Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Hamster vs. The Angel of Death

Ah, parenthood. The endless lesson holder with all kinds of twists and turns along the way. I recently had a "I've become my father moment" that I won't soon forget. Emily, a short while ago, got a hamster for doing really well on something. I don't recall because it seems like eons ago but it didn't happen that long ago and my short term memory loss is growing. ;-) Her name is "Emma Ice Cream Coughlin" which I think came from Emily channeling the thoughts of People's Most Beautiful Woman in the World, Gwyneth Paltrow. (She named one of her children Apple for God sakes!)

So, we (let me say I for now) have been given the task of cleaning out her cage once a week. Well, last week I took the cage downstairs and took Emma out and started the process. I put Emma in her ball (a clear ball like that of Rhino the Hampster in the movie Bolt) and I put her on the counter wedged in between three different things. I walked out of the kitchen to the stairs and called up to Emily, "Em, are you coming down to help?" As soon as I finish saying that I hear crunch...and it doesn't register at first as I'm at the base of the stairs waiting for her...then it hits me..."OH S%*T! That was Emma!," I say to myself.

I run into the kitchen to find Emma on the floor in her cracked ball and completely flat in the ball. "Emma! Emma! Are you okay??" She's looking at me and nothing. No twitchy nose, no eye movement, all cuteness was gone from her being." Now, of course I start beating myself up and thinking 'Oh, great, I get to have the death conversation with my daughter and I CAUSED IT!'

I open up the ball and gently rub her nose and back hoping that she's still alive and can walk. She looks at my like I'm crazy and moves her nose. "Thank God!," I whisper and Emily still isn't downstairs yet, which is not a blessing. Emma's looking at my like "are you f$%king nuts leaving me on the counter?!?" I starting thinking about it and it's the equivalent of a human being falling off of a 30 story building with surrounded by a kids backyard plastic playhouse. Wow, that's a big fall. Now, I'm just glad she's okay but can she actually move? Slowly she does and I breathe a heavy sigh of relief. 

Emily comes down and as I'm cleaning the cage she is petting Emma and I tell her what happened. She doesn't seem too phased by it but wants a new ball for Emma. I'm just glad that we don't have the death conversation. Fun times!

Monday, March 22, 2010

"The horror!"

From Madagascar 2:

Alex: Marty, it looks like this is it! I just want you to know, you're a one in a million friend!
Marty: Thanks, Alex! You are a true friend!
Alex: And I'm sure you won't mind when I tell you...
Marty: What? Tell me what?
Alex: I broke your iPod!
Marty: What?
Alex: The buttons were so small! It made me mad!
Marty: The horror!

The horror…the shock…WTF?! (and, no, I’m not talking about Work Time Fun!) Terri and I were sitting in the bar at a restaurant where we were meeting some friends and I was dumbfounded. I was immediately reminded of my sophomore year at OU when I flew back home for a break after getting disappointed about a couple other things going on at school and went to see my “girlfriend” Erin. I say “girlfriend” because I thought there was more there then she did. And then she broke up with me. I was shocked and, looking back, was an idiot for not seeing it.

That’s exactly how I feel about the Jayhawks this year. I was blinded by the #1 ranking, the belief that we could play with anyone because we did but the signs were there:

  • Cornell within one point with :25 left on our home court;

  • The Tennessee loss;

  • Colorado…Colorado!..taking us to overtime;

  • The Oklahoma State loss.

Did we have a target on our back, yes, but we never had the killer instinct, the “step on your throat and you’re not getting up until we’ve put you away with 5:00 to play. I’m not saying that we didn’t have the talent or the ability to play with anyone but we sure weren’t doing what some teams in the tourney are doing now:

  • Cornell beats Wisconsin by almost 20 yesterday;

  • Syracuse destroys Gonzaga and they are still missing one of their key players;

  • Duke buckles down on defense and wins;

  • Kentucky spanks Wake Forest by 30…30!

So, my guess is if we would have eked out a win on Saturday Tennessee or OSU would have beaten us. Next year will be hard because we will probably lose five of our key players to the draft in June and I can see our 59 game home win streak being snapped by K-State or Missouri…which would be heartbreaking too.

Bill’s a good recruiter but his legacy, even if he wins another two championships in the next 10 years will be one of championships and devastating losses and being outcoached when it was time to buckle down and step on the throat.

Looking forward to October and partially forgetting “the horror”.


P.S.: I have a lot to write about the new house, the kids and this was my push to get back in and write again.

Monday, March 9, 2009

It’s the Era of the Cup

Not the Golden Challis, the Holy Grail, or The America’s Cup…just the age of the cup.

[Guitar in the background] I’ve paid my dues – time after time. I’ve done my sentence – but committed no crime…I think I hear We Are the Champions in the background when I walk in to the house. Oh, wait, that’s the theme song for Little Einstein’s.

Yes, we no longer have Gracie getting her buzz on 20 ounces of milk between 7:00 pm and 3:30 am. (Interesting that drug addicts seem to get high in the middle of the night too. We’ll have to watch that girl as she gets older.) She still asked for bottles the weekend after but the key was wearing the kids out. Now she says, while drinking her milk and sitting up in bed, “no ba-ba.”

Friday night, the 21st, Terri and Emily went with Suzanne and Aidan to Key Lime Cove water park so I had the twins at home and just put them to bed without a bottle. Jordan didn’t like it and cried for a while but Grace acted like, ‘If daddy’s not giving me a bottle then, ah, okay, I guess he’s not giving me a bottle. Time to sleep.’ On Saturday morning the three of us headed up to meet everyone else at Key Lime Cove and that was the key. They had so much fun on their first day at the water park that they were completely exhausted by the time we got in the car to head home. It was about 9:30 pm when we made it home and because they were both asleep in the car I had to carry all 60+ pounds of little people inside. Long live the cup!

Here’s some pictures and now on to potty training.

Friday, February 13, 2009

B-Day is approaching

B-Day, a.k.a., no more bottles day is fast approaching. It’s time the twins said bye-bye to the bottle and even though my daughter might be a future MENSA member she has an addiction. As they say on the street, “Ah, man, she’s addicted to the bot.” Bot is street slang like pipe, rock, devil’s dandruff, cat’s pee (no joke), and Yahoo are for crack. Terri and I have discussed taking her to BA but when we talk to her about it she says, “No!,” and then proceeds to sweep stuff off the living room table on to the floor. What’s that they say? Denial is the first step in knowing you’re and addict? Grace, it’s time to be a mature two-year-and-two-month old and admit you’re an addict. Then you came begin to heal and move forward.

