Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Immaculate Conception?

Well, the Evening of Solitary Wonder went as planned. While Hilary was off at the resort with things #1 and #2, I managed to build a complete, to-scale replica of the Basilica in Rome carved from a single piece of curly Bubinga down in my workshop, watched Transformers with only slight damage to one eardrum, and not once did I have to listen to what I'm listening to right now, which is the sound of my four-year-old screaming at the top of her lungs from the timeout chair proclaiming she wants to be second in the shower instead of first.

Perhaps the only flaw in my plan was forgetting to disconnect the phone. It rang at least a half dozen times throughout the night, the caller ID usually informing me that some durned fool family member was checking to see if I was enjoying my night off from the family. People, stay with me here.

On to another subject. So we've got this fish. A blood parrot South American Cichlid. He's been acting kinda funky lately. First, he's taken to rearranging his tank, by pulling up all the plants and by sucking up gravel in his mouth and spitting it into various corners such that the bottom of the tank resembles the topography of the Adirondacks. Second, he's taken to hiding away in a corner behind the sunken pirate keg and when we approach the tank he'll puff himself up to twice his normal size and charge straight at us till he bumps his noggin on the glass, over and over again.

First, I thought Goldie was just in need of a hobby. Now I'm starting to wonder if something else is up. Something involving planned parenthood. So I decided to pull the tank out a bit and peer around to get a good look at Goldie's little hideout in the back of the tank, and there on the bed of gravel I noticed what looked kind of like tiny pieces of rice in a bed of algae. Neither makes sense, since I just cleaned out the tank last Sunday. There's no algae in the tank right now, and there certainly shouldn't be any sand. I started to wonder...could this be some sort of fish eggs? Does Goldie have a nest? Is he a she? None of this makes any sense, since Goldie lives alone except for an algae sucker that never comes out of the pirate keg. If anyone out there knows anything about the odd habits of South American blood parrot cichlids, do tell. The last time Goldie was in a tank with another fish (besides the sucker) was about four months ago. What's the gestation period for cichlid babies? I'm not sure I want to know.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm giddy with anticipation

Have I mentioned lately I have a wonderful wife? She obviously must love me, because she's giving me a fabulous gift later this week. She's made reservations at Oglebay, a resort in West Virginia, and hasn't invited me to come along. Instead, she's taking the kids, leaving me home to fend for myself for 48 hours.

I've slept in our house alone exactly once. It was the day Natalie was born. After 18 hours of grueling labor (trust me, it was exhausting, I don't know how I survived it), I came home around 6am and slept for a good ten hours, or at least until Cousin Vivian called and woke me up to explain how traumatic it was thirty years ago when her uterus exploded (I will never forgive her for that). So after almost 8 years, the house is mine again.

And what sort of debauchery do I have planned for my night at home alone?

Well, first I'm probably going to clean the house. As any parent knows, cleaning a house with kids around is like trying to mark a path of Reese's Pieces while E.T. follows you. It's really pointless. I just want one evening where I can sit down on the couch without impaling myself on a Barbie doll.

Next, I will head down to the workshop. And NOT expect to be called back upstairs five minutes later to resolve a fight over who gets to log into Webkins just as my fingers are coming a little too close to the table saw blade.

Then, I think I'll do a little bit of research into audio performance. Having two children that go to bed early (or one would hope) and a wife who insists on watching a movie with the volume so low I need the subtitles for the hearing impaired on (seriously), I've never had my surround sound system to a volume level loud enough to be heard over the flickering of a votive candle. Well, I've got the Transformers movie coming from Netflix tomorrow, and the volume's going up to eleven baby. So don't call, cuz I won't be answering the phone.

Oh, and don't stop by expecting to visit, either. All of the above will be done naked. Except maybe the part about the table saw.

Really it's a sad, sad life I live.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Time for an airing of the grievances

There have been a multitude of things annoying me lately, so you need to feel my pain. Let's get right to it.

First on the list, credit card fraud. The other day I got my Visa statement to find three identical charges on June 12 for, for about ten bucks and change each. Being a Netflix user, I found it a little disconcerting. After a little investigation I learned that some varmint filled out three applications for and thus got three free movies, all with false names but using my credit card number.

