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Random Thoughts for Random People

More Cute Kid Stories

Melody has started talking a little.  The fun thing is what comes out of her mouth.

“No stop dede’s dink” (No, Stop, Melody’s Drink).  When chasing her brother away from her drink.  She actually hid her drink in a toy tool chest today.

“Uhhh…Don” (Up…Down).  When shining a flashlight on the ceiling, then down to the floor.

“Doahr” (Dora).  Her favorate TV show.


February 8, 2009 Posted by | Family, The Kids | Leave a comment

RIP Sparky

5/14/1999 – 10/29/2008

Greatest Dog: This last year my wife watched a reality TV show called America’s Greatest Dog.  At first I tried not to watch.  The reason I refused to watch was because, as a rule, I hate all reality TV.  Eventually, the show grew on me.  But I had to admit that they did not have America’s Greatest Dog on the show.  The reason is simple.  The owner of America’s Greatest Dog would not put their beloved pet through the stress of a reality TV show.  A dog doesn’t care about prizes.  A dog only wants to love and be loved.  With the love of a child being that much more special.  A child’s favored dog is America’s Greatest Dog.

What Happend: Sparky’s death was a shock.  We didn’t really see it coming, though he had been “sick”.  Over the past few years his liver enzyme levels have been elevated.  That means…I still have no idea what that means.  We had a $500 ultrasound (he wasn’t pregnant).  That told us that he did not have half a dozen issues, but that his liver had a bunch of lumps.  So, we had an $1,100 biopsy.  That told us it was not cancer.  The only thing left was that it was probably a genetic disease that is somewhat common in labs.  The treatment was $400 worth of antibiotics followed by $250 worth of other medications every month for the rest of his life.  Which turned out to be 28 days.

That last month he was unusually aggressive with taking food that was not his.  He wasn’t attacking other dogs, but he would take food that was right next to me.  At the same time he had stopped eating breakfast.  He also was unusually nervous.  He wouldn’t even stay on the bed.  He stayed alone a lot.  Otherwise, he was himself.  Trust me, I am making more of these abnormalities than there were.  A majority of the time, he was his normal happy self.

The morning of his last day he was seemingly his own self.  Although he was a little more whiny than usual.  I figured his arthritis was flaring up again.  He had a bath.  After the bath he was even more whiny.  I am ashamed to say that I yelled at him.  But he continued.  So I gave him a pain pill he had left over from his surgery.  After dinner I went to check on him and found he had passed.

My wife took took him to an emergency vet just in case there was anything they could do.  Of course, there was not.  The theory provided was that his failing liver threw a clot which made it’s way to his lungs.  He fell asleep with the pain pill and simply passed quietly.

Sparkinator-isms: That is enough dwelling on his end.  I want to share something of him.  He was a happy dog.

When my father died unexpectedly at the age of 55…11 days after 9/11, he was the one I turned to for comfort.  He always looked like he was smiling. 

His favorite activities were swimming and having his barrel-shaped chest rubbed, right where he had a big patch of white. 

His name came from the tip of his tail which was the only other part of him that was white.  When he wagged his tail, it looked to me like a small electrical spark travelling back and forth.  So for those who thought it was just a generic dog name like “Rex” would be wrong.

In the past few years our dogs have been fighting each other when they get overly excited.  Sparky was not one of the attackers.  But he would always try to get the attacker off the attacked.  Our own little peacemaker.

As a puppy we took him for training.  His training included agility training.  He and his sister (Peanut)  were both trained in agility.  Although Peanut was faster, Sparky was better.  As a result, it was not unusual for Sparky to be used as an example by the instructor.

Sparky was easily trained.  His tricks included Sit, Down, the previously mentioned agility tricks, Roll Over, Crawl, Put ‘Em Up, “Commercial” (Bark at the door…we don’t know why), “Look” (There is food around, go look for it), and my favorite: “Right”.  “Right” was a command for him to nod his head like he was agreeing with me.  My wife and I are continuously disagreeing with each other on her cuteness.  I say she is, she denies it.  So I would go up to Sparky and say “Mommy’s Cute, Right” and he would nod in agreement. As a result, I win the argument.  She just hasn’t conceeded yet.

One of the things I was thinking of doing when one of my kids thought a monster was in their room was to take Sparky in to the room and command him to “Look”.  He would look around trying to find the food.  Then I would say “There are no monsters in here, right” and he would nod his head in agreement.  I just never got a chance.