I hear that that BA has a three step process because most of them are members of S.A.S.T. (Short Attention Span Theater) and we’ll be lucky if they can count up to three. Emily’s been helping us with Grace’s problem. “Grace, no more bottles. Daddy says no more bottles. Grace, did you hear that? No more.” (Waving of the finger and pointing at the end emphasizes Emily’s point.)

So, next Friday, February 21st, 2008 is a day that will live infamy. If you’d like to contribute to our cause please call 1-888-BYE-BOTL or mail us a check at 935 West Gunnison, c/o Bottle Anonymous, Chicago, IL 60640. I’ll thank you in advance and ask that you say a prayer next Friday night to give me the strength to make it through.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My day as a baby part II…

During the meeting I’ll open my portfolio and grab someone’s pen off the conference table and start drawing. Lines, circles, on the table…everywhere I want to in “my area”. I will then see the array of “toys” around the room and proceed to grab them and play with them. Bob’s BlackBerry, which he will fail to notice in time, now has a photo of his love for Britney Spears that he didn’t want displayed as his home screen photo. I’ll next grab Cindy’s mouse and start pushing buttons before she notices and quietly pulls me away. But…my mission has been accomplished: In the matter of a couple random key strokes I’ve managed to select and print 29 pages of blank spreadsheet paper, “Yeah for Chris!” Lastly, Mike’s iPhone isn’t far away and it will fall victim to random touches, ‘pinches,’ and ‘widens’ that now leave him with four icon’s on his home screen and downloading a New Kids on the Block video.

About 15 minutes into the meeting there will be a PowerPoint presentation which I’ll enjoy for the first four slides then decide its more fun to adjust my seat, not caring that the sudden drop which makes me giggle, creates a resounding thump throughout the room. I’ll get shushed and dirty looks from peers and my finally my boss so I’ll stop. At the sound of the presenter saying strategic or planning I’ll blow air through my closed lips, making a motorboat sound, loud enough to create a pause and for everyone to know I’m bored. By this time someone will summon my Helper/Sherpa/Dude of Responsibility/Assistant and they will be told in hushed whispers that I either need to leave but they’d prefer if I stayed in the room and was distracted, like with a DVD player. (Excellent idea, if I do say so myself.)

So, the portable DVD player will be summoned and appear as if magic and my attention will be riveted to it. “Rocket ship,” I’ll announce and if not immediately acknowledged I will say it again and again until someone does, “Rocket ship! Rocket ship! Rocket ship!…” The DVD will start and I’ll see a bunch of writing with the words FBI capitalized and I’ll immediately say, “Ut-oh! Ut-oh!” Then the previews will start and I’ll get quiet. This isn’t exactly what I want but I’m calmed by what’s to come: A movie that I’ve already seen 50 times and I can sing half the words to, but, hey, I’m a toddler so I love seeing DVD’s over and over again. In the middle of one of the previews the screen will freeze and I’ll say, “Ut-oh…happened? Happened?” To which, I’ll be reassured; “It’s coming. Rocket ship is coming, hold on.”

“Hold on,” I’ll repeat.

After 15 more minutes people will leave and I’ll be sitting their still glued to the DVD not noticing that the conference room lights are back on, I’m by myself, and someone is saying, “Do you want some juice?”

“Honey, do you want some juice?”
“Sweet pea, do you want some juice?”
“Pumpkin, do you want some juice?”
“Earth to Chris….”

Then the screen will go black on the DVD and I’ll snap out of my trance.

“Juice!,” I’ll announce as if this demand is my idea and must be met immediately.

The Dude of Responsibility reaches into a backpack and pulls out a full, fresh juice. I’ll get about half way through it and then suddenly, for no reason, throw it across the conference room table. This will either be responded to with questioning, light scolding, or “Okay, all done.” If the last one the DVD will be immediately folded up, taken away and I will be escorted out of the room. (Someone’s going to have to clean up the small pile of cracker crumbs on the floor beneath my seat…ha! ha! [I win! I win!...we’ll not really, but I’m a kid and I don’t realize that until my helper isn’t with me outside the room because they’re cleaning up.]

“Mommy?!,” Said in a small voice with a sad face and exposed lower teeth.
“Mommy?!,” This time, louder and the tear ducts are shifting from second gear (welling) to full throttle.

Now it’s time for a field trip with my sisters before heading home for the day. Today’s field trip is to the zoo. The zoo’s cool because I can repeat the names of the animals that daddy or mommy say and if something amazing happens, like a Big Jet flying over head I can stop everything I’m doing look straight up to the sky and announce over and over again, “Big Jet! Big Jet!” This all the while my assistant is trying to get me to walk to the other side of the zoo to see the polar bears. Since the zoo happens to be close to O’Hare the Big Jet thing can happen 12-15 times before we get to the polar bears; fun for me, for my assistant, not so much.

Along the way I want to pull the wagon. It weighs just less than I do (as a toddler, of course) but I can do it because I want to. No one, absolutely no one (especially siblings), is allowed to grab the handle or push from the back. If they do I go from 0-Tantrum in 1.5 seconds (Note to all car enthusiasts that’s four times faster than a Porsche 911 goes 0-60 MPH) and I couple that with jumping and possibly running away or standing in place and changing my skin color from white to red with a lovely, tear-fists of rage-screaming combo that is always good for high scores from the East German judge. In a British accent: “It’s a difficult combo but one he’s obviously done before. I must say this reminds me of a reverse 1.5 somersault with 3.5 twists in the pool at Bejing.”

My response is well thought out and the running away piece depends on the infraction and the last time I used the running away action to show my complete disgust of the situation. Using the running away piece too often will lead to parents/grandparents/adult supervisors to walk away and say ‘Bye-bye…see you later. We’re going this way.” So, it totally loses its effectiveness.

