Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Old School...

Last week, the kids started another school year. We now have one in eighth, one in fifth and the youngest in all-day kindergarten. Mostly, my wife handles the chaos that is getting all three ready for the day. Occasionally, I'll make a lunch or put socks on one of them. But, I have a hard enough time getting myself washed, dressed and out the door for my day to be of any use to the rest of the family.

Despite my ineptitude when it comes to the morning routine, I excel in the area of homework. I'm the go-to parent when it comes to difficult math or science problems. And, my journalism degree comes in handy for the "Language Arts" (that's what they call English, Reading & Spelling these days).

Though I've always been able to tackle the tough homework questions, I feel my days are numbered, especially with the eight grader. Once serious algebra questions start coming home, I'm grabbing a life boat, some oars and my pride before heading to shore. Bailing as the homework savior is the one time in life when quitting is a better option than trying. I know my educational limits -- now it's time for my kids to know my educational limits. It's precisely the reason I've been hammering home to them the idea that at the top of the list of important things to do while in school, regardless of grade, is to make friends with the smart kids.

The good news is my kids have not yet approached me with anything that looks like sentence diagramming. I swear I didn't learn to actually read until high school. That's because just about any real sentence I came across in grade school needed to be dissected like a frog in biology class. The only real difference between the frog dissection and diagramming a sentence was that at least I could recognize a frog bone a frog muscle and a frog heart. I had no idea what I was doing with nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. I was clueless, yet I was one of the best in my class at doing it -- sentence diagramming that is, not amphibian autopsies. Who knows, maybe I was an idiot savant when it came to sentence structure. That's what I thought when I was younger, but then I realized that I was just an idiot and did an exceptional job of guessing the answers. Guessing, I've found, is not an ideal strategy to use in dealing with career and family issues when one enters the world of adults.

Similarly, the metric system has only occasionally reared its ugly head in my kid's homework papers. When I was in grade school the teachers had us convinced that we would not be able to function as adults if we did not learn the metric system. Like African Killer Bees that were due to build a giant hive at the end of our street by 1980, we would need to take heed or face a gruesome demise. I guess teachers missed the memo that said "Unless You're Planning To Become An Olympic Swimmer, Diver or Track & Field Athlete, The Metric System Will Be A Huge Waste Of Time For You And Your Students."

I pretty much pulled the plug on learning anything math-related that didn't require a calculator after hearing my high school algebra teacher tell our class that we'd end up using less than 10% of what he was teaching when we got into the real world. That was refreshing. That one comment shaped my mathematical life. It was a lot like learning that size doesn't matter and only the good die young.

So, my kids don't have to worry about diagramming sentences or learning the metric system. There's still an outside chance that those crazy killer bees took the scenic route on their way to Ohio, but I'll save my children the uneccessary concern.

The thing my offspring have to deal with hits much closer to home -- it's called Peanut Allergies. My youngest is not allowed to bring in anything that contains peanuts, including a seemingly benign peanut butter and jelly sandwich. PB&J is dangerous? Apparantly, to anyone with a peanut allergy it is. So, there is a ban on the favorite sandwich of American youth in my daughter's school. My wife's school doesn't ban the sandwich, but makes the afflicted kids sit by themselves, away from people who might be packing toxic peanuts or their derivatives -- like lepers.

I'm not sure when the whole peanut allergy thing first came to light, but I'm pretty much convinced it's a hoax. At best, it's unfair to peanut lovers. I wonder if my youngest was allergic to cheese if the school would stop serving pizza. Or worse, if she had the dreaded combo allergy of both cheese and salami -- potentially, lunch would be need to be abolished altogether, at least if we were playing by the same rules that are being used for the peanut allergy people.

But that's just me, right? School has been a haven for stupid rules for as long as I can remember. Like not touching the water fountain with your mouth and having to raise your hand to ask permission to fart in class.

In reality, not much has changed. The teachers still teach. The kids still learn.

And I...well, I'm still just an idiot.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The "Big Sweater" Story...

My weight can be a problem.

I'm too big to be going topless at the beach. And too small to be considered for the reality television show, Biggest Loser. I'm like a "tweener" in basketball or football vernacular -- my skills are proportionately out of whack with my body type.

This issue is never more exposed than when I'm on vacation. And right now, I'm on vacation.

I'll give you one guess where our family respit is this year. And before you smartasses guess, I'm not at Krispy Kreme Fantasy Camp or taking the Candy Land Game Virtual Reality Tour. I'm at every overweight man's little vacation of horrors -- that's right, I'm at the beach. There's no chance I'm mentioning which beach for fear of paparazzi who want to snap a few pics and then publish them as a cruel "Separated at Birth" story alongside a shot of Shamu or Moby Dick. That's a no-win situation for me, so I'll just say I'm not in Ohio and leave it at that.