Sparky was half Lab and half Border Collie.  What does a Lab like to do best?  Swim.  Collie?  Herd.  When we first got Sparky we were living in Northern Virginia in Gainesville.  The house was on a lake and the fence was an electric fence.  On hot days it was not unusual for us to come home and find both dogs (Peanut and Sparky) wet from breaking the fence to go swimming in the lake.  Angel and I used to take the pups for a walk around the lake.  Peanut, being a fraidy-dog, would only get in up to her belly.  Sparky on the other hand would relish in swimming around.  In fact, on more than one of these walks he swam across the short end of the lake.  It was a small lake, but it certainly was not a pond.  This lake was also a standard stop for geese.  Sparky, being a Border Lab, would try to herd the geese…IN the lake.  He would swim out to them and try to circumnavigate them.  And this will always be my favorite memory of my favorite dog.

Final Thoughts: Sparky’s death caught me off guard and I was in tears for days.  But my life is better for having known him.  He was loved and he certainly loved me, my wife and my kids.  And he was America’s Greatest Dog.

November 2, 2008 Posted by | The Kids | 3 Comments

A Sign of the Times

We finally did it.  Out old 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan had finally pushed us too far and we opted to replace it…with a shiny 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan.

Bells, Whistles and 110,000 fewer miles may all sound good, but what about the gas?

I was actually upset that I had filled up the tank the day before we traded it in. 

We only got $1,700 for the van.  Not surprising considering the big dent I put in the back fender when Melody was a week old and I was taking her to her doctor’s appointment with a grand total of 12 hours sleep in that week (I exaggerate for effect…but not by much).  Scratches on the sides and a transmission that was leaking could not have helped our resale value.

So the $60 of gas I put in represented 3.5% of the value of the car.  When I took the new car for a test drive I noticed it was at half a tank.  That means that I was going to “lose” $30 in gas.

After completing the paperwork I go to drive the new van home only to notice they filled the tank for me.

For some reason, I felt better about spending $16,000 on a car with a full tank of gas.

August 8, 2008 Posted by | Random Thoughts, The Kids | Leave a comment

Dad’s Day

Father’s day is coming up.

I really have nothing else to say.  It is nice to have a day devoted to fathers, but in my family the “day” consists of a steak dinner…sometimes.  I also typically get a gift with the kids pictures on it which is cute and cool, but we are not talking about bells and whistles here.  Basically, just another Sunday.  And you know, that is fine. 

The idea of gift-giving is confusing to me.  On the one hand, if I want something I am likely to buy it myself.  On the other hand, I love finding a gift for someone else that they would not have gotten for themselves, or didn’t know that it existed.

For example, last Christmas I gave my mother a painting that was similar to a wall mural in her father’s house.  It was a touching gift for a woman who lost her father earlier that year.

But most of the time, gift-giving is a net-negative proposition.  If a person spends $10 on an item that they think I want.  Then the cost of the product is $10.  If I didn’t want it, then the value of the product is $0.  Net: negative $10.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain.  After all, rarely do I get a gift that I actually did not want.  And on rare occasions I get a gift that I value more than the cost.  Those are the times I hope for.  And that is what I aim for whenever I give a gift.

June 13, 2008 Posted by | The Kids | Leave a comment

Snake’s on the…

A few weeks ago, I saw a snake in my shed as I was pulling out to cut my grass.

I hate snakes.

I told my wife that if she ever wanted me to go back in to the shed we had to get someone to come out and take a look.  She called a company and they sent someone out.  He couldn’t find the snake, but from my description he said that it was a non-territorial non-poisonous black snake.

Last week, my wife found it again under my back porch (deck).

I hate snakes.

We called the same company back and they were quite rude.  We thought we were getting an annual contract with them when we paid $100 for the first visit.  But they said that was just a service fee.  So, I went out there with a bucket to try to trap it.  If I could trap it then I would pay money to have someone take it away.

I hate snakes.

I hit my target heart rate (from fear) after hunting the thing for a few minutes, then it found a hole in my house and went in to the crawl space.

I hate snakes.

I am supposed to be moving my Tivo from one room to the other, but in order to do so, I would have to run some cable under the house.  That ain’t gonna happen.

I hate snakes.

Now, I have a pathological fear of snakes, and a snake under my house.

As it turns out, when Angel found the snake, she was out back with our kids.  My 20 month old daughter grabbed a plastic baseball bat and went over to “play” with the snake.  My wife grabbed her and brought her inside so that I could go out to catch it.  Maybe I should have Melody try to catch it next time.

May 23, 2008 Posted by | The Kids | Leave a comment

My Sweet Little Puppy


He really is a huge wimp, but you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. 🙂

May 14, 2008 Posted by | Matt & Angel, The Kids | Leave a comment

I Gilk!

My bride told me this story:

Just as a pretense, Dante’s speech therapist has been working on combining two words.  That is something that every 2 year old should be able to do easily, and Dante is nearly four.  But I digress…

Dante has gotten in to the habit of finishing his own drink, then taking his sister’s drink for his own.  We are pretty sure that he has Diabetes Insipidous.  Especially after reading the notes from his Urologist, even though the urologist isn’t suggesting treatment for some reason that is not apparent from his notes.