Also, I must note here that my big sister must mind her own business and stop giving me the toy that sucks as a gesture of goodwill. I know better and I don’t want the mutilated bath toy animal or one of the five piggies that she doesn’t care about. I’m smart and when she does this I know that I need to just go and grab one of the animals off the arm rest that are lined up perfectly and it will send her into a tizzy of “NO! NO! NO!”. That, of course, will turn possible parental scolding from me to her and then everyone’s in trouble, so watch out big sister, I know the 411. “Don’t f*#$ with Mr. Zero.” (For those When Harry Met Sally fans out there)

Back to the polar bear expedition: We’ve reached the polar bears and I have to pee and I’m not wearing a diaper. My Sherpa [the name makes me think of the bulter, a.k.a. pilot episode of Jerry on Seinfeld. “That’s my Sherpa.”] goes into panic mode because he doesn’t have a change of clothes and we are a LONG way from the bathroom (300 yards away in the lions building). [Note to self: A free zoo’s is great until you need a bathroom.]

But he remembers that, if the greenhouse is open, there is one in there and everything will be okay. So we head that way, he’s leading and calling my name continually as I lollygag my way towards the bathroom looking at flowers, the ground, and I think I hear another Big Jet…hum. What did I need to do? I don’t remember. We finally get there and he’s in a panic to get me on the toilet. I make it and make sure I’m aiming correctly so I don’t paint the walls, and him, with pee.

Now that that’s over I’m ready for juice! We meander back towards the middle of the zoo and decide that it’s late so we need to go home. But after we get in the car and the DVD’s all set up he tells me that we are going to go to DQ and get some ice cream. Shouts of, “ICE CREAM! ICE CREAM!,” followed by shrieking deafen Sherpas hearing and are accompanied with jumping up and down and big smiles. We get there and I’ve completely forgot what and where we are so after the car seat is unlocked I take my time getting down and then looking for the remote to the DVD player. Why? Because I think I can operate it and I’ve seen mommy and daddy do it when I say DVD. DVD. DVD. For some reason this thing makes the DVD work. Now if I can just hide it and point it at the front of the car and push some buttons I’ll be in control! That dreams disappears quickly as the remote is snatched out of my hands and thrown back in the center console while I’m pulled towards the side door. We get inside and I decide that the coolest thing in DQ are high chairs and the ATM machine. “Cool, buttons; wow.”

My Dude of Responsibility informs me that I need to sit down before the ice cream comes so I’m lifted into my seat and he disappears, but not for continual words of reassurance that he’ll be right back and I can see him through the glass at the counter. Never, even, out of my sight.

Then here it comes, vanilla ice cream with sprinkles. Could anything ever be so perfect? Is God nearby because I must be in heaven? I pause, for no apparent reason, and he takes the spoon to give me some ice cream and I get angry. I want to do it, in my own time. Forget the fact or reasoning that ice cream is one of man’s greatest inventions ever and 20 minutes ago I was screaming and jumping up and down. I am in control…Lord help the Sherpa. When I do dip in I get a HUGE chunk of smooth vanilla covered on one side with sprinkles and I put it in my mouth. As soon as it hits my tongue I make this face where my eye’s almost close and my mouth puckers up, “Cwold,” I announce in a low voice. It’s yummy, but it’s coooold!

Jordan and his “cold” face

Grace with sprinkles

Emily and her ice cream

We head home and of course I’m in no mood for dinner. I’ll sit there, of course, because it’s a change for me and my posse (sisters) to chat about the day and piss off mommy and daddy by doing some of the little things.

We’re all at the table and I decide to see if my milk cup will roll. It does, with some success, but for this to be complete I need to enlist the gang. When they join in it is successful and here comes daddy. “1…2…,” we stop, just in time. For my next act I have a little list of actions I like to do:
Stick the fork in between the wall and the table.
Bang the fork on the table that makes a big racket and it’s great if the other two join me.
Pushing my bowl or plate across the table is fun.
Throwing food or scraping my food off the plate on to the table is fun.
I wrap all this up with a push back. Pushing my chair back and announcing, “A’ done.”

Next we move on to the de-clothing at the table, moving into the living room to find toys to litter the floor with and watching Rocket again.

Then my parents will attempt to dress all of us and change our diapers. We have to fight it by either running away through the house or kicking when they are changing me. It’s not really necessary but I need to do it in order to show them who’s boss ☺. Then they’ll dress me while I’m mesmerized by the television. Next up it’s Ba-ba time. Mr. Bottle is on his way and I’m all excited. It also means that bed time isn’t far away but I don’t realize that until daddy picks me up and takes me downstairs a couple minutes later. Off to sleep and what should I do tomorrow to make things more fun? Drawing on furniture with paints...Hum.

Coming soon:

· Holiday’s 2008 and how not to travel
· What texting really means to adults
· White noise
· Getting my man card when I bought a new TV.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flying plates, selling a house, surge suppressors, and Ode to the Minivan

Ah, fall, that time of year when the kids sleep better and the slimmer’s of summers long days are only shown in glorious morning sunrises. Besides trying to sell the house the summer was filled with movement and sights to see. Jordan and Grace both transitioned from their booster chairs to the kitchen table with Emily.

This has its benefits and pitfalls, especially when I realized the value of rubber bottom plates that prevent the ‘hockey puck shot’ of food across the table. The first time Gracie realized that her plate wouldn’t fly over to Jordan she had a look of bewilderment and I of joy. Its funny how they were all egging each other on and now Emily is in the ‘taking care of’ stage and she’s telling them, “Grace, eat your veggies. Emily says eat your veggies.”
(That damn Elmo character referring to himself in the third person! I’m surprised that every kid who’s 10 and under isn’t walking around like Jimmy from that episode of Seinfeld, “Jimmy likes Elaine. Jimmy wants to ask Elaine out but he’s not sure if Elaine will say yes. Jimmy’s very comfortable with Burt being gay…”)

The food is everywhere, floor, chairs, stained shirts and pants, many times in the hair and Terri doesn’t even wash their faces before the bath. So, when I get home to the screaming welcome, “Daddy!” (I have to say I love it) we put the twins to bed I head for my second job: The kitchen. That first job at McDonalds is paying off in spades! It’s a little nuts but I’m saving all the food under the table in a freezer bin so I can send it to poor kids in India. It only takes about 17 days to fill it up. (JK) Then there’s the curiosity…like living with cats again.

