The Warden's Log

June 26, 2011

WE’RE A-MOVIN’ ON UP…

Filed under: Parenting — thewardenslog @ 11:36 pm

The Warden’s Log is moving.  I haven’t written anything new since a certain hound dog entered my life in the spring, but when new material gets added it’ll be found at The Warden’s Log’s new home:  http://wardenslog.blogspot.com/

Although the new content might have to wait until the children go back to school…

February 23, 2011

THE CRYPTOZOOLOGIST

A little known fact about The Warden is that she is a licensed Paranormal Investigator.  I have the card to prove it.  I had to undergo extensive testing.  Actually, I had to answer some questions and e-mail them to my instructor, but I’m sure it was read thoroughly and that I really did deserve the outstanding marks I received.  My license came from Flamel College and is about as useful as a kindergarten graduation certificate is for getting into Harvard.  Still, The Inmates and I are now well trained in ghost hunting techniques and have our own EMF meter, provided by the school.  Granted, it usually doesn’t go from the green, “safe” zone to the red zone unless it’s put next to an outlet, but we haul it around with us nonetheless.  We make a pilgrimage a couple times a year to Spring Grove Cemetery and try to see if the ghost of Salmon P. Chase is lingering.  So far, nothing out of the ordinary has occurred outside of an unfortunate incident involving Uncle Chester and one of the resident swans.  Let’s just say that it’s better not to squat on the shores of the lake cheerily calling, “Here, Swanny, Swanny!”

My son, The Professor, is a budding cryptozoologist.  At the moment his obsession is for the Jersey Devil and a photo of the legendary creature graced the side of his Valentine candy container from Uncle Chester, as well as the Valentine he received from his mother.  He was thrilled.  Right now he’s making plans for the coast to coast cryptid-finding expedition he’ll embark on after college.  He was concerned about the cost of the Airstream and the equipment and the staff he plans on taking along.  In true 21st century tradition, I suggested he get a hold of a network about a reality show.  I’m expected to drive the Airstream and probably will end up doing the cooking and laundry and cleaning as well.  While he talks to reporters about his capture of the Jersey Devil, he’ll probably send me in to clean the cage.  I hate to think what happens when one of those suckers gets scared.  Foghorn has agreed to accompany us only on the condition that we also search for St. Bernards.  A minor fight broke out over whether we would first go east in search of the Devil or west in search of large dogs with barrels.  The Professor won but only after agreeing that Foghorn could bring along her pig puppet, Oinkers.

The Professor and his buddy, Mothman

The History Channel show Monster Quest has gone a long way towards feeding my son’s mania for cryptids, but his interest began years ago when he happened across the story of West Virginia’s Mothman.  We found several television specials on the winged creature, including one with Survivor’s Boston Rob taking on the role of the skeptic.  (He was fine until they stayed in the supposedly haunted hotel and he got freaked out and decided there was something there.  Kind of tainted our view of him as the logical one.)  I read the book The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, a fascinating account of the 1967 Mothman sitings that coincided with the collapse of the Silver Bridge in the town of Point Pleasant.  The Professor was only seven at the time and despite his large vocabulary I knew the book would be a little beyond him, so I read him the most interesting excerpts and he began to dream of visiting Point Pleasant.

The Professor and Foghorn in the lobby of the Lowe Hotel

Uncle Chester and I tend to be the family’s own private “Make-a-Wish Foundation”, so in the spring of 2007, we packed the inmates in the van for a weekend trip to Mothman country.  We decided it best not to tell them that the historic Lowe Hotel, where we were staying, was allegedly haunted.  (Haunted or not, it’s an exceptionally cool old hotel.)   We didn’t see or hear anything during our stay except obnoxious neighbors who came in at two in the morning slamming doors and talking loud.  I reciprocated by slamming our door and having the kids yell in the hallway early the next morning when they were in bed trying to sleep it off.  We visited The Mothman Museum and met the owner and author of a couple Mothman books, of which I purchased autographed copies.  We went in various little gift shops, where it was obvious Mothman was a big source of this small town’s revenue.  There was no end to the dvd’s, alien pens, and Mothman posters available.

A bunker in the TNT area

At one shop we met the owner who showed us pictures he took in what is called the TNT area, an old World War II explosives manufacturing facility where the Mothman was spotted back in ’67.  Accessible to the public are these little igloo-shaped buildings that the locals call “bunkers.”  I must say that if the Army had heard Foghorn’s voice booming in one of those metal igloos they wouldn’t have needed to manufacture explosives.  That voice alone could have brought down a squadron of Japanese bombers.  The shop owner showed us his private shots of orbs floating around in one of the bunkers.  He had a series of spooky stories from his own experiences.     He even went so far as to give us directions to the best place to look for Mothman on the back roads and gave us his telephone number in case we got lost.  We set out in the dark that Saturday night, on lonely roads with no street lights and we did indeed manage to get lost.  We saw nothing except a bunch of flying bugs hitting our windshield and the EMF meter showed green, despite the fact that some of the inhabitants looked like they starred in Deliverance and should have registered red all by themselves.  We finally emerged onto the main highway but a significant distance from our hotel.  I think Josh was just glad we wouldn’t have to spend the night in one of the bunkers.