Most of the time, Melody doesn’t mind that he takes her drink because she doesn’t drink nearly as much.  One symptom of Diabetes Insipidous is the physical need to drink a massive amount of liquid.

But this time, Melody pointed at her recently stolen drink and said “ehhh” (which is about the only thing she says).  My wife said “Melody, use your words. Say ‘My Milk'” (she also did the signs).

Dante, not Melody, said “I Gilk”.  At least he combined his words.  Angel got Melody a new drink.  Speech is more important than enforcing ownership.

May 2, 2008 Posted by | The Kids | Leave a comment

My daughter is a dog…and my son is a monkey dog-wrangler

Previously I mentioned that my daughter was caught drinking out of the toilet like one of the dogs.  Sometimes, we think that she thinks she is one of the dogs.  For example, when we feed the dogs, we have them line up and lay down at the edge of the room while we fill the dog bowls (that took a lot of training).  Melody, if she is around, will sit down in the middle of the pack.

But unlike the dogs she will not wait for her name to be called before she get up.  She will then take food out of Henoeybear’s bowl and either put it in Sparky’s bowl or give it to one of the dogs directly, usually sparky, but sometimes Honeybear, Sasha or Peanut.  I guess it just depends on who is paying her the most.

Melody also loves it when Sasha gives her kisses.  Which is something the rest of the family (two legged and four legged alike) dislike.

Dante the monkey

Meanwhile, Dante has increasingly more daring in his climbing and wrestling both with his sister and with us.  He will climb up and over my shoulder with minimal help from me (that would be the Monkey part.)  In fact, I have to grab his ankles before he goes over my shoulder or he will just plop.  Then I can drop him on to the couch or a bed with many giggles.

Then, he has started to do some fun stimming activities. 

After bath, my wife will put the towel over his head and sing the “No News” song.  This is a country song that has a lot of quick words that Angel and I figured out and are quite proud to know the words.  Well, she will sing:

She could telephone tell a friend

tell a lie ’bout where she’s been

send a pigeon send a fax

write it on a postage pack

send a signal up in smoke

tap it out in Morse code

I prefer a bad excuse

to No NEWS.

On the last line, she will pull the towel off of Dante’s head and he will just laugh and laugh and laugh…total giggle fest.

His latest is to run a lap (run around the down-stairs of the house) and then pet Sparky.  It has to be Sparky.  Not only that, but if Angel or I are near Sparky at the time, we have to pet him too.  It is a Dante Rule.  And it is really cute.

I also forgot to mention another one of my nicknames for the boy.  He is my “Giggle Fiddle”.  I can play him like an instrument.  The funny thing is, he will seek it out.  If I am in the other room playing with Mel, he will come in, lay down and take my hands and put them on his tummy.  I will ask if he wants me to “giddy giddy” and he will get really excited and do the sign that I made up for “Tickle Me”.  And then, it is on.

Kids Giggle

This is actually my ring tone.  It is both kids laughing.

May 1, 2008 Posted by | The Kids | Leave a comment

Out of Context…

There are two things that I would like to document.  First, those strange things that people say, when taken out of context, are totally cool.  For example, one of my coworkers said:

“I don’t have a parent”

He was talking about his application plug-in code.

Something else that I would like to document are those things that you never thought would come out of your mouth…especially when talking to a kid.  My favorite is from Bill Engvall:

“Don’t bite the dog.” 

Which I myself have had to use.  And then, this weekend my wife said the following to my 20 month old daughter:

“Melody, don’t drink out of the toilet.” (yuck)

May 1, 2008 Posted by | Out of Context, The Kids | Leave a comment

Gram is Retired…sorta

Last weekend I went to my mother’s retirement dinner with my brother (the wife and kids wisely stayed home).  Interestingly, she doesn’t actually retire until the end of the school year.  I tried to convince her that if she has had a retirement dinner, then logically, she should be retired.

Everybody who retired from the school system was honored at the same time.  That is cool, after all Teachers would have a difficult time without the support staff ready to help.  But it did bother my brother and I that the people who were not at the dinner still got honored.  For that matter, people who “Retired” after 5 years in the cafeteria got the same honors that my mother received.

But, that aside: What struck my brother and I most during the dinner is how many people came up to us to tell us that our mother is awesome. (their words, not mine).  I don’t think that I tell her how much she means to me and my family often enough. 

My mother has been a teacher in one room or another for 39 years (yes, she almost came back for one more to make it to 40).  At the dinner, her principal gave her speech.  My mother doesn’t like a lot of public attention.  her principal knew this so she gave my mother a job of holding the “Power Point Slides”: A picture of Clark Kent and Superman on a piece of paper which she pointed at in a powerful way.  My mother appreciated having something to hide behind. 