Last night I come home and Grace is under the desk turning off the surge suppressor that controls the home computer and the monitor. I had already ducted taped--yes, ducted tape--a plastic toy wrench over the On/Off button on the PC so her and Jordan would stop doing a hard shutdown on it. I can see Grace in her little head thinking, I have to turn off this blinking light for daddy. No you don’t, really. They love pushing the TV buttons and, long ago, we put up a Plexiglas shield that covers the electronics so they wouldn’t mess with them constantly. It’s a big deal who gets to push the DVD door open/close button; really, there is screaming and jumping involved. Of course Emily, Ms. Junior Hospital Corners, has to line up the DVD so that the label is facing her and is at a 90° angle to the DVD player.

Terri has had a great year in sales. Last year was her best ever and she’s on pace to eclipse that again which is great. Yes, she earns more than me and I’m proud of it! I was just promoted and changed bosses/jobs at work. I’m now a Senior Manager of Product Development & Innovation. This means that I’m working for Sally, our former worldwide VP of Marketing, to analyze, incubate, and decide if there is a revenue and strategic fit for Brightstar. So, we are looking at many opportunities that are outside of the traditional wireless distribution business. Areas that will make us a key player in the distribution channels of the future.

The big change coming is next Thursday when the kids go into day care and Emily school full time. Pavlina’s pregnant and due next month so it’s too hard for her to run around with the twins for the day and Emily the full day. The babies are going to a day care that I think they’ll really like after getting used to it for a week or two. Jordan is pretty social and Grace can be but it will be a shock to the system. The good thing is they will learn so much and be more interactive with other kids to play and learn. Emily is going from half days to full days and will now be napping at school. That will be a big change for her and I expect that everyone will not nap for the first couple of days because it’s a new situation.

Terri and I are preparing for it too because she needs to be able to get out of the house and in the car by 7:15 am to get everyone to where they need to be on time. This will be tough for a couple months but in January everyone will be at the same school Emily is now and it will be a single trip. Terri feels like we’ll be in the city forever who knows how long they’ll be in school before we move. Hopefully the market will get better by spring and then we’ll be able to move after that. It sure isn’t like we planned but is anything ever?

My day as a baby (Part 1):

I get to wake up when I want. If I talk loud enough or scream my head off that I'm hungry, want a cup of coffee, need the morning paper or something else then someone will come and get me. This same person will put me on their shoulder, reassure me and allow me to put my fingers in their eyes, ears, nose or mouth just because. They will laugh at me and help me with my pants as after they sit me down on the toilet.

(In this alternative world I choose not to wear a diaper although there are definite benefits: The two hour commute, pooping during the meeting I really don't want to attend [“Hey, did you fart Colin? What is UP with that. Of course if I'm wearing a diaper and I take a poop [no 'crap or other four letter words allowed. 'Poop' or pooh-pooh are only allowed.] then someone is going to give me a look like "Dude, did you poop in your pants?" Throughout the day if I have a look of pushing something or extreme concentration coupled with a dazed look "Chris, do you have a poop?" Or "Do you need to poop, honey?")

Post toilet they will dress me while I play with my Blackberry or PSP or I’ll just put my arms crossed behind my head in relief. I'll get carried upstairs and be offered an array of breakfast choices and none of them will be vegetables or have oatmeal 'lighter than air' flakes mixed in with them. If my coffee isn't sweet enough I'll cry. If I want my mommy and for some reason another adult is blocking my view of her 6.5 feet from me I'll make a sad cry face and say in a sad, give me some love, face, "mommy."

After breakfast I'll be dressed and not really care if side stripped pants go with a solid top or if someone has to check a tag in order to see if my shirt will fit. After getting dressed they'll carry me in to the living room put me on the couch with the remote, today's paper, my coffee and a fresh bagel. I'll cry if none of these are available and if I don't get to watch Sportscenter I'll cry again because reruns of Judging Amy or the Lifetime movie of the week is being shown.

Someone will come and tell me my limo to work is here and they'll make sure they've packed my backpack (kind of like the diaper bag) with my Blackberry, PSP, a book, a special snack I don't know about yet and water or soda. There will also be a fresh set of $20's in my wallet because this person doesn't want me to go anywhere unprepared. Along the way to work I'll get to watch a DVD and won't care if the driver can't get an update on the news or sports scores. If the DVD player doesn't start up right after we get going then I'll cry, "DVD! DVD! DVD!"

Along the way I'll ask the driver to stop at Dunkin' and get me a coffee. Halfway to work, on the toll way, I'll need to stop and go to the bathroom. There is no 'Are we there yet?’ we are there, work or wherever that is, and someone needs to carry me to the bathroom!

At work I'm carried to my desk (I like this carrying/Sherpa thing) and asked if I need anything, which, of course I do. I'll surf the web for a little bit and then someone will come up and ask me a question about an order or marketing program. My face will go from quiet peace to a contortionists cry in 2.2 seconds and they'll apologize and say they'll come back later.

An hour later someone will ask me a question and as they're talking to me I'll be staring at something on YouTube while glancing every once in a while over at them. Not really acknowledging them just caught up in the video. They will ask me the question again, then a third time. At this point I'll motion to open a drawer, all the while concentrating on my computer screen. I'll have the drawer half way open when they'll ask me a fourth time. Then they'll be really rude and reach over, grab my mouse and pause the video. I won't notice it at first but when I do I'll look at them with a sad face and point with my hand "DVD?!"

The question they're asking me about is attending a meeting which I don't want to go to, like bath time, so it's time for a fit or quiet compliance and they have to repeat the question again and again, "Time for product manager meeting??" I'll then have a look and gesture that I want to go to this meeting only if my special friends are there. Friends being bunny #1 and #2, zebra's, maybe a fishy or two and one of my airplanes. On our way to the meeting I'll say a simple word and expect understanding..."Coke." They say, "What?" "Coke." "Oh, Coke, okay."

(To be continued…)

Selling a house

Selling a house sucks...there's really no better way to put it. We've had our place listed since April and it started simply: Make sure the place is clean, do some touch up and price it to move. We got rid of the extra desk and a bunch of other stuff and spent a day taking it to our storage box that we rented. [Here's a tip for you: Don't use Public Storage. Their hours are 9-5, during the day and I don't know many people who can actually get to their storage during the day except on a Saturday. Next time I’m getting 24 access.]