The Professor in a TNT bunker

The Inmates in front of the Mothman Museum, Point Pleasant, WV

Here at the jail we all enjoy paranormal shows of all kinds, although The Inmates are frequently frightened by them and Foghorn then ends up in bed with me in the middle of the night when she wakes up freaked.  I’ve told her that she would scare the hell out of anything, but she doesn’t seem to believe me.  I do wonder sometimes if this fascination with the paranormal has influenced my children in a negative way.  The Professor is all too willing to believe a supernatural explanation for an occurrence, instead of looking at it with reasonable logic and skepticism.  And Foghorn has apparently heard too many of her brother’s tales of Egyptian gods, especially his favorite, Anubis the god of the afterlife.  At lunch a couple Saturdays ago she insisted that Egyptians were these strange people who live in the desert all wrapped up in robes.  We tried to explain that Egyptians were just people like anyone else and Chester happened to notice the television screen behind us was tuned to CNN”s coverage of the Cairo protests.  “See, look at those people,” Uncle Chester said.  “Those are Egyptians.”  Foghorn turned around, squinted her eyes at the screen, and snarled loudly, “They’re not Egyptians.  Egyptians have the head of a jackal.”   Remind me never to vacation with her in the Middle East.

The Warden and the Inmates in front of the Mothman statue

February 14, 2011

HOW DO I LOVE THEE?

On this windy and gray Valentine’s Day, I thought it appropriate to spend a few moments talking about my guy, the one who makes it seem sunny even in weather like this.  I’m blessed that I share my life with someone who hates to see me walk out the door, can’t wait for my return, and wants nothing more than to spend every waking hour in my presence.  And unlike most of the male species, he looks right into my eyes as I talk and listens attentively.  He is a comfort to me when I’m depressed, sharing my sorrow and my Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  He’s with me in good times, sharing my joy and my Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  (See if you can guess what I eat when I’m excited, exhausted, or overwhelmed.)  He truly thinks I’m the smartest, most beautiful, most talented creature ever to walk the Earth.

My Valentine

Don’t you wish you had a husband like that?  Me too, but while I’m waiting I’ll settle for my beloved dog, Frank.  Unlike the machinations and effort that went into finding a husband, acquiring Frank was literally as easy as walking out my back door.  He turned up in the neighborhood one day, already neutered and wearing a choke chain around his neck without tags.  He was initially taken in by neighbors on the next street over whose kids had fallen in love with him.  He was scanned for a microchip and calls were placed to police stations and animal shelters and the SPCA and an ad placed in the paper but nobody came to claim him.  After a week it was obvious he’d been dumped.  I already had a beagle who was more trouble than six other dogs put together and a cat that had turned up at my door the previous Halloween.  I was eight months pregnant with child #2 and the last thing I needed was a dog, particularly one who followed me around and barked if left outside alone.  Somehow, as with the cat, he made his way in the front door and, like the cat, never managed to find his way back out.

Bailey with a pilferred loaf of bread

In the intervening years we lost the beagle to cancer but gained another cat who turned up in the driveway.  I also run a taxi service for Buddy, the golden lab who lives on the south end of the subdivision a mile away and comes to my house after roaming backyard mud puddles.  He gets a treat and a bowl of water and runs the yard with Frank before I pile him in the van and drive him home.

Baby Foghorn & Frank

I’ve never known what it’s like to not have a dog in my face.  There are literally home movies of me as a newborn, lounging on a blanket on the living room floor with our dog, Penny, hanging over me and probably slobbering into my mouth.  I think dog slobber is the cure for any ailment and the gallons I’ve ingested over the decades probably contributes to my relative good health today (and perhaps my overwhelming desire to hang my head out the window when riding in a car).  Naturally I know of no other way to raise children, so Josh spent many of his early days on a blanket with a beagle nearby, periodically licking formula off his face and/or trying to run off with his baby bottle.  Sydney came into the world with two dogs staring down at her, as well as one cat.  My children know no fear of animals and, like their mother, want to take in any creature with four legs who looks in need of a meal.

Baby Professor & Bailey

The Professor

For Valentine’s Day I decided to combine The Inmates’ love of animals with my desire to cut back on the gifts they receive, especially after my son’s Christmas declaration that his $250 iPod was going to be a “snoozefest.”  Although he soon changed his mind on the merits of the iPod, I kept seeing my children as miniature Paris Hiltons — overindulged, ungrateful, and self-centered.  I informed them last month that this Valentine’s Day they’d receive only candy.  I took the amount of money I would have spent on  red and pink gifts and instead drove them to PetSmart where they picked out items to take to The League for Animal Welfare in Amelia.  The Professor was very thoughtful and took care to pick out just the right cans of dog food and cat food and kitty litter.  Foghorn found a stuffed dog squeaky toy which she wanted for herself and only grudgingly agreed to give to the shelter.  After picking out two bags of soft dog treats, she disappeared into the store with her grandmother.  I filled in the gaps on the League’s wish list with a 6′ nylon leash, a box of dog biscuits, and a large Nylabone.

The Inmates love going to the League’s no-kill shelter.  It’s like the Buckingham Palace of animal shelters.  It’s clean and bright.  Each dog has his or her own kennel with a flap door that leads to an outside fenced area.  The cats are housed 6 to 8 to a room, with plenty of climbing apparatuses and beds and toys.  Each cat room also has a flap door that leads to a fenced-in area outside with a bird feeder in the grass, giving the cats plenty of visual stimulation.  For liability reasons we aren’t allowed to handle the dogs unless one happens by on a leash, so we content ourselves with waving through the glass and reading their stories.  The cat rooms, though, are open to visitors and The Inmates get to pet, cuddle, and play with as many cats as they can possibly stand.

