August 2007

Add this to the lengthening list of things I never expected to hear:

“It hurts when I blink.”

Last night, they did something that you almost never expect a church group to do:  they grubbed up a vacant lot across the street from the church, squirted enough water into it to make lots of mud, and told all the teenagers to jump in an play.

Church mud-wrestling!

Then they invited a local fire truck to drive over and hose ’em down.  I guess there comes a time when you have to say “I’m out of ideas of how to keep the kids interested.”  Whoever came up with this is an out-of-the-box-thinking genius.

It seems that wallowing in mud is extremely tiring; either that or getting hosed with a firehose – I’m guessing it’s the wallowing part.  At any rate, Erin and two friends came out of the pit chattering with energy but by the time we were on the freeway heading home, they were silent.  Then Erin from the backseat announced that it hurt when she blinked.  Now that’s tired.

Oddly enough, there was a published dress code.  Even in the mud, one must observe the proprieties.  And no mud-throwing.  The similarity to poop did not go unnoticed; many imagined the smell to be similar as well.

It was a big hit.  One of the youth pastors brought along his infant son and the child was on his shoulders shrieking with excitement when the fire truck hosed him off.  I wonder if he’ll remember it when he’s older?

It was a rough ride home though.  The fatigue hit them all and the grit began to annoy.  All three of them staggered into their homes dripping dirty water on the driveways.  Another successful back-to-school party!


I’m about to lose my Dad license by not documenting a huge deal:  Evan and his garage band had their first gig Friday before last.

They got a chance to play at this joint called “The Tree” in Claremore.  I don’t know who the headliner band was but Evan’s band was about four levels deep so that they were playing really early; right after the place opened.   The venue insists that they play all original material so they had a pretty hectic several weeks running up to it to write and rehearse three tunes but they got it done.

Evan reported that night that he thought they did pretty well “considering” which means they actually did pretty poorly.  Apparently the venue was starting a new sound guy that night so that the balance was way off and their monitors were not working.  This made it really hard to play with each other.  The whole thing was pretty alien to them and so they forgot the last bit to their last song but of course the audience didn’t realize that.  From the photo or two that I saw, the crowd consisted of friends and girlfriends of friends.  No matter, they got some extremely valuable experience and Evan did a bit of networking with the owner; thanking her for the opportunity and all that.  Perhaps there will be a repeat performance one day after marching band season is over.

Evan called yesterday afternoon after band practice to inform me that he had blown a tire out on the Creek Turnpike. I suspect that it didn’t really “blow” but that it had been low and he hadn’t recognized the symptoms (or hadn’t heard them because of the loud music). When he finally noticed it was after the tire began to shred and chunks of it started ripping off and hitting the inside of the wheel well. At any rate he was freaked out and pulled off at the first opportunity. Which was smart.

He then lost some of his good sense due to the pressure of the moment and failed to recognize that the lug wrench is stowed separately from the jack and he didn’t know where it was. I had shown him this when he first got the car but that probably seemed distant and unimportant to him and was forgotten. He won’t forget it now. Once I showed him where the spare was hidden and what the lug wrench looked like, he took over and finished the job. This is good since it was still over 100 degrees at that time.

Note to self: check pressure in all the family car spare tires. Evan’s spare was flatter than a pancake so we had to take it to the nearest QuikTrip for some free air. From his perspective nothing was in sight and so he assumed he was a million miles from anywhere but when we drove the 200 yards to the top of the first hill, we realized we were at the BlueBell ice cream factory with a large friendly QuikTrip right there. We filled the spare with air and installed it in a few minutes and were home blogging about it before we knew it.

Next horror: driving Dad’s electric blue pickup to school instead of his usual car while I got new tires for his car. He really doesn’t want to draw attention to himself (in stark contrast to many young ladies his age – most of them cheerleaders) and so showing up in a different vehicle was a thing to dread. Not only that but a screaming blue truck with wide show-off tires. Tires are quick and easy to come by if not cheap so this episode is over.