Then not only did we have our realtor/friend Dennis out in the suburbs but we added a realtor in the city. We had pictures and even a floor plan done, buried St. Joseph in the front yard and the back (It's a little too much Catholic mumbo jumbo for me to believe he'd going to be the reason that our house will sell…and so far I’m right), and were on the edge of burning sage and having a Haitian voodoo priest come in do a 'cleansing'...then a place down the street that was comparable but had a galley kitchen went for under $350,000. Great, now we are playing the price game with our neighbors. So, not long after we dropped the price on our place and, just like car ads, we priced it at $349,900 not $350,000 because people are sheep and sheep never want to pay for something with zeros at the end, full price, or have to count themselves if they own a Serta mattress. ;-)

We just lowered our price this week by $10,000 to see if anything is going to shake things up. The market is so slow right now that only three places like ours, which includes the one above, have sold since we listed in April. Back to dating: From the market to us, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

The next step: Since buyers today seem to have been born without imaginations we had to totally change our upstairs living room area to a living/dining room. “I can’t vision what this would look like for entertaining…” I want to shake them and say, “WTF is your problem? Can you not remove the table and couch in your mind and open it up a little? When was the last time you visited a geographical area where there is a field or the pavement ends? I’m not talking about ‘Where The Sidewalk Ends’ I’m talking about you getting off your computer/BlackBerry/TV/Wi-Fi/public transport butt and actually seeing what you could make this place in to.”

When I say totally change, I mean TOTALLY change: We moved the TV, DVD player, stand and Wii downstairs next to Terri's desk. We removed the stereo and put it in storage, move the chair next to the table downstairs along with the lamp table. Then added a dining room table, put about 150 books in storage and added some vases and flowers. The old living room is now a ghost town that we travel through each day on our way to the stairs. Terri's had it the hardest because she has to do the clean up before each showing (even had to show the house herself a couple of times...but I'll talk about that in a minute) and work with the kids on the new configuration. The kids have done well at adjusting and are great at the stairs now.

Our realtor in the city couldn't make it to a couple showings and even though she had some great ideas on how to make the house more attractive things didn't work out so we fired her and hired new guy, Les, who we hope will be more attentive and available for showings.

The fantasy's of winning the lottery, CPS (Chicago Public Schools) actually being good places to put your kids in, buying out our upstairs neighbor who is literally a deadbeat, and just selling the place to anyone with a heartbeat and a loan has run through my head. What we really need is "Angel Investor" like venture capital firms are for Silicon Valley start up's. You know, someone who will come in and pay a reasonable price and just let us move.
The scary thing is its like sorority rush or being on "Like me; love me; pick me...please!" In rush you go from house to house in your nicest outfit for days and try to engage in conversation to see if they are the right fit for you and you're the right fit for them. You get all gussied up so that first impression will be, "Okay, she can pull herself together and she looks nice but does she have a personality, can she talk intelligently about current events, and does she have an opinion?" or “Can this dude talk about football and what does he think of the cheerleader on Heroes?”

My first date on was that way. This woman and I both hit it off online and seemed to be going in the right direction to have grounds for an interesting face-to-face encounter. Three weeks later we met at a Starbucks and the ground rules had been established: One hour, see what happens then we could walk away without question or extend the conversation. Within the first two minutes we knew there wasn't a connection and we weren't attracted to each other. That was one grueling hour and so my optimism decreased a little at that point, just like with the first open house.

With our house we had a lot of issues with people not "getting" the staircase set up (It’s circular…say it with me cir-cu-lar [sur-kyuh-ler] which means it turns; got it?) so we put a floor plan on the web site. That helped then we reshot the pictures with the new staged area. Now we are waiting for a buyer like a woman waiting for a guy to turn on his taxi light and make a commitment. “Pick me! Pick me!” I’m saying in my head.

[Let me stop here and say that if you don't know my men are like taxi cabs theory then here it is: Simply put, men drive around with their “not for hire” light or no light at all (girls, you know who I’m talking about) for a long period of time. Then one day they turn their light on and realize if they want to be in a committed relationship and procreate so their siblings can run, ruin or rehabilitate the earth, they have to get busy.]

Why do we want to move? Let me give you the list:

~Police, fire and ambulance sirens all parts of the day and night.
~Litter on our street.
~Homeless people.

~People in cars not stopping at Stop signs.

~Pedestrians walking against the light and giving you a look when you honk at them and want to “accidentally hit the gas pedal…whoops…and ‘now you’re dead’.”

~Keying my car.

~Lack of parking.

~No garage space except for one car.

~No yard.

~People with dogs who don’t clean up after them.

~CPS…yes, the schools are almost as bad as Kansas City public schools. (If you stay in the city you try to get you kid into a magnet school or the Latin school. Latin is a very expensive private school where your tuition is based on your yearly salary. The $20,000 ballpark for a freshman in high school is not a ballpark I want to be in even as a hot dog vendor.

~Buses not being on time…ever.


~Construction season ∞.

~Taxes, we are now the kings at 10.25%; highest in the nation. Stupid taxes like our lease tax on our minivan. Our payment will drop some $40 a month when we are outside the city. Oh, and we have the highest gas taxes in the country. Nice.

~Who’s watching my kids at the park? Predators that is…eek!

~Living in a condo where being responsible isn’t always a benefit.

~Alleys where crazy immigrants who live in the mixed use housing tower on the corner honk their horns instead of driving slow enough to be careful.

~The Boys and Girls Club of Chicago where the kids like to get into fights on the street or in our alley.

~Calling 911 about once a week so we can get a greater police presence on our block.

~Labor Ready (day laborers for those of you not familiar with them) going in at the end of our street even though most of the residents are against it but the alderman in the adjacent ward isn’t.

~This adjacent alderman liking mixed use housing = three or four homeless shelters within blocks of our condo.

~The fact that freak town central is two full blocks away at Wilson and Sheridan. There’s a police camera with a flashing blue light right in front of the McDonald’s.

~The dude who may or may not be homeless saying, “Can I ask you a question?” and me kicking myself because my first answer wasn’t, “You just did. Goodbye.”

I could go on but you get it.

Ode To The Minivan

Oh large grey whale
I fought your magnetic pull and you mocked me
I fought the urge, but to no avail
The change was strange, like the smell of pee

I've come to love you, so big and strong
Your movies keep my kids entertained
My kids not screaming helps me zoom along
And I don’t end up feeling drained

Abused, dirty and nicked
You start and stop all day long
Sometimes low on gas you do predict
But I’m not waiting for something to go wrong

Honda you’re the one
But what will I do when you lease is done?