The Professor always feels slightly sad when we leave, wishing each dog and cat had a home.  He’s comforted to know that the worst that could happen is that they’ll spend their lives at the shelter and the conditions are so nice there are worse fates.  I know pets who have families who don’t live in conditions nearly as nice.  I know some kids who don’t either.

The Vulcan doesn’t come on our shelter outings.  The Vulcan also didn’t authorize me to bring in any of the pets we now have.  If I remember correctly each time I brought a new critter into the house he said something along the lines of, “Don’t get used to that dog/cat.  We’re not keeping it.”  The fact is after nearly 17 years together he knows there’s no point in trying to get rid of an animal I decide to take in.  He might as well try to get rid of one of my children.  (Depending on the day and their behavior I might let him.)  So, The Vulcan grumbles  about the cost of the vet  and laments the cat hair on his black sweat pants and complains about the dog sleeping on the sofa.   He whines about the muddy foot prints on the van seats and the nose prints on the front window and the fact that I let the dog ride with me when picking up creamy whip.  (The occasional hair in a chocolate shake never killed anyone.)  The Vulcan also pays for the vet bills, pays for the food, pays for the charitable donations, and still funds his wife’s Dooney and Bourke addiction.  He ain’t no Frank, but as men go I guess he’s a keeper.

February 4, 2011

PATCH ENVY

Filed under: Parenting — thewardenslog @ 11:44 am
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Sigmund Freud spent a fair amount of time talking about how, as a female, I apparently feel inferior to men because I’m envious of a certain body part.  What old Siggy never explained was my feelings of inferiority in regards to my own daughter, the beloved Foghorn.  It could be because she’s tall and skinny, neither of which I am, or it could be her stunning hazel eyes and all around lovely face that make my head drop in self-loathing.  I know it’s not her ability to work the word “fart” into any conversation.  I’ve finally come to the conclusion that what I’m dealing with is a simple case of what Siggy would probably have termed “Patch Envy.”

Foghorn is a Girl Scout Daisy.  She’s right in the midst of her first Girl Scout cookie sale, which is an adventure all by itself.  She was very excited last summer at the thought of doing her first cookie sale in the new year and had elaborate marketing plans.  Then, to her shock, she found out that she doesn’t actually get to keep the money, that it must be turned in to the troop leader.  Her enthusiasm quickly waned.  She had assumed this would be a wonderful way to earn money for her obsession — purchasing a Winnebago.  It was while she was discussing the profit margins on each box of cookies sold that I realized her misconception and given her disgust at the thought of doing all that work for no personal profit, it’s amazing I’ve gotten her to help sell cookies at all.  Despite her reluctance, she slightly exceeded her cookie-selling goal of 40 boxes and will receive her cookie seller patch.  Ah, that patch.  A lovely thing it is, as are the rest that grace the back of her blue smock.  Gulp…and here come the feelings of inferiority.

I went to Catholic grade school and Girl Scouts was not an option for me.  We had the Camp Fire Girls.  I joined the first grade group, called the Bluebirds, and attended two meetings before I decided I was sick of the whole thing.  I didn’t attempt it again for five years.  In sixth grade, at the urging of my classroom friend whose mother was to be the leader, I joined Camp Fire Girls.  I got my navy blue vest and wore it to my first meeting.  And there I saw the girls who had been with the group since first grade, their vests fairly dripping with beads and patches and pins.  Gulp…  I’m a little, shall we say, competitive by nature and seeing all those plastic beads jiggling against that cotton/polyester was more than my little heart could take.  I was determined to be dripping with beads myself.  Unfortunately that was easier said than done.  The opportunities for being honored with bits of plastic were few and far between.  I did earn myself a red, white, and blue bead for helping to clean up the cafeteria bathroom after a meeting.  I think the leader was throwing me a bone.  I sewed that 1/2″ bead onto my vest and tried to wear it proudly, but in truth it was just embarrassing.  I managed to stay with the Camp Fire Girls for several months before dropping out.  Planning fundraisers and joining committees with a bunch of giggling females just wasn’t my thing.  It still isn’t, which is why I avoid the PTA like a vampire avoids the sun.

Foghorn, on the other hand, is my social butterfly, at least with groups of kids she knows.  She’s the loudest one in the troop, the most gregarious Daisy, and has to be reminded repeatedly not to lift the other girls in the air, especially since she has a tendency to let them drop.  Socially, Foghorn is everything I’m not.  She’s also got that smock.  Unlike the Camp Fire Girls, and perhaps even Girl Scouts in the old days, the Daisy troop is regularly presented with opportunities to earn patches.  Besides earning the petals for the front of her smock, her back is filling up nicely with the “fun patches.”  Sometimes I go in the laundry room and stare at it hanging there with its colorful embroidered pictures.  I look at the adorable little roller skate patch for going to Castle Skateland, the dalmation for touring the fire house, the Jack-o-Lantern for attending the Halloween party.  After a few minutes of salivating, post-traumatic stress disorder usually sets in and I’m bombarded with flashbacks of my classmates’ fully loaded vests and my own miniscule bead hanging there as graceless as toilet paper stuck to a shoe.  It’s at that point that I usually run from the room clutching my head and find some chocolate in the pantry.