Beach vacations spell big time trouble for me. They seem like fun. Sand, surf, sun --what could go wrong? Well, let me tell you that at the rate my body sweats, I wear a life vest all week long, as I have serious concerns that a sudden outburst of energy could cause me to drown in a puddle of my own perspiration. The week is a lot like how I envision fat camp to be. To me the only difference between a beach vacation and fat camp is I don't have to hide chocolate under my pillow.

There are three things I'm really good at -- eating, sweating and complaining. Amazingly, a beach vacation allows me to do all three at the same time. I was able to showcase my talents almost immediately, upon arrival at the condo we'd be staying at for the week with my wife's sister and her family.

After unloading and carrying a minivan full of crap up to the living space in 90-degree heat and off the charts humidity with very little assistance from any of my two older and able-bodied children, I'm sure I looked like I had lost a fight with a fire hose. I was suturated, miserable and ready for beer. I opened a cold bottle of the liquid gold and held it to my forehead, providing me a cool but all too brief reprieve from this nighmarish sweat episode. It barely changed the status of my sweat glands. Apparantly, no one told them I was done exerting myself. The spigot needed to be turned off and nothing was working.

To go with the beer, I grabbed a doggy bag of uneaten food from the counter. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant before arriving at the condo and my daughter failed to do any damage to a giant beef burrito and some refried beans. I'm so glad I had kids with shit-tiny appetites. There's always a snack or two for daddy after we eat out.

After doing my best Joey Chestnut imitation on the leftovers, I noticed my brother-in-law sitting comfortably on the balcony, sipping his beer and talking about plans for the week. But, there was something just not right and I figured it out right away. The man was completely dry! Not moist dry, but bone dry. In fact, my sister-in-law's husband was drier than my mother's meat loaf.

I tried to ignore it, but nothing could keep my mind off it. We both unloaded approximately the same amount of crap from our minivans. The difference is, I surmised, that my brother-in-law is in great shape. He does P90x and runs marathons. He's very dedicated. On the other hand, I once peed for ninety seconds and watched a Deadliest Catch marathon on the Discovery Channel.

The reasons for why I was out-sweating him were obvious, the most important of which was my extra baggage. But just because I know why, doesn't mean I can't resent him for it. He could at least pretend to be exhausted, couldn't he? Somehow, he was oblivious to my anguish. Damn him.

Finally, I had had enough.

"Hey, you're not sweating. What's up with that?"

"Oh, I sweat a ton."

My sister-in-law even piped in. "He's a big sweater." I thought that was funny because of the way it sounded and the fact that I actually do wear a big sweater.

Funny or not, I was about to take the gloves off when suddenly I decided I would reason with the man. Afterall, he was my brother-in-law and except for the times when he doesn't sweat when he should I really like the guy. Plus, reasoning is normally less strenuous than arguing. So, cooler heads (no pun intended) prevailed as I determined a pissing match over who sweats more would not be beneficial and might actually cause me to sweat even more.

"Okay." I took a deep breath, mostly because I was still winded from moving all that crap. "Look at me. Now, look at you. See anything different?"


"No, I want you to REALLY take a nice long look at me, then look at you."

"Okay. Well, now that you mentioned it. You're soaked."

"Yes!!! Thank you!" Finally, I was getting the credit that I deserved.

Reasoning really did work. I'd have to remember that for similar situations in the future.

Now that we had reached common ground, we stayed up late and well after the rest of our families were in bed, sharing our best sweat stories. It was a bonding experience that only a fat man could truly appreciate. Sometime during my fourth bag of Dorito's at around two in the morning my brother-in-law requested and end to the evening.

"I have a run in the morning. Do you want to come?"

"What time?" I feigned interest.

"Around seven."

"Ah yeah, I think I'll pass. I only run before six, but you have fun. And try not to sweat too much."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I'm Back...

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I've been away for a while, so hopefully there are more than a few hearts that are fonder than when I posted my last article in late February. And now that I'm officially back, I must apologize to those hearts that wish I'd have stayed away for good. Your email inbox is about to hate me.

Since the last time you heard from me, I landed a new job, started and stopped working out sixteen times and discovered fast food's nectar of the gods, McDonald's Pineapple-Mango Smoothie, which I had four straight days in late July.

Like Tiger Woods deciding to resume his golfing career, I've decided it's time to start blogging again. I fired my caddy and changed my swing. I just hope I can still make the cut. In my five months of silence I've accumalated quite a lot of crap to talk about -- I should be good for another two to three weeks before taking another un-announced hiatus.

See you soon.