Have a good one and don't forget to vote! In Chicago we all try to vote twice and think that's how we'll get the 2016 Summer Olympics! ;-)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kids update, Is it Meth??; Target, The Danger Game, Baby Stock Fund, Costco, Music class, The Power of 4, Seaworld, and The Honey Bear

Hello everyone,

I know it’s been a long time and my apologies. I saw some of you at the BlackBerry WES conference in Orlando a couple weeks back and felt bad that I haven’t written but it was good because it had me wanting to get back at it.

The kids are getting bigger every day and now we have full mobility of the twins. That probably sounds bad like they were disabled and are now healed (“Praise Jesus!”) but what it means is that the NBA playoffs take on a whole different meaning. Thanks to Sportscenter I can now improve my parenting skills. (Yes, men this is a justification for watching all the highlights you need and pass it off as continuing education.) I find myself watching NBA highlights of the Celtics vs. Lakers to see what the latest scheme is for a two-on-three zone. One of the times my heart skips a beat is when we are at the park and Emily needs to go to the bathroom so Terri takes her, I now have Jordan going one way and Grace the other. “Gracie, come back here, let’s go down this slide,” is my plea while trying to sound confident. She, of course, knows what’s going on and just to tease me looks back and smiles, then turns and scoots across the playground. “Ugh!”

When did they get so damn fast?! I will head into the kitchen to get a bottle and only steps behind me is Grace (pat-pat-pat-pat) like a cheetah powered pentameter. Jordan reminds me of Dash from The Incredibles with his “march-run” where the legs are going up and down like pistons in an engine. That and most times he’s all excited when running with a big smile on his face. Did God plan kids for the 21st century, I think so? Think about it, we are more connected then ever to the office, friends and family, although virtually, and I never have time to work out so my “gym time” consists of running, free weights, bench press, squats, tennis, and bowling…almost daily. (Chasing them, lifting, playing “up-and-down” with Jordan, picking them up from crying or eating, and general crankiness, and then, of course, there’s the Wii.) On weekends we are constantly moving and Sunday, after spending the morning at the zoo everyone ended up taking a nap, including me on the floor downstairs and Terri with Emily up in her little twin bed.

Emily is such a cute little girl that I forget she’s just three and with the twins around I keep thinking she knows more than she does. Terri says I don’t have the patience for her as much as them and she’s probably right. I guess I expect more from her and I feel horrible that she doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt from me. She’s almost completely able to go to the bathroom all by herself and can get the DVD’s or some items out of fridge on her own. Next comes the Daddy B & R training course (Beer and Remote for those of you playing at home). “Can you get daddy a beer? And don’t forget the opener in the center drawer.”

Grace is our “superstar” and “little devil” right now. You can tell her to go get a book and she’ll say “bk” then, sometimes shake her head ‘yes’, and head to the bookshelf. Just today she said “I did it,” according to Terri and I figure we’ll have her doing math by two and AP courses in 2010. If you give Grace something to put in the garbage then she’ll go into the kitchen and throw it away, and if you ask her to go get bunny, her favorite bedtime friend, she’ll go into the bedroom and grab bunny; coming back with a great big smile! She’s a little devil because she’ll crawl up on the couch and want to look over the railing to the lower floor. That and the other day she tried to crawl under Pavlina’s car in the driveway out back. Anything she can and wants to get into she will try to.

Jordan is my “mini-me” since he just lights up when he sees me. Since I’ve been getting the cold shoulder treatment from Emily when Terri’s around it’s quite refreshing. Terri thinks it’s a little too much and he does it more then Emily ever did, well, what can I say, we testosterone cavemen have to stick together when it comes to being surrounded by women. They even dressed up the poor boy in a dress one day while I was at work. What’s up with that?! Jordan is also such a boy compared to the other two in that he loves to pound stuff, open and close cabinets and throw stuff. We bought him some cars and trucks at Target just so he could have his own “things” to throw around. On the speaking front the poor boy wants to talk as much as his next breath but can’t and gets very frustrated.

Is it Meth??

[On a side note: Are kids legal methamphetamine addicts? The symptoms of someone who takes meth in large doses are: irritability, aggressive behavior, anxiety, excitement, auditory hallucinations, and paranoia along with delusions and psychosis. Okay, this is my son lately…OMG! Pick him up and he wants down, go to change his diapers and after three seconds he’s kicking, and in a textbook wrestling move he goes from his back to crawling position in 1.5 seconds. Boundless energy then all of sudden they’re asleep. What about the times when the kids are in your arms and they must be thinking, “What’s that over there? (Pointing) Over there!? The bright screen thing that you sit down at and don’t want me to touch. Or down there, what’s that? Did someone just say something? Who’s that? I want to touch that?” Its meth or they are acting like Paris or Britney with paparazzi around.]


Speaking of Target we recently became “that family” on a visit there. Let me paint the picture for you: It’s Sunday afternoon, the circular for the week just came out and every type of family you can imagine converges on one of the three Target’s on the north side of Chicago. We just happened to pick the Elston location which is the busiest. The kids extent of play time at this point if the day is going to Target…there’s a park in the near future but right now it’s cart riding in the retail Olympics. Emily decided to have a breakdown over her new shoes in the parking lot that carried on in to the entrance…the middle of the entrance…then over by the circular. Then literally three minutes later she was happy as a clam walking through the clothing racks while looking/hiding from me. Later Grace wanted up then down on the floor so she could discover what this place was like from 24 inches. What she was about to discover is that shopping carts hurt little legs and if daddy walks too far away from Jordan then a shriek that says, “You’re leaving me?! How can you leave me?? I’m your cute little boy, your ‘mini-me’. What in the world would have you want to do that?”

So, I pick up Grace and she starts fighting me and trying to get out of my grip. Then in the basket she goes and the crocodile tears come and I can see the ‘virtual breakdown map’ (which mirrors that of your local TV weatherman. It’s the one that has the curved line with the pointed triangles coming right toward your geographic location. It’s coming and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.) and in moments I’m hit by the QB: Quadruple Breakdown: Œ Full tears,  Facial expressions of total pain, Ž Hands-in-the-air ‘pick me up now damn it!’  Kicking and motions to get out of the basket.