I’m carefully watching my own reactions and emotions to Foghorn’s Daisy career and will seek professional counseling if necessary.  I don’t want to become some Girl Scout version of a stage mother, pushing my daughter to collect every patch and pin to whet my own appetite for honors.  At the same time, I take great pride in her accomplishments and wouldn’t mind sharing them with select people in my life.  I wonder if any of the former Camp Fire Girls are on Facebook?  I’m sure they’d love to see a picture or two of my daughter…

January 22, 2011

THE WARDEN’S JAIL BREAK

While I’m really longing for a week in solitary confinement, I did manage to slip through the gates last night for an evening out with my sister, The Inmates’  Uncle Chester.  The Inmates were left in the care of their father, The Vulcan, who was hollering “Take them with you!” from the top of the stairs as I made my hasty exit from our home.  As I locked the door I could hear Foghorn (who was clad in a pink princess dress and wool socks knitted by Uncle Chester) cheerily telling her father about her evening plans for a family scavenger hunt and his exasperated voice squeaking, “I have work to do…”

Our destination was The Newport Syndicate in Newport, Kentucky for a concert by my beloved David Cassidy.  I’m known for a slight obsession with the 1970s and David Cassidy in particular and I’ve redone my family room into a hideously beautiful retro heaven.  (Or, as Uncle Chester puts it, “You had a gorgeous family room and you turned it into this.”) 

The crown jewel in my family room is my autographed photo of David Cassidy, which sits prominently on top of my entertainment center next to two photos of my children and a fortune telling smiley face (think Magic 8 Ball with only positive predictions).

When I jumped on the computer months ago to order the tickets (the day — and minute — they went on sale) I was actually ambivalent.  I knew from searching the website that this place was set up like the Golden Globes — stage up front and numerous round tables scattered about the room.  I’m antisocial and introverted and mildly misanthropic by nature, so the thought of having to sit with six aggravating strangers for dinner before the concert made me question buying tickets at all.  I had been to two other Cassidy concerts, both at Indiana casinos, and was both astonished and repulsed by the behavior of his more rabid fans.  Stuff you might expect from a 12 year old at a Justin Bieber concert is just embarrassing when done by a 54 year old plus size woman.  (It’s a strange phenomenon that a good 85% of his fans are plus sized and make Uncle Chester and  me look almost petite by comparison.  Chester has labeled their mad rush to the stage “The Porcine Parade.”)  I finally made a deal with myself that autumn morning when ticket sales began.  If I could get a seat at one of the tables right in front of the stage I’d go; if I couldn’t, I’d skip the concert altogether.  To my amazement, I got tickets just left of center, right in front of the stage.

After spending $60 a ticket I spent most of the week leading up to the Friday concert biting my nails after six inches of snow hit the Tri-State area and left behind Arctic cold and icy roads.  With school canceled on both Thursday and Friday I wondered if we’d get there at all.  Luckily the god of Former Teen Idols was raining blessings on us and the roads were just good enough to get us there by 6:00.  I would like to know who the *%*( is in charge of the bridge going over into Kentucky, which was ice covered and particularly slippery on the curving exit.  A pox upon you!

The Newport Syndicate itself is pretty inside and we were shown to our seats which turned out to be the two right smack in front of stage left.  When I turned my chair for the show I could literally put my foot on the stage without stretching.  One woman was already seated and quickly asked how many times we’d been to his concerts.  When I said twice she chuckled and called us “virgins” and told us she had been 2000 times starting in 1971.  She was from Indiana, near Terre Haute, and when we asked about her travelling here in the snow she said she drove right through it at 30 miles an hour.  Shortly thereafter she pulled out a portfolio filled with every photo she’d ever had taken with David Cassidy, every photo she had ever taken of him, and a silk scarf a friend in Germany had made her with his photos screen printed along its length.   When she turned her attention to the others at our table Chester snarled at me, “Who the hell brings all that sh*t to a concert?”

Her behavior was mild, though, compared to another fan whom we quickly named “Crazy,” for obvious reasons.  When we first reached our table and were draping our coats over the chairs, a woman I guessed to be in her late 40s with long graying hair, glasses, huge gaps in her teeth, and a long Beatles t-shirt tried to get by my sister to the stage by shoving her…twice.  Chester, not known for her easy-going disposition, snapped her head around with a glare and the woman quickly said, “Excuse me, honey.”  Immediately the head of security appeared and shooed her away from the stage, probably having seen the shove she gave to my sibling.  It’s not like there was anything to see.  The show hadn’t started, none of Cassidy’s personal belongings were sitting there ripe for pilfering, and there were only about a dozen people in the entire room, so why the hell did she feel the need to push her way there?  Unfortunately the antics of Crazy would be a recurring theme throughout the evening.

After a buffet dinner and a drink, we settled in for a 45 minute wait until the concert started.  Chester, who has had recurring problems with kidney stones for the last couple years, decided to spend this week in agony as one made its way through her body and sat planning her escape route in case the thing decided to pass right in the middle of “Come On, Get Happy.”  She quickly realized that our seats were heavenly for an obsessive fan but not conducive to making an exit without being noticed by the main attraction.  She finally said, “To hell with it.  If I need to rush for the bathroom I’m gonna crawl under the tables.”

The show finally began, 10 minutes late, and Mr. Cassidy emerged from the curtain and was literally no more than three feet away from me the entire evening.  Chester had made countless jokes about being able to see signs of his plastic surgery and Botox with seats that close, but later admitted that she didn’t think he had had work done.  She also made some crack about him looking like a well preserved little old man, but I choose to ignore that.