During her speech, the principal  mentioned all that my mother does… She has, in the past, taught kindergarden, first, third and fourth grades (I may be missing a few).  She has spent the past twenty(ish) years as a “full time librarian”.  The quotes are because she is also utilized by the administration to pick up reading classes and even a kindergarden rotation when needed.  I consider myself a “Utility Player”, not only in my past athletics, but in my present profession…someone who can jump in and help anywhere I am needed.  I think i get that ability from my mother.

She is also a prop master for the local theater group. 

She volunteers at a children’s museum in Charlottesville. 

And starting next year will be helping at the voting booths.

She enjoys her time with her grand-kids and children whenever possible.  As a matter of fact, she is taking a trip with my bride and our kids to Minnesota to visit the Mayo Clinic (Autism Research Hospital).

She goes to UVa Football and basketball games whenever possible.  Those that have attended realize that her voice can carry more power than the loudest cheerleader.

She has been to more music concerts in the past decade than my brother and I put together…including a concert by the Eagles that is the night before she flies out to meet my wife in Minnesota.  She also took me to Billy Joel last year which I enjoyed to say the least.  For that matter, she took me to a Three Dog Night concert on the lawn at JMU when I was in High School (before I knew I would be attending that distinguished institution of higher learning).  That concert is still listed among her favorites (quite a distinction…trust me) and one of my all-time favorite memories.

She also roots for the Yankees…but I won’t hold that against her.  She at least raised me as an Orioles fan.

The principal asked the current fifth grade class what they thought of Mrs. Morgan.  They kept saying things like “Nice” and “Fun”.  The principal wanted some examples and they couldn’t come up with anything.  Then, one kid leaned over and whispered “She has candy in her desk in the library.”  Just don’t tell the nurse. 😉

Her principal had said that she asked my mother’s friends for some stories to tell, but that they wouldn’t tattle.  My mother’s response was a precisely timed “good friends” just loud enough for everyone to hear.

When her principal was done, one of her oldest friends came to the stage…a semi-recently semi-retired fifth grade teacher whose name is Cookie (I’m not making that up).  My mother’s response to Cookie coming to the microphone was an equally comically timed “But I thought I had good friends!”.

Cookie spoke more about what my mother was.  I had planned on copying the speech word for word, but my mother got the paper and I never got a copy…maybe someone (I know Cookie occasionally reads this blog) can provide it in the comments.

The words that were used are accurate and yet they are inadequate.  Dependable, Passionate, Intelligent…the list goes on.  But trying to sum up my mother isn’t easy.

I didn’t get to witness my mother at school often, but I can see why she would be so revered by her peers and loved by her students.  During story time she will sit in her rocking chair and read a story with all the talent of a Hollywood voice-over expert.  Actually, in my unbiased and expert opinion (that is sarcasm) she is better than any Hollywood type (that is not sarcasm).  In the classroom she becomes an entertaining actress.  She is shy in front of groups, but in front of a class she is outgoing and commands respect and attention.

And then, there is “the look”.

My brother and I always knew we were in trouble when we got “the look” and apparently she still has it.  She was telling my brother and I a story of a child who was in the library listening to another teacher read.  He is a good kid, but was apparently getting bored.  He started to draw on his chair with his pencil and accidentally poked a hole in his seat cushion (brand new this year).  Then, he caught Mrs. Morgan’s eye.  He stopped what he was doing and paid extra special attention to  the teacher for the rest of the class.  My mother quietly took his pencil away from him.  The kid tried to leave without it…I don’t think he wanted to get “The look” again. 🙂

When all was done in regards to my mother at the retirement dinner, the master of ceremonies asked that my brother and I stand.  She mentioned that we had come from quite a distance to honor my mother (on a Thursday night).  A testament to what she means to us.  Then asked that her “Wenonah Family” stand.  These are the teachers and friends she has made in her time teaching (35 of her 39 years were spent at Wenonah Elementary School).  I like that they are referred to as her family…because they are.  My mother is blessed to have such close friends, and they are just as blessed to have my mother as a friend.

I want to conclude with something poetic or at least eloquent to show my appreciation.  But as I said, my mother is not an easy person to summarize.  How do you pay homage to a person who has touched the lives of some may children not to mention their children and even grandchildren?  How can I describe how I feel in having such a wonderful person in my life and how grateful I am to have her as my mother?  My words fail me…mostly because I don’t think there are words that are adequate.  Maybe a new word should be invented for people like my mother.  “Saint” and “Angel” are overused.  Perhaps, the word should be “My Mother”.

May 1, 2008 Posted by | Family, Random Thoughts, The Kids | Leave a comment