But his flat tire was a testimony to the concept of “steel belted”; it was totally trashed but nevertheless still attached to the rim and not too many chunks missing. It still allowed him to keep the car under control and not ruin the rim. Thanks Mr. Tire Design Guy.

Evan drove himself off to his senior year of high school with barely any fanfare.  I dropped Erin off at the intermediate school where she started 9th grade and she didn’t seem too worried about it.  When I was that age, I lost sleep but she has more confidence than I ever did.  She carried almost nothing – where was the full backpack?  She claimed not to need it.

There was the usual shuffle last night as we went out to buy the things she needed that we hadn’t known that she needed.  Also Evan needed some stuff – like a 1Gb flash drive.  Who would have guessed?

For my part, I spent the evening trying to take care of a “check engine” light on my truck.  Not very good timing for this to happen but the guy at AutoZone read the code for me and assured me it was a trivial thing.  But he couldn’t tell me where this part that he sold me was supposed to go.

Well, the PGA Championship has gone more smoothly than I imagined it would.  Certainly all the parking places are taken but I’ve had little trouble getting into or out of the office (although I’ve skewed my schedule a bit to avoid peak times).

The Medlife blimp is circling overhead, the shuttle buses are shuttling, and the thermometer on the Mabee Center sign is showing 98 degrees but the official weather station at Southern Hills is showing a heat index of 102.  I know what it is like to play golf in this weather and it’s not all that bad as long as you just get used to the idea of being drenched in sweat, you drink water continuously, and you pour water on your head every so often.  Oh, and you dart from the shade of one tree to the next.  With a cart.  I don’t think I could sit on a grandstand in the sun and survive for long.

The PGA championship is being played this week in Tulsa at Southern Hills country club which is right down the road from my office.  Traffic is amazingly bad.

I know this sort of thing is exciting for most people and really good for the community but holy cow!  Our building is selling the parking spaces that we don’t often use as well as the grassy areas and getting to work is a bit of an adventure.  My reserved spot is still OK; I just have to get to the gate in the correct manner.

I don’t look forward to the drive home.

I’m not sure who decided that it was a good idea to play a major golf tournament in Tulsa during the hottest part of the year but there it is.  I hope that’s not all the media will talk about.  I also hope that people aren’t passing out from heat exhaustion all over the place either.

Our trip to Six Flags was as hot as expected but Erin enjoyed herself immensely.  I didn’t see much of her though.  This is the irony of having a daughter:  I get loads of Dad points for going even though we didn’t spend much time together during the trip.  Beyond a certain age, Evan didn’t want us to go anywhere that he was going but Erin likes us to be involved – just not with her directly.   So I signed up for bus #1 arbitrarily and she signed up for bus #2 because that’s where her friends wanted to sit.  We had about 150 kids and adults on three buses.  Our church doesn’t do anything halfway.

Another irony is that Erin is one of the shortest kids of her age and she always hangs out with one of the tallest girls her age.  That kid is almost as tall as I am so they look interesting.

These rock-star buses that we charter have DVD players onboard.  As a result, the trip gets a lot smoother.  My job was to choose the movie and plug it into the player.  These DVD players only had two buttons: play and skip and the skip button was not operational so we actually had to watch all the previews.  I guess that’s not so bad; the point was to kill time so that just killed more time.

The first night, we went to see the Texas Rangers play Oakland at The Ball Park in Arlington.  Our seats were at third base in the second level.  I had only ever been to a Ranger game during Nolan Ryan’s days at the old stadium and this place is super nice.   The kids payed as much attention to their seat assignments as they did the movie previews.  They were up and moving the whole time; in fact, it appears that about half of them wandered the stadium a lot just looking around.  Things would have been nicer if I hadn’t kicked my own drink over in the third inning but these things happen.