As soon as David hit the microphone center stage, Crazy, seated at the center stage table, started wailing his name and standing to take pictures, much to the annoyance of the people behind her.  An announcement had been made just prior to the show that the fire marshal insisted people stay in their seats and no standing or rushing the stage was allowed.  Crazy must have been busy pushing an octogenarian out of the way to get a rum and Coke at the bar and missed the message.  During the first song Crazy alternated between loudly singing along and standing with her camera shouting his name.  When the song ended she started screaming, “David!  David!  I woke up in love this morning.”  He smiled and said, “You woke up in love this morning?  Me too.”  She let out a scream and then hollered, “It’s my birthday!  It’s my birthday!”  He gave her a crooked smile and said, “It’s your birthday?  Really?  Funny, that’s what a thousand other people in this room said.”  He then made some crack about her showing her “birthday suit” while grabbing his guitar from in front of the drum kit.  Crazy jumped to her feet yelling, “OK!  OK!” and pretending (I hope) that she was about to pull her Beatles t-shirt over her head.  Cassidy caught a glimpse and said, “No!  No!  I was joking.  Please, I was joking.”

Before breaking into “I’ll Meet You Halfway,” David found himself with an extra pick and tossed the spare into middle of the table next to us.  I was bummed it wasn’t our table until I saw the scramble for that pick.  You would have thought it was Barry Bonds’ record-breaking home run ball.  “Don’t bite!”, David quipped.  It didn’t help that it landed in the center of Crazy’s table and she was on her feet and yelling something about getting candle wax on her hands.  She stood there showing her waxed hand to Cassidy while he continued with the song.  At some point other people apparently got tired of her standing and shouting and voiced their objections.  She countered with a loud, “Oh, shut up!” of her own.

A few songs later, as David was preparing to introduce a Rupert Holmes-penned tune, Crazy screamed, “It’s my birthday, David!”  He said, “Yeah, I heard that before.  And you woke up in love this morning.”  He began to sing and wander the stage and when he reached out to touch the hand of the woman directly below him, Crazy came pushing through the people in front of her to get his hand and had to be returned to her seat by security.  She got particularly obnoxious a few songs later, pushing towards the stage and refusing to sit down despite the demands of the other patrons, including an overdone blond who looked like she might deck her at any moment.  Security appeared again with another man in tow who may have been the owner or manager.  They read her the riot act for several minutes, probably threatening to eject her if she didn’t behave.  My only concern was that if they ejected her she’d return with the handgun she keeps in her glove compartment.  She truly seemed like that type.

Towards the end of the concert I looked over to see Crazy putting on her jacket.  She got up and exited her table and I whispered to my sister, “Crazy’s on the move.”  Shortly thereafter David sat on the stool with his guitar and I heard the opening of “I Woke Up In Love This Morning.”  He smiled and said, “Somebody’s been waiting to hear this song all evening…”  He did a double take at her empty spot at the table and laughed and said, “She’s been yelling for this all evening and she’s not even here.”  Suddenly I hear a voice to my left screech, “Here I am!  Here I am!” and Crazy comes hurtling past me.  She fell over my feet, cracking me hard in the ankle, and I let out a loud, involuntary “Jesus Christ!”, which half the audience probably heard.  Crazy went racing for her seat with a security guard right on her heels.  (I pulled my legs in for him.  I didn’t want him to fall while in hot pursuit.)

I knew from past concerts that during “Echo-Valley 26809” he always took somebody’s cell phone from the crowd.  I was prepared with phone open in my lap and sure enough, he asked if anyone had a phone.  I thrust my phone toward him at the stage and he approached, but quickly another phone shot past my face at the end of the arm of my dinner partner to the left.  Our phones were side by side, with hers slightly ahead of mine because she was standing, and she had pulled up a photo of him on her phone to get his attention.  B*tch!  Naturally he took her phone and I grumbled over being outmaneuvered.  I had thought of reaching out a hand to gently touch his shirt sleeve as he took her phone but I personally don’t like to make a spectacle of myself in public and was afraid I’d be body slammed by security who were already on edge over Crazy.

Near the end someone threw a lovely g-string with a tuxedo design on stage.  After finishing his song, David picked it up and held it aloft, eyeing it suspiciously before asking, “What psychopath threw this on stage?”  He flung it onto one of the speakers and it stayed there the rest of the concert.  I thought about scooping it up when the show was over since he’d touched it, but I was a little afraid of what the woman had been doing with it before bringing it to the concert.

The crowd got rowdier and pushier towards the end of the show, figuring their chances of some interaction with Cassidy were almost gone.  That’s when the “Porcine Parade” started, with women rushing down to the corner of the stage with old Tiger Beat magazines, album covers, and huge signs.  What amuses me the most are the ones that attempt to thrust the memorabilia and a pen at him, hoping he’ll stop in the middle of the show to sign an autograph.  It’s bad enough to wait out the slight lull when he pauses to allow one of the fan’s friends to take a picture of her standing in front of him.  I protected my unobstructed view by putting my booted foot on the edge of the stage and blocking the way.  My sister had already positioned her chair to keep any crashers from coming between the two tables.