This is where I want to make a PA announcement: “This is Chris Coughlin, father of three kids in isle 37, who are tired and in need of food and open spaces in which to run. Make a hole people! You can take your 10 items or less rule and put it where the sun don’t shine ‘cause I’m on a mission to get out of the store before I’m fitted for a straight jacket.” It’s such a joy to be ‘that parent’…God help me if I ever have to go through it again. We picked up so many extra toys and towels/beach equipment on the way through the store to make the kids happy that we left behind an entire full basket of stuff that we ‘decided not to buy’ (insert smile to the minimum wage clerk here while I’m experiencing dual emotions of embarrassment and ‘I don’t really care what you think because I need to get to my minivan’)

One last Target anecdote: We were at this same Target about a month ago and spent an hour-and-a-half inside during which Emily asked to go to the bathroom six times (‘no s*#t!’…pun intended) and she pooped twice. We also traversed the store three times probably racked up 300+ yards in ‘carting’ (to bad I didn’t pick myself in the parent fantasy league for carting that week). On a clear day in May we could have been more efficient with oxygen tanks while trying to summit Everest. (Either way you leave behind a lot of crap…)

The Danger Game

Where did this come from? I remember doing this but I was older and it involved rolling apples out on our busy street into traffic, snowballs at cars, or bottle rocket fights with my crazy brother who would hold them as the rocket started. One of our danger games is during diaper changing time in the girl’s bedroom. One by one or all at the same time they’ll get on Emily’s bed and stand up and Emily will jump while the other two just think it’s funny. It’s so hard not to laugh and be firm. Kids daddy thinks you’re really funny but right now needs to show you the serious face which none of you will take seriously…but thanks for playing. It’s so ironic that Jordan will catch his hand in one of the drawers in the kitchen, scream bloody murder and learn his lesson but when it comes to the bed it’s the trampoline without a memory. Yesterday I was thinking, ‘well you can cry but I don’t feel too sorry for you because I’ve said 19 times in the last five minutes to sit down.’

The other things they like to do, especially the twins, is play with the electrical plugs, the lamp on the table and Grace will climb a chair anywhere even if it’s not stable. Like those people who will climb a mountain just because it’s there is the same thought process she has. At the zoo yesterday she was trying to climb a chair at a table of the family next to us. I figure it’s the child version of an adult sitting down at your table unannounced at Applebee’s and grabbing a wing and dipping it in the blue cheese. “Hi. How are you?” J This is where taking things a day at a time is nice as I don’t want to think about snowballs, apples, or dating at this time.

Baby stock: SToRK

I think someone at Bear Stearns needs to come up with a new fund for those of us who are parents and to get out of the hole they’ve dug with the mortgage crisis. Baby Stock to the rescue! STRK (Affectionately known as “Stork”) for short the stock will consist of the performance of these companies: Costco, P&G, Kimberly Clark, Honda, Toyota, Target, Baby Gap, Carter's, Knob Creek, Robert Mondavi, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Direct TV, and Nintendo.

Now follow my thinking here: You’re pregnant with your first, second…or eighth child. Where do you go to stock up? Costco, of course to buy diapers and wipes made by P&G and Kimberly Clark; see where I’m going? Now you need a minivan and the top two choices out there are Honda and Toyota. After the little wonder comes into your world and you’ve had two hours of sleep you need to make your next run to Target, Baby Gap or Carter’s for supplies and clothes so the kid isn’t stuck in the hospital issued toga or Johnny, Jimmy, Jenny, Jessica, Jeb-a-dia, Jackson, Juanita, or Junior’s clothes (yes, eight if you were counting at home and my little tribute to the Dugger family… Baby Gap and Carter’s has the latest clothes and the deals to match.

Well now you’re both tired from taking care of the one or the many and you’re thinking: I need a drink, a couch, and a clicker. Grab the Knob Creek (Fortune Brands) bourbon from the liquor storage area (we don’t have a cabinet because 1. We’d look like bad parents. 2. It’s another thing to clean prior to showings. 3. Little people love to put finger prints on things like that) and a little diet coke with lime or a glass of wine from Robert Mondavi. Turn on Comcast and Direct TV then when you’ve had enough start up the Wii.

So, let’s do the math here. The stocks are below and here’s their numbers over the past year. Note that the average of all except Nintendo is a 22.35% return rate over the last year. Not bad when we’re paying $4.00+ for gas and gold is over $900 an ounce.

Over the past year:
Costco: +37%
P&G: +7%
Kimberly Clark: +2.4%
Honda: +18%
Toyota: +8.7%
Target: +10.9%
Gap: +19%
Carters: +15%
Fortune Brands: +11.3% (The fine owners of Knob Creek bourbon…my favorite stock of the group)
Constellation Brds +53.0% (Mondavi Wines)
Comcast: +35%
Direct TV: +51%
Nintendo: +475%


We literally go to Costco every Saturday morning after our Music Together class. We buy two cartons of blueberries, two blackberries, a large container of strawberries, one of cherries, one of grapes, and raspberries if they have them. Its pounds of fruit and the little monkeys go through it every week. The timing and savings are very important here. Whereas 10 years ago I was asleep after a night out partying and the closest consistent fruit consumption I had was a cherry at the bar while waiting for my drink, I am now up at 6:00 am—or earlier—on Saturday morning with the little people eating and getting ready for music class. Timing is critical since we talked to Costco managers a couple times after missing the pallet of blueberries a couple weeks in a row; yes, this can ruin a weekend. We now get there at 9:45 a.m. and head straight back to the fruit section. Once again, 10 years ago I was looking for a good conversation with friends or a woman I am now talking to store managers in order to best position myself for Baby Satisfaction (BS…yes, it’s all BS now)…oh my how things have changed! Here’s the other thing, we buy our weekly groceries at Whole Foods and they are known for their organics and high prices. Blueberries there in the little 1” x 4” x 4” box are $3.99-$4.99 and when we buy the blueberry supertanker (3.5” x 4” x 8”) from Costco it’s only $5.99. Don’t even get me started about the raspberries made out of gold at Whole Foods! I think they need to start listing the price by ounces so that I can feel like I’m getting a deal.

Music Together

This is the most awesome music class I’ve ever taken part of. Every Saturday morning we go to a church in Andersonville and participate in this class meant to introduce kids to music, rhythm, singing and dancing. (Lord knows I don’t need them just learning the “white man’s overbite” and embarrassing themselves on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’) The class starts with the “Hello everyone” song where we welcome all the kids by name, the mommy’s and daddy’s, and Julie, our teacher. We then start singing songs and do some dancing to CD’s and making rhythms ourselves by clapping or sounds. The kids have completely grown up in the class and Emily, who’s still pretty shy around groups, will walk up to Julie the teacher or to the other side of the room and then run to Terri or I. Since the kids are free to do whatever they want and they are not in chairs there is a lot of “getting up to do my thing” moments which allows them to have fun and get some energy out. Grace will walk out in the middle of the circle and just stand there and watch Julie. Completely oblivious to what’s going on around her.