Who let that happen? Isn't the name on the application and the name on the credit card supposed to match? did anyone check the application? Run the credit card? The nice folks at Blockbuster customer service in fact told me this happens "all the time". Nonetheless, she asked me four times during the conversation if I'd like to take that thirty dollars worth of charges and, rather than get a refund, open up a account of my own. Right.

And why do I have to spend five bucks to get the credit card fraud affidavit notarized before I can be refunded the $32 in charges? Why is it important that some guy working at the local Kinkos put his signature on a piece of paper before I send it in to the credit card company? I think I need to start a career as a notary, as it appears this is perhaps the easiest way to make five bucks on earth.

Next up, Costco. Two weeks ago we purchased a couple of big 'ol floor pillows for our living room. One red, one green. We figured we'd exchange the color we didn't like for mate to the one we did. Upon returning to Costco with the red one I discovered there were no more greens to be had in the store. And they couldn't call around to other Costco stores, because all the colors fall under the same upc code. And they're not available online. Swell. So much for state-of-the-art inventory systems. Anyone need a green floor pillow?

And then there's the takeout lunch I had yesterday. I stopped into this sandwich shop I'd never been to before. As I was waiting for my grilled veggie wrap I noticed a sign that said the cups in which they provide drinks are corn-based, biodegradable cups. Very progressive of them, ignoring for a moment the argument of whether or not we're using too much corn in this country. So why did they provide me with my takeout sandwich in a Styrofoam container double-bagged in two plastic shopping bags? People, come on now.

Last but certainly not least,let's talk about cars, car repair, and indicators of pending destruction. A couple of weeks ago I determined my ever-faithful Mazda 626, with 107k miles on it, was due for a timing belt change. That $800 repair at the Mazda dealer turned into a $1600 repair quickly when I found out that not only was the timing belt about to break off, but the pulleys that the belt rode on were screwed as well. To make life even more fun, once I got the Mazda back I brought the Odyssey in to National Tire And Battery for brake work, as the whole front end was shuddering when slowing to a stop. Boom, there was another $792 worth of repairs. Now, only a week after getting the Mazda back, a system malfunction light has appeared on the dashboard. Two days later, the exact same warning light appeared on the Honda. Coincidence? I think not. Conspiracy? Most likely.

I could go on, but I have breakfast to eat.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm on vacation, gimme a break

Okay, so Renovating Parenthood has been a tad dry in terms of content lately. What do you want from me, it's summer! There's lawns to mow! Porches to rebuild! Chipmunks to poison!

And despite the media's insistence that we should all be planning our staycations this summer, the family unit and I decided to buck the system and get out of Dodge last week. Off we went to Baltimore, home of those baseball-playing Oreos. The last time we really went anywhere as a crew was Niagara, where it disgusted me to feel I was dumping the contents of my wallet over Canada for mediocre entertainment and lousy fast food. Oddly enough the same sort of wallet-cleaning occurred in Baltimore, but frankly I was okay with it. Baltimore is a fabulous town, and we enjoyed spending our money there.

While kudos goes to the wife for excellent planning and hotel arrangements, I take responsibility for making the drive to Baltimore completely blissful. The key was my brilliant idea to have the girls, armed with their dvds and snack foods, buckled in about a mile behind us virtually out of earshot in the third row of the Odyssey. Until Honda includes a cone of silence as optional equipment, that's about as good as it's gonna get. Stress-free drive means a stress free daddy.

My wife selected the Inn at Henderson's Wharf as the place to park our weary behinds during the stay. She couldn't have found a better spot. A converted tobacco factory right on the water, it was a fantastic place. If you're headed to Baltimore I highly recommend it.

During the week we did the typical touristy things. We rode the Duck Boats, spent a dad admiring the fishies in the fantastic Baltimore Aquarium, and ate more ice cream than one really should in an average week. We even checked out the B&O Railroad Museum, followed by a day visiting friends in Annapolis, and had a chance to tour the gorgeous Annapolis Harbor and ogle the yachts.

So, now we're back. I promise to be a better grandson. I promise to write more. Really I do.