I had joked with The Professor before leaving that I’d make a leap for David Cassidy at some point to touch him and probably get thrown out.  He gave me one of his aloof stares and said, “You’re not really going to do that, are you?”  I had no intention of actually making an exhibition of myself, but I did intend to get a hand on him one way or another before the night was over.  My chances of getting that close again were pretty slim considering I don’t have a stalker’s mentality nor the spare cash to go to 2000 more concerts.  When “I Think I Love You” started I knew it was now or never.  That’s been the last song at the other shows, so I figured this was my last best chance.  Fortunately he encouraged everyone to get on their feet and I found myself standing right in front of the stage, ready to propel a hand at him (or make a grab for his clothing  if he started to pass me by).  The Porcine Parade turned into a stampede at that point and I was quickly surrounded.  As he came along the stage touching hands I feared mine would get lost in the sea of phalanges that were in his face.  Fortunately I was just far enough away from the others…  I leaned forward, pushed my hand out, and he looked me right in the eye as he took my hand.  Granted it lasted a fraction of a second, but it was the most gratifying fraction of a second I’ve had in years. The song finished up, he took his bows, and as he started to exit the stage, one of the maniacs attempted to push a Sharpie and towel at him to sign.  He grabbed the towel and said, “Thank you very much” before disappearing backstage with it, wiping the sweat from his head.  Maniac was hollering, “Wait!  Wait!  That’s my towel!” and attempting to follow him backstage.  Last I saw she was whining to security.

David was in great voice, his usual charming, funny self, and the concert lasted nearly two hours.  Even Uncle Chester, who is not a fan and, in fact, gets a twitch of her right eye whenever she hears any music from the 70s, admits he puts on a good show.  As we were getting on our coats to leave,  a guy from the next table was busily scooping up anything he could find on the stage, like a piece of paper with the lyrics to “In My Life” scrawled on it.  He probably has his loot on eBay this morning.  As I was zipping my coat I heard angry voices at the next table and there was Crazy trading insults with the women around her who were ready to kill her.  She went pushing by me and Chester whispered, “Trip her!”  I started to stick my foot out but my ankle was still throbbing mildly from the last time she tumbled over my feet.  Besides, she seemed like the type that would sue.  After her departure a wide-eyed woman at the vacated table said, “That woman’s completely nuts,” and a chorus of voices cried out in agreement.

I told my story to my family when I got home and I showed them my hand where David had made contact.  The Vulcan asked, “Are you never going to wash that hand again?”  I replied, “Aw, I never do anyway,” to which The Professor said, “Well, I bet if he knew that he wouldn’t have touched you.”

January 7, 2011

THE SAD TALE OF LITTLE RED RIDING CHESTER

I’ve always said my sister, known by The Inmates as Uncle Chester, is the person I want by my side if I’m ever in an unexpected knife fight.  There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind (and I mean this as a compliment) that she would take a life to protect one of her loved ones, including the family pets.  If we were standing with my little ones and a live grenade landed at their feet, the question wouldn’t be which one of us would throw herself on the grenade but rather which would land on it first. Then again, she and I have a Three Stooges lifestyle so chances are we’d smack heads on the way to the ground.

Despite her unflinching devotion to The Inmates (or perhaps because of it), Uncle Chester is their favorite target for abuse.  To hear them tell it, she would make the top of any magazine’s “Most Stupid” list, her fashion sense may put Vera Wang in a sanitarium,  and her sole chance at financial stability is winning the lottery (and then only if she can figure out how to color in the little numbered circles on the form).

This past Sunday we finally made it to Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo, the last night the event was running.  We figure we were either very late this season or very early for the 2011 season.  Naturally we were left with a night with temperatures in the 20s and a biting wind that cut through our clothing.  We all bundled up in our warmest hats and gloves and coats and socks.  Now, let me state right now that my mother is a fabulous crafts person and sews wonderful quilts and clothes and aprons and wall hangings.  She also made herself a fleece hood that buttons under her chin and which she wears on those extremely cold, windy nights like the night we went to the zoo.  Any other time you can’t get a hat on that woman’s head, but for extreme temperatures she’ll bundle up.  My mother looks cute in her hood.  She really does.  Sadly, she also made a similar hood for Uncle Chester and, well, it just doesn’t work the same way.

Little Red Riding Chester

As soon as Uncle Chester stepped out of the van and secured her hood, the insults started.  The Inmates questioned if she really intended to wear that garment in public, where she obtained such a monstrosity, and whether she actually intended to walk next to them. Shortly after entering the zoo, however, Foghorn took an entrepreneurial approach to her embarrassment.  She began hollering, like an old-time carny advertising a girly show, “Who wants to see Little Red Riding Hood?  Only $5!”  She didn’t get any takers but she did get some amused glances.

The Professor didn’t particularly want to draw attention to Uncle Chester or her proximity to the rest of us.  Foghorn, on the other hand, was either shouting her sales pitch or loudly insisting that the various animals we were seeing were in fact statues and not real.  Even the Komodo Dragon was supposedly a fake even though it obviously blinked during view.  While I would have preferred she kept her voice down, it was still less humiliating than our trip to the lifesize Nativity scene at Krohn Conservatory.  Uncle Chester tried to point out the various statues and Foghorn roared, “I know! That’s Mary, that’s Joseph, that’s Donner, and that’s Cupid.”  Thankfully we’re not church goers.  At best they’d try to save her.  At worst they’d call in an exorcist.