My favorite two times during the class are during the “Let’s all play with instruments” part and when it’s time to “blow out the light”. The instruments part is when Julie brings out a big bin of instruments for the kids to take and play with while music is playing in the background. Bells, drums, clappers, chimes and sticks are all a part of this box. Then it’s time to “Blow out the light.” This is when we get to lay down and close our eyes after one of the lights is “blown out” …it lasts all of 11 seconds and then this one bratty kid is always the first to say, “WAKE UP,” without even giving us adults a moment to enjoy the moments of peace. I want to say to her, “One minute, that’s all I ask. Please God, I just want to sleep in and I don’t get to anymore. Do you understand that? No, you don’t, you’re a kid and sleeping in for me is reserved as a rare treat like a truffle on my pillow at some business conference in Houston.” I’m just afraid that I’ll snap one day and do this and all the parents will look at me like I’m crazy and call Lakeview Hospital for the insane. “Mr. Coughlin, your jacket is waiting. Please come with us and it’s not a good idea to resist.”

The Power of Four

I’ve noticed how “fours” are showing up in my life lately. The obvious being the outrageous price of gas but then it got me thinking: Four other people in my immediate family, $4.69 gas and I'm not proud that we have the highest prices in the nation! One station that is notorious for having the highest prices in the city has their full service at $4.97, $4.98, and $4.99. Pretty soon I'll be able to chill in my car and tell the dude in the little white cap that I've decided to revisit my childhood when we got Full Serve. "Fill it up sonny.” Of course then I was 10 and gas was $.50 a gallon. It takes me four hours a day to commute to and from my office if I’m taking the train.

I use 409 more than ever thanks to the house selling process, it’s forty miles from my house to my office, the number of kids I’ll have if I don’t use protection: four.


Back in February Terri had to attend a trade show in Orlando and since she was gone for 10 days we decided that it was a good opportunity for us to take Emily to Disneyworld and Seaworld. The twins stayed with Pavlina for the weekend and we thought it would give Emily a break from them so she could just be paid attention to by mommy and daddy. Flying down I think I was more anxious for her now that she's older and more aware. I was talking her through the take off and landing and making it fun like I enjoy it so she wouldn't be scared. She said, "Going to see mommy," countless times on the way to down and had one little accident on the plane but the timing was great because we were at a stopover in Nashville.

Terri and I were thinking that after each day we’d have some time to hang out and catch up, just the two of us but Emily was like the Energizer Bunny going non-stop each day. We did the Seaworld-Disneyworld-Seaworld again trip and I can’t tell you how much we loved Seaworld over Disneyworld. Disney was packed, and it seemed like you had to walk a long ways to get to the next ride compared to Seaworld, and they had all the animals that Emily was excited about. We saw the dolphin show twice and Emily loved every minute of it. Disneyworld seemed like a convention of fat people. I was amazed at all of them just roaming around and riding the rides. “Excuse me sir, you can’t go on this ride because the 1,500 donuts you’ve consumed over the last year are blocking your ass’s ability to get into the seat. Will you kindly step to the side to let others through?”

There was one ride Emily and I went on, flying Dumbo or something like that, where we waited in line for 25 minutes and we are ready to get on next when Emily says, ‘I have to go pee-pee,’ Are you kidding me?!? I go over and tell the attendant that Emily needs to go to the bathroom and can we come back in. Luckily she said this happens a lot and 10 minutes later we were back to the front of the line ready to go. Thank God for the people at Disney thinking this one through.

I can see us going back once more when the kids are older but with a family of five I don’t know if we’ll be going before the kids are 10 or at an age when they can appreciate it. At today’s rates flights would run around $2,500 round trip and then there’s $200+ a night for the hotel, $600-$1,000 for food plus rental car costs and fuel.

Emily experienced petting a stingray by having me hold a little fish between my fingers on the surface of the pool they were in. They’d come over my hand and suck up the fish and once or twice scared the hell out of me because of the sucking sensation on my hand. I was afraid I was going to end up like the Crock Hunter guy; I can see it now, Tourist Killed by Feeding Stingray, now on (Thanks to CNN’s latest technology you can put that headline on a t-shirt…no kidding. Go to their web site and check it out. My kids would be at my funeral all dressed in white t-shirts: Tourist Killed by Feeding Stingray. Jordan would have to tell observers, “Yeah, that was my dad.”

Later on we had the chance to do one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen: Dolphin feeding. They’d come right up to you and make their chirping sounds as Em’ threw fish into their mouths! If you haven’t done it with your kids you have to make it one of stops in Orlando.

The Honey Bear

One night during the trip Emily was coughing a lot and having trouble getting to sleep. We didn’t have any medicine with us and after seeking advice a couple years ago from our doctor he said honey is just as effective as medicine. The issue was that we didn’t have a car. So, at 1:45 am I called downstairs to the front desk and told them I needed a cab. 15 minutes later I’m in shorts, t-shirt and glasses with disheveled hair looking just a couple steps better off than a homeless guy with a shopping cart. I tell the cabby I need to go to the nearest Walgreen’s and explain the situation. He understands but there’s a problem, he doesn’t know where that is and tries to check his GPS. The area is “new” on the map and obviously he didn’t have a Navteq update. After making a call he realizes there’s a new one not far from the hotel so we head off in that direction. When he gets there I ask him to wait for me and him as I don’t have any place to go and here’s a look at my IL drivers license. So, I run inside but after five minutes of searching I can’t find anything close to honey (they should have a ‘honey bear’ section or put it with the medicine!) I ask the night clerk and she takes me right to the little shelf, a 4”x 6”x 6” square area that holds five honey bears. I get back in the cab and we head back to the hotel. When I get back to the room at almost 2:30 am Emily is sound asleep and I’ve just purchased the most expensive honey bear in my life.

$29.96: $28 cab ride + $1.96 for the actual bear. Believe me that sucker wasn’t being left behind in the room and was in my backpack on the plane. He lived out his days in Chicago and was buried in the recycle bin after his life was used up.