June 2002

Well, another year of vacation Bible school has come and gone and this year ended with a bang.

Evan helped out this year rather than attending. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up but he actually volunteered. Of course, Melissa was going to be there working so he might as well have volunteered rather than sit at home by himself but this began as his idea. They stuck him in with the four-year-olds where his duties became escorting the little boys to the bathroom and back. Last night, during family night, he was pressed into service to go sit with them when they had to sing. Apparently, his services were needed to help combat some stage fright.

I was never that helpful as a kid and would probably never have volunteered to help out with any age much less four year olds. It was a strange sight to see him up there with those little kids sitting on his knees. Obviously, Melissa has done something right during parenting. He said he enjoyed it.

Family night consisted of a sort of carnival out in the parking lot that included inflatables, a lawn tractor disguised as a train, glow-in-the-dark popsicles, and Safari Joe with a trailer load of exotic animals. (Llama, lemur, wolf. There was also a baby alligator with his jaws duct-taped shut.) A wolf is an interesting animal; he looked exactly like a large domesticated dog similar to a german shepherd except there was a certain look in his eye. A look that said “If I was hungry, I’d eat one of you but I’m not so you can pet me.” There were more things to do and eat than we had time for. I got to hold their sticky popsicle sticks and balloons while they went to sing.

The singing portion inside was more cacaphony than concert since there were so many little ones but it was still enjoyable. It was one of those few moments in a church when it never ever gets quiet. The sanctuary resembled a train station more than anything else, what with the noise and all the people milling about. Erin takes these things seriously and by the end of the week was a bit fed up with the noisy, distracted boys. When the time came to sing, she was ready with her voice and hand motions.

When it was all said and done, a good time was had by all. Photos to come later.


The director of instrumental music at our church is, first and foremost, a drummer. I think he may be sensitive to the fact that most people don’t equate “percussionist” with “musician” so it is evidently his goal to learn to play most other instruments. In support of this goal, he has arranged for an instrumental concert at our church next Sunday night which will feature the orchestra he has created, along with some other smaller groups.

One of the other smaller groups is our guitar group. Now, not only do we have the stress of learning to play an instrument, we have the horror of displaying our talents (or the lack thereof) for public ridicule to look forward to. I’m prepared to admit that our audience will be a pretty benign one but still…one has reason to lose a bit of sleep over it.

I’m looking forward to a golf game to forget about such things. I’m all excited by the prospect of getting a new set of clubs in the mail at some point in the future thanks to a most excellent relative and so golf occupies a position of prominence in my mind. Another thing to lose sleep over although in a positive way.

Benji the terrier terror has made a name for himself recently and it’s a profane one. He likes to be in the house and when he is not in the house, he likes to sit at the back door looking into the house. He frequently jumps up in the air and ricochets off the glass door as an expression of his enthusiasm (which is considerable).

I get tired of this so I started putting him outside the screened-in patio only to have him claw his way through my screens and get back in. I patiently replaced them (twice) and added a barrier of chicken-wire which he promptly pulled off. He’s done it again and in so doing, has earned some nasty nicknames from Melissa and I. The retriever is way too smart to get caught doing this but I imagine she’s back in the background egging him on and smiling in her dog way whenever Benji catches heck from me. And he’s caught a lot of it lately including vinegar/water in the face, profanity, shouts, and swats to the bottom with “the enforcer” (a rolled up newspaper).

My last resort is to make use of the thermonuclear arsenal of dog training and install an electrified fence. By golly, he’ll think twice after I’ve shocked the *&^% out of him. And shock him I will since a friend has kindly offered to let me borrow his electric fence setup. (His dogs are apparently already trained.) This is war and I don’t intend to lose.

We had one of those interesting pop-up thunderstorms yesterday evening. It’s that time of year I guess. This one was most impressive, with lots of lightning. So, being the kind of guy I am (liking fireworks and all) I climbed up on the roof to see better.

Hmmm… (I can hear you thinking) lightning…on the roof. How smart is that Mr. Rocket Scientist?

Not to worry; it was over 30 miles away (according to the weather guy on TV) in Muskogee. We couldn’t even hear thunder. It was cool but look below and check it out for yourself. You can see my shadow on the roof from a streetlight behind me.

Evan spent all of last week at Hale Scout Reservation doing that Boy Scout thing. I’m happy to report there was no homesickness, no serious injuries, and no permanently attached ticks. A real success story.

He was pretty casual about it this year; he gave us the broad-brush overview during dinner Saturday evening and provided few details. It seems they filled the boys’ every waking moment with activities in order to keep down on the homesickness and apparently they were successful. One odd item brought back: an electronic siren.

I had forgotten that he had signed up to work on the electronics merit badge and so an electronic siren was constructed. I didn’t even know they had electricity down there but they must have at least enough to run a 25-watt soldering iron. He soldered several joints on a printed circuit and one on his hand (OUCH!). Blister time! But the “whooper” works. Boy is it ever annoying!

This year, one of the leaders brought along an ice-cream freezer and for two nights straight, they made ice cream. The ice cream was a big hit with our troop and apparently, one or two others that were camping nearby.