By the time we got in line for the train ride, Foghorn had tired of verbally abusing Chester and went the physical route instead.  She gave Chester the occasional kick in the shins or punch in the stomach.  Of course Chester then reciprocated and I thought I was going to have to separate those two.   Since Uncle Chester only stands a hair over 4’10”, I’ve often wondered if people at a distance comment on that husky kid beating up on that skinny little girl.  Foghorn got the last word, so to speak, when she gave Chester a right hook to the “boobage”, causing a yelp of pain from the victim and a giggle from the woman standing behind us.

Foghorn and Uncle Chester

For some reason The Inmates’ father, The Vulcan, doesn’t usually come along to these kinds of family outings.  I really don’t know why…

January 3, 2011

MEET THE INMATES — The Professor

Filed under: Humor,Parenting — thewardenslog @ 2:53 pm
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The Professor with his beloved Komodo Dragon at the Cincinnati Zoo

There is an episode of Monk where the obsessive-compulsive lead character runs into a burning house to save his brother.  On his way rushing through a smoke filled room, he pauses to straighten a stack of magazines.  That would be my 11 year old son, affectionately known as “The Professor.”  More accurately we should call him “The Absent Minded Professor,” but I fear a lawsuit from Fred MacMurray and will keep the shortened nickname.  The Professor is incredibly smart, very responsible, very honest, and likely to walk out the front door without his shoes.  The latter did, in fact, happen on Halloween night of his third year.  We had visited two houses before I looked down and noticed his white socks glaring at me.  Of course, that probably says as much about my mothering skills as The Professor’s personality…

My children are my evidence if I’m ever in a debate over nature versus nurture.  Two children raised with the same parents, same rules, same house, same pets, and as different as Hilary Clinton and George Clinton.  While Foghorn displays the outrageous humor of a Jerry Lewis on crack, The Professor is morose and sardonic and a little like Woody Allen only more depressed and neurotic.  He’s the student every teacher loves to have and the kid all the other students forget exists.  He would be like Charles Schultz who, I have heard, found out his name was on the list for his high school class reunion as “whereabouts unknown.”  Nobody thought that kid grew up to be the Charles Schultz.  Good grief…

While Foghorn is the person most likely to get an innocent person the electric chair just for spite, The Professor is excruciatingly honest — to the point where I’ve had to warn him he needs to lie a little, particularly to women when they ask about the state of their backsides in certain clothing.  He is consumed with guilt over every minor infraction and given his personality almost all infractions are minor.  Just a couple weeks ago he told me he wanted to confess that in 3rd grade he wrote a little on the top of a desk.  He’s in 6th grade now.  I asked why in the world he was bringing it up three years down the line and he replied, “I’ve been feeling really guilty about it and wanted to get it off my chest.”  I don’t know where this extreme sense of guilt comes from as he didn’t even have my Catholic education.

While The Professor would never back talk a teacher or insult another student to his face or set a booby trap for the school janitor, he has no problem displaying these behaviors in his home life.  Every family member has fallen prey to his sarcastic sword of a tongue.  He is extremely precise in his language and delights in correcting every one else.  His sister is routinely called an idiot.  (Then again she routinely punches him in the “kiwis”, so I guess fair is fair.)  He has impossibly high standards for himself (and everyone else), so the entire household is made to feel about as competent as Kim Kardashian in a think tank.

The other side of his Jeckyl and Hyde personality makes Family Movie Night viewing torturous if the flick involves anything depressing, touching, romantic, overly happy, overly sad, or has any animal in danger.  He also gets highly emotional over song melodies, lyrics, and pretty much anything involving loss.  He steadfastly refuses to listen to The Beatles’ song “No Reply” anymore because the song doesn’t finish the story.  The guy knocked on her door, he knows she’s in there, she doesn’t answer, but then what?  Does she ever answer?  Does she dump him?  Do they get back together?  My boy needs closure and John Lennon didn’t give it to him when he wrote the song nearly 50 years ago.

The one thing The Professor and Foghorn do have in common is their joy in tormenting beloved Uncle Chester (my sister).  During the holiday season they serenade her almost continuously with holiday songs that make her cringe, twitch, or nearly vomit.  “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” “Poppa Santa Claus” by Bing Crosby, “Santa’s Got an Airplane” by the Beach Boys, and “Love’s What You Get for Christmas” by Bobby Sherman are all weapons in their musical arsenal.  The Professor also likes to do his rendition of “Chester’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire” and remind her repeatedly that she needs a pedicure.

The Professor is either destined for “Most Likely to Succeed” in the high school year book and/or “Most Likely to Take High Doses of Anti-Depressants in Adulthood.”

December 30, 2010

I’m Going To Be Committed

Filed under: Parenting — thewardenslog @ 7:27 pm
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No, not the straight jacket, no-sharp-objects-in-the-room kind.  I’m joining the WordPress Post A Week 2011 Challenge.  They have a Post A Daily Challenge, but since sometimes it’s a challenge to get my hair brushed every day I thought writing a blog post might be asking a bit much.  A post a week?  Hopefully manageable.

See you all in 2011!

