do the windows! Switch to the dog soap compartment and take care of Fido! Kids want to come inside after playing in the dirt? Fine… Mr. Pressure Washer does not discriminate. Line ‘em up and hose ‘em down. No need for showers tonight, kids!

Well, I have to go. Target has toasters on sale. The propane torch “booster” idea only worked in theory.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Multi-Use Make-Up

I ran out of bathroom cleaner right in the middle of cleaning day. I don’t even know what bathroom cleaner is, but I knew I needed a substitute. I looked around and behold! I found the secret multi-use stash of stuff… my wife’s make-up drawers.

I call them make-up drawers, but there’s a ton of stuff in there you can use for short-cutting the house cleaning. In fact, your wife probably has loads of hidden cleaning gems around if you keep an open mind. Here are a few tips to get you started…

Okay, find anything that says “exfoliant” on it and it will clean ANYTHING (and leave behind a subtle cucumber scent… bonus!). It’s better than sandpaper, that stuff.

And those funny rough gloves that your wife has in the shower? Yep, they’re better than the green scrubby in the kitchen sink. Strip down, put those little mitts on, soak ‘em in cleaner, jump in the shower, and kill two birds with one stone. Your shower is done and the shower is sparkling. Hey, but only use mild detergent, guys! If you jump in there with the Tilex, you will have burns that you will NOT be able to explain. Then throw some
Rain-X on the shower door and you don’t have to clean that bad boy for months.

I found a little curved brush that would be great for cleaning the vent louvers in the car, but DO NOT use it. I got black goopy stuff all over the place that only came up with WD-40.

There was also this bottle of finger nail polish remover that smelled like a Dow factory with hints of cherry... First of all, why would you add cherry smell to a substance that can kill you if you breathe it in? Second, why aren’t there warning labels on that stuff? It should be sold in the toxic chemicals isle of the hardware store, not on a make-up isle. I’m not kidding. That stuff will etch metal. I bet it would take off a tattoo in a pinch.

Your wife probably has some thick fuzzy socks. Find ‘em, put ‘em on, squirt some Murphy’s Oil Soap on the floor, put on an AC/DC or Green Day CD, and you will have a clean floor in no time, my friend.

Your kids making a mess in the cupboard with open packaging? No problem, go find some hair clips or hot roller clamps – Chip Clip, hair clip, what’s the difference.

Go get the good eraser out of your wife’s art supplies that she never uses. They’ll take anything off painted drywall (even boogers) without damaging the paint.

Little scissors from the make-up drawer? Perfect for trimming the dingleberries off the dog’s bum. Give it a rinse and she’ll never know.

How about those electric lint shavers in your wife’s closet? You can shave off the top layer of gum from the carpet or make your microfiber couch look like new.

Squeaky door hinge and no oil in sight? Never fear… bust out your wife’s hand lotion. The squeak is gone, and your doorway smells like apricots… it’s a win-win.

So keep your eyes peeled and your innovative mind open. The faster you clean that house, the quicker you can get outside and have fun.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

5:00 Somewhere

I'm a Stay-At-Home dad. Today was the day for weekly house cleaning. The kids were at day camp, I had just gotten some biking exercise in, and I was tearing into the work. On the porch, I ran across the cooler from two months ago that still had a 12 pack of seriously skunked bottles of Corona. If you're not a beer drinker, you have to understand that if you leave a beer in the sun for a couple of months, it turns into the liquid that comes out of skunks when you accidentally run them over on the interstate. So, I quickly decided to pour the beer out and recycle the bottles.
With my trusty Mickey Mouse bottle opener, I dragged the cooler to the driveway and started popping.
  1. Grab bottle.
  2. Open cap.
  3. Place upside down on drain grate.
  4. Repeat.
On the third bottle I decided to skip a step. I grabbed the bottle and opened it upside down. My body received most of the beer explosion. The whole front of my body was dripping old, warm Corona. Not to be hindered by a mishap, I wiped the beer out of my eyes, went back to the original plan, and started popping again. On the third bottle, my scientific instincts kicked in. Was that a fluke, or was there a scientific principle that caused the explosion? I turned it upside down and stuck Mickey's belly on the cap. Houston, we have lift off! This explosion shot mostly into my crotch. My shorts and underwear were soaked through. The 92 degree day suddenly seemed slightly cooler. It's settled then. For some reason a long neck skunked beer will explode if opened upside down. Feel free to experiment on your own and report back.
Happy in my new discovery, I went on about my business in the burning sunshine. Within two minutes the Corona was baked onto my body and my right eyelid was glued open. I started to panic about the whole glued-open-eye thing until it peeled itself free. A quick splash from the sink remedied the glued body parts and I was able to finish the house, and now I'm knocking this blog out so that I can pick up the kids. I have gotten used to the smell of the stale beer in my hair, clothes and on my body, and although sticky, I am dry-ish. No one will mind a beer stained, unwashed, reeking, stay at home dad picking up two children from a Christian organization will they? Nah. I'm good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Automotive Mice