We spent the night at a small Methodist church near the stadium and slept on the gym floor.  The youth directors are a special breed of people that I don’t understand at all.  They seem to enjoy trying to sweep the chaos of 150 7-12 graders into a pile of organized activities.  I asked the guy in charge of our group if they have a special class in youth pastor college in how to estimate how many PopTarts to buy for 50 boys.  Apparently there is no such class but there really should be.  Or how to take a roomful of boys and organize cleanliness with only two showers.  Or how to get everybody to shut up and go to sleep.  We never really solved that one very well; one of the volunteers finally serenaded them to sleep with his guitar like in a movie where the cowboy sings to the cattle to keep them from getting restless.

My job was to make coffee in the morning.  It’s strange how a lot of guys will say no to coffee until you make it and then will hammer it pretty hard.

We got to Six Flags when it opened and, without having to herd my own kids any more, I got to practice a trick I read on a website somewhere.  When the park opens, everybody always wants to go right and the park architects have done that on purpose.  So I went left.  As a result, for the first 45 minutes to an hour, it was like I had the entire park to myself.  No lines anywhere.  Of course, some of the rides and shops weren’t open yet since they didn’t expect anybody to have worked their way over there yet.

It got hot really fast and so I avoided standing in roller coaster lines.  Instead, I tried to attend the shows that occur in the air conditioned theaters.  Still, Six Flags is pretty much just a roller coaster place so there isn’t that much to do.  But the last time I rode a snot-slinger with the kids a year or two ago, my neck hurt the next day so I took that as a sign that my roller coaster days are numbered.  My neck has been bothering me a bit lately and I figured that I would not hasten the onset of problems by riding things that promise more G forces than a jet fighter.  Instead, I went to the Spongebob Squarepants 4D movie.  And rode the train.

I would see Erin flitting past every now and again.  She would always wave, dart over for a hug, and her friends would wave and say hi before dashing off to the next coaster.  That’s all they did all day and still didn’t get to ride all of them.  We actually got meal tickets with our admission and so I spent a pleasant hour in the (again – air conditioned) restaurant at midday.

One poor girl got sick overnight and spent the entire day at the First Aid station stretched out on a cot throwing up and napping by turns.  One of the women who were with us stayed with her all day which sounds like a bummer until you stop to think that she got to play mother, nap, read, stay inside, and have people bring her snacks.  It doesn’t look so bad from that perspective.  I went to check on her several times since I felt like I should be doing something helpful rather than having fun but they never needed anything.

I must have a certain look about me that says “trustworthy” because on two occasions I had complete strangers stop me for help.  One woman apparently felt that her toddler son might have disappeared in the men’s room so I went to check for little feet in one of the stalls.  Another group of women and girls asked me to take their photo.  I don’t mind of course but why me out of the hundreds of other people?

Along about three o’clock, the heat really got brutal and I began to with for six o’clock for our date with the bus to return home.  I got one of those frozen lemonade things and some other snackage to spend the time.  I sat in the breeze of one of those fans that sprays mist.  The appointed time finally arrived and we headed out.  I plugged in another movie and drifted off to sleep.  The kids were all pretty restless and noisy; probably from all the overstimulation and sugar.  Only about half of them watched the movies.  I don’t know what was going on in the back seats but one of the other adults had to make several trips back there to break up something.  I don’t think any sins were being committed but the unwritten noise ordinances were being broken.

We stopped for dinner in Allen, TX at a fast-food cluster (you don’t want to stop with three buses at a single restaurant – you’ll be there all night.)  I tried in vain to find Erin and never could until she found me; she has wisely avoided the restaurants entirely and gone to the gas station convenience store and gotten stuff there.  Good thinking for a kid but of course, she has been on these trips before and knows the tricks.  Rather than fight to get to the restaurant first, she simply thinks outside the box.  Or outside the bun – so to speak.

We finally dragged back to town at around midnight and this morning I felt like death warmed over.  Gotta go to work though.  Ugh.

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