It sounds like the spare time was filled with swimming, mountain biking, and other sorts of “guy stuff” (including skeet shooting). All this for about $150. I’ve overheard various other parents roll their eyes and speak of cashing out their 401K plans to pay for summer camps; perhaps they should consider scouting. You get six days of activities and meals for (it seems to me) a pretty reasonable price. All you have to do is sleep outside.

Oh, and one more statistic: apparently only two kids had to be driven into town to visit the emergency room – both with fish hooks in their hands. Coulda been worse! They were given the offending fish hooks mounted on wooden plaques as a souvenir.

Gotta go! A woodworking buddy just gave me a spokeshave. I must go shave some spokes!

Erin finished her golf class today which was capped by playing four holes with yours truly on a “real” golf course. We both had fun. There was a rule that you could only take 8 strokes getting to the green and 2 putts but, heck, I can’t usually sink the ball in 2 putts so we added one more. It’s real bonding moment when you agree on how to cheat at games with your children.  I’ll teach her to pick locks next.

Unfortunately, we arrived home to find out that the guinea pig went to sleep never to awaken last night. We had to have an impromptu funeral out in the garden to lay him (or was it a ‘her’?) to rest. I’m a fairly typical guy so my response to this was:

“Oh, well, good thing the garbage man is coming this morning.”

Her response was one of outrage.  She extrapolated in that oh-so-womanly way: 

“When I die are you going to put me out on the curb?” 

Of course not – I think that’s illegal.  Anyway we had to have a burial. I suspect that there will be a tombstone there this afternoon.

Erin took it kind of hard. Evan is away at Boy Scout camp this week so I guess we’ll have to go through the grief again.

Evan just left for Boy Scout summer camp. The weather is nice so I imagine he’ll have a pleasant time of it.

Only a week or so ago, Erin returned from church camp. Erin had an interesting report when asked what kind of time she had:

“I had a *great* time. I had eight ticks! I had more than anybody in my cabin!”

The things kids find to brag about!

Apparently, the little girls in her cabin would get together and de-louse themselves before bed in classic girls-helping-each-other fashion. But they also kept score.

Last week was Brownie day camp. This year, she was old enough to give archery a try with mixed results. They’re a lot more conservative with firearms than the boys scouts are which is strange since girls seem to be at least 10 times more reasonable when it comes to issues of safety. One would think that it would be the other way around; that girls would be given a bow and arrow at age six and boys would be banned until age 16.

They were only rained out once; apparently the word came to “evacuate” once which means going and sitting in parked cars with the motors and air conditioners running.

She starts golf lessons today so I’m anxious to find out how that goes. There is a small “kids” golf course near our house (with the world’s scraggliest fairways) that I took Evan to last Friday night for our first “real” game together. We’ve already arranged to go when she finishes her lessons this Friday.

I learned the meaning of “Unimproved Wilderness” on Saturday. The Boy Scout troop took to the forest to clear some surveying lines as a service to a man. Boy scouts are good at going into the woods to do stuff. The weather was grand and sunny but not too hot. But inside the old forest it became perpetual twilight. My camera was flashing away since there wasn’t enough light to photograph by. Amazing. Sort of put me in mind of The Old Forest from the Lord of the Rings books.

Get out your maps kids! Start at Tulsa and go up and to the right a little and find the intersection of Interstate 44 and highway 412. We were in that little V on the east side where the two converge and you wouldn’t really expect to find the jungles of Borneo there but I’m here to tell you there’s some dense vegetation in these parts! And there are many ticks. No matter; they loved it (the forest that is – not the ticks.) Probably because they got to cut down small trees with saws, hatchets, and machetes (it’s a guy thing). On a related good note, all the fireworks stands opened today. Sniff! Smell that black powder in the air! We bought lots of fireworks and Evan was torn apart that he had to leave them here and head off to Boy Scout camp. Now he has something to look forward to.

I got an early father’s day present last night. The kids had been to The Paintin’ Place which is where you can go paint a little plaster statue for not too much money. My kids love that place; we’ve lived here for seven years and I’ve now got seven figurines of various levels of sophistication. This year, I got a green dragon and a multicolored parrot.

They love doing this. The intensity they show is sometimes scary. They get so animated just telling me about the experience; what colors they chose, how it felt to paint them on, how they put the final glaze on, etc. Then they ask me over and over if I like them. I’m not sure if they don’t believe me when I say yes or if they just like to hear that affirmation. Then they want to know exactly where I intend to put them in my office and what will become of the ones that are there now. They even went so far as to wonder what I will do with all of them after I retire (which is, unfortunately, at least 25 years off). My son suggested I build a special display case.

One year, I made the mistake of bringing some of them home. That was apparently a faux pas of gargantuan proportions; I’m still explaining and apologizing for that one. They took great offense.

As artists, they could never bear to sell anything – there’s too much of their souls tied up in them to part with them. I guess I can only commit to being the caretaker of their works while I can.

It’s a pleasure to see them enjoy something as much as that. What will become of that passion as they get older? What if they want to pursue it more seriously?

Parenting is not for sissies!

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