I would not make a good Buddhist. Those who know me might argue with me. After all, I’m the guy who clips the barbs off of my kids’ fishing lures. I’m the guy who used to capture spiders and relocate them outside so that they could live on in the beautiful out-of-doors (I don’t do it anymore because I found out that indoor spider species die an ugly death when transplanted outside).

Since moving to the Canyon, any chance of Buddhism is out the window. Although I’ve apologized to all the rattlesnakes I’ve beheaded, I have nonetheless beheaded them. I have a strict no-rattlesnakes-in-my-yard policy. It’s not that I’m worried about stepping on one. They’re pretty good about letting you know they’re there. I’m more worried about one of the kids’ friends getting bitten because they thought it would be cool to paint legs on it. A few snake-homicides (and obligatory apologies) are a pretty good trade-off for not having the local personal injury lawyer’s son get bitten by the same snake that we named Pooky and included on the family Christmas card.

I do kill other stuff, and sometimes I’m totally okay with it. Mosquitoes are high on the list and are closely followed by black flies, sweatbees, gnats, and anything else that may land on my eyeball or explore my nostril. Bigger creatures are not totally exempt either. A while back, I pulled a full-size mouse nest out of the air cleaner on my Subaru. The little buggers had chewed tunnels through the hood lining and gnawed through the insulation on bundles of wires. Now, keep in mind, I have two hard rules about my cars; 1. Any part of my car that you eat, you must replace and/or repair (there are no exceptions), and 2. No urination or defecation in or on the car without my permission (there may be exceptions to this rule, but no one has challenged me on it yet). The mice have no gainful employment and broke both rules. They are not going to get the live trap.

So, today I pulled into the Toyota dealership parking lot which triggered the sirens in the staff room, where the salesmen look out the window and try to assess how much money I can be convinced to hand over. A guy named Chuck won the toss and started hoofing over about the time I spotted the truck that I wanted to see the sticker on. I jumped out of the Subaru and left it running so that I could make a get away before he got me in a sleeper hold. As I was scanning the sticker, my car made a noise I have never heard it make before. It sounded like the fan sputtered or stalled, then the engine went back to normal. I was looking at the front of my car expecting it to say, “I’m good, I just had a tickle in my throat,” when a fatally injured mouse fell from behind the grill. I confirmed he was an ex-mouse, hopped back in the car and got it moving just as Chuck’s nametag came into view as he slalomed between pre-owned V-8 Tundras (zero down!) in an attempt to cut off my escape route. The only two things that looked out of place as I looked at the pristine parking lot in the rear view mirror, were a little furry lump and a sweaty, confused, man in Italian loafers. The next time I stop by the lot, I’ll have to ask for Chuck. He deserves closure.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Backseat Snakes

The snake in the back of the old Bronco wasn't nearly as bad as the bushy tailed wood rat in the Subaru. When you get into a 2006 Subaru Outback, you expect it to be animal free, unless you have purposefully put an animal there. When a squirrel-rat thing jumps from the backseat and out the driver's window, there is a moment of panic that would make any man ashamed of himself. In a 1982 Bronco, complete with rusted metal floor, you can reasonably expect an animal residing in the back. Yesterday, I told the kids to jump into the old Bronco so we can go get bricks. I looked in the back to see if it was worthy of bricks, and spotted a bull snake coiled up and resting comfortably.
Here is why it wasn't bad. First, I found the snake instead of the snake finding me. Second, the kids thought it was "so cool". Third, it was a bull snake and not a rattle snake. Fourth, I think it ate the mice that were living in the dashboard.