December 18, 2010

MEET THE INMATES — “FOGHORN”

She’s 7 years old, in the 99th+ percentile for height, and has the shape of a runway model (meaning her three measurements are roughly the same).  She received the nickname “Foghorn” during a trip to our local Mexican restaurant when her booming voice boomed even louder and my sister snarled, “OK, foghorn, keep it down.”  Her interests include Spongebob, Monster High dolls, and farts.  She categorizes the latter.  A few weeks ago she was describing to us a “fire fart” or “flaming fart” which, according to her, feels like fire is coming out of your butt.  While waiting for the doors to open at school the other day she informed me from the back seat of the van that she had just done a “porcupine fart,” which feels like there are little pricklies coming out of your butt and kinda hurts.  She is obsessed with body parts and The Warden is fed up with coming down to the kitchen and finding obscene pictures drawn on her grocery list chalkboard.  (And how exactly does that girl know in detail what a circumcised penis looks like?)  Her crude talk horrifies her grandmother and would have thrilled her late grandfather.  He was amused enough when she was 3 years old and I told him the story of going to the Cincinnati Art Museum, where a towering nude male statue stands just inside the entrance.  Somehow she only noticed him once we were on his backside (literally).  Suddenly she looks up and in her explosive foghorn voice  hollered, “Look!  His butt!”  She frowned and bellowed, “Where’s his penis?”  She quickly scampered to his  front and announced, “There it is!”

Foghorn at the school Thanksgiving lunch, dressed as a pilgrim.

Her much-loved nemesis is her aunt, my sister, who is now permanently called “Uncle Chester”.  Sydney consistently calls her “Chester” loudly and in public and also insists that she is a boy (which causes some embarrassment for my sister when she takes Foghorn places like public restrooms and then is told she should not be in there because she’s a male).  Of late the nickname has morphed into the much longer Schnooger Boogers Chester.  Verbally, and sometimes physically, abusing Chester is a popular inmate pass time.

If talking burns mega-calories then that explains Foghorn’s bony physique.  She is neither quiet nor curvy.  When listening to Foghorn I sometimes go back to a quote from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy regarding the alien’s observation of humans’ talking habits:  “If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.”  Her non-stop chatter and accompanying calorie burning may also account for what I lovingly refer to as her “meat cleaver ass.”  She has absolutely the boniest butt ever put on a human being and when she climbs into my lap I get stabbing pains in my upper thighs.  I, unfortunately, frequently comment on this physical feature as I cry out in pain and then inform her that she doesn’t have enough “junk in her trunk.”  This led to an incident at Dewey’s Pizza a month ago when, in the presence of the waitress, she asked for more pizza saying, in a matter of fact tone, “I have to have more pizza.  I have a meat cleaver ass and I need more junk in my trunk.”  Sydney’s antics in restaurants and harassment of the waitstaff  has led me to frequently comment to the adults in my life about the subsequent spike in condom sales as a result of an interaction with Sydney.

As a toddler she was voted Most Likely To Climb Into The Dishwasher And Turn It On.  Today she gets the trophy for Child Most Likely To Be Suspended From First Grade For Using The F-Word, as well as Child Most Likely To Grow Up To Be A Pole Dancer.

December 10, 2010

An 18 Year Sentence

Filed under: Parenting — thewardenslog @ 6:10 pm
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The term “sentence” usually applies to the criminal, the inmate, the person who actually committed the crime.  In my case I got an 18 year sentence when I gave birth.  Then I returned to the scene of the crime 4 years later, which means one could argue I actually signed up for a 22 year sentence…at least.  Given this is the era of the “Boomerang Child” — he leaves home, then makes a lovely arc right back to your house — my chances of being pardoned after 22 years are pretty slim.

In the interests of keeping my sanity I decided a paradigm shift was in order.  I was not an unwilling victim.  I had chosen to have children.  I was not confined against my will.  I had, with no malice but a lot of aforethought, decided to produce offspring.  The fact that they acted less like children and more like unruly inhabitants of Attica just meant that I had to adjust my expectations.  Perhaps I had read too many Little House books, where Laura and Mary and the rest of the brood willingly followed their parents’ orders and the most rebellious thing they did was wander too far from the log cabin.  I possibly spent too many hours on the avocado green carpet, my eyes 2″ away from the screen, and taking in every word of parental advice from Mike and Carol Brady.  Mike was stern and moderately strict, but his children always came to realize his wisdom by the end of the 22 minutes.  Maybe, just maybe, one of the few things I actually listened to during Sunday Mass in my childhood was that “children are a gift from God.”  Of course, the priest didn’t say that the gift was the human equivalent of a box of exploding cigars or a flower that squirts.

I once was intelligent.  I had a good memory, I was creative, I was dependable, I was diligent.  I had so much potential.  Then…I had children.  The inmates.  I don’t blame them.  It’s not their fault (exactly) that 90% of my brain cells were mysteriously expelled with the placenta.  Why, then, did I feel compelled to start this blog?  My sister has been after me to start one for years and I consistently said there was no way I could type several dozen cohesive sentences with my daughter hanging off my hair like it was Mother Nature’s trapeze.  As I type right now she’s hopping around the room, alternately practicing her cartwheels and talking to invisible friends (who apparently are deaf, given the volume with which she is speaking).  At this point in time, with Christmas looming and the hyperactivity of my children increasing daily, I chose (there’s that word again) to start a blog.  Perhaps it’s insanity.  Perhaps it’s desperation.  Or maybe, just perhaps, there’s a part of me that feels that if I share the antics of the inmates they will seem less overwhelming, less irritating, less unbearable.  Or maybe I’m just too lazy to find a good therapist and if I’m going to ramble on about my “issues”, I might as well be able to do it in my pajamas.

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