Sunday, July 31, 2005

Kid Stuff

I took the kids to Total Wine on Friday to get a 12 pack of Newcastle (for me not them). Somehow they were completely out of Newcastle, so I stood w/ them dumbfounded in the walk-in cooler looking at other kinds of beer. I finally settled on Yeungling. While we were waiting in line, Desmond announces that when he's older he's going to drink Newcastle and not Yeungling. The cashier agreed w/ him that Yeungling was cheap stuff and he needed the good stuff from across the pond. The guy in front of me buying 5 boxes of wine just nodded his head. There have been few times where I've been prouder to be his father. Until last night when we sat down for dinner, I opened one of those Yeunglings and he told me that when he was older I would have to buy the kind of beer he likes b/c he didn't want to have to go out and buy beer while he was watching the race. I tried to explain to him that you needed to buy your beer before the race starts, so you don't have to miss any of it. That's the kind of important fatherly advice I have to offer him.

In the interest of equal time, Izabella is doing well. She'll be 1 year old in a few weeks. You would think that her older brother would be the agitator in their relationship, but she loves to mess w/ him (pulling hair, pinching, trying to climb on him while he's on the couch). Desmond will push her down sometimes, but I think she'll end up tormenting him more in the long run. We usually tell Desmond that she's not old enough to understand things like he does, but I'm pretty sure she knows what she's doing when it comes to getting on his nerves.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tour de France

To me the most impressive part of the Tour de France wasn't Lance Armstrong's 7th consecutive victory. It was Dave Reich's extensive knowledge of all things Tour related. Even before the race started, he was talking about how excited he was about the Tour and hoping Ivan Basso would finally beat Sir Lance. I watched the race a couple of evenings w/ Dave. Twice he came over and explained things like the peloton to me. He even knew what all the jerseys meant. Yellow = leader = Lance, that's all I knew. Apparently, there's a lot more to it like sprint champs and the king of the mountains. The one time we went out to Westerwood Tavern to watch it, some guy changed the channel and Dave had to set him straight about what was being shown at our end of the bar. Hands down the best part was the devil. He positioned himself perfectly so the riders were going slowly uphill when they came by him and he could run beside them for a while. The announcers had it right when they said "You don't want the Prince of Darkness running beside you." That's not only a cycling lesson. That's a life lesson.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Greatest Smith Family Vacation Ever (Distance traveled Category)

We went to the Barlow family reunion in Brockport, NY this past weekend. When we left on Thursday, the van had 41361 miles on it. When we came back on Monday, it was up to 42957. Let's get to the lights both high and low.

Thursday - Greensboro to Winchester, VA
Desmond had school so we didn't leave until 1:30. We took 220N to Roanoke and then got on I-81. The ride wasn't too bad. We borrowed a portable dvd player and that kept him content most of the time. We stayed at the Travelodge and ate at the Texas Steakhouse next door. The only way we were going to get the kids to bed was to turn the lights and tv off for their bedtime. We were all asleep by 9:30. Not too bad.

Friday - Winchester, VA to Rochester, NY
We all got a good night's sleep, ate the free continental breakfast and were ready to go by 9:30. Unfortunately, the cooler we packed leaked all the water out during the night and soaked my Miller High Life hat, my phone, Maria's carton of cigarettes, some books, and the carpet in the car b/w the 2 front seats. Everything survived and we were back on I-81 before 10. The dvd player in an unrelated incident stopped working. That meant Desmond wanted input into the stereo choices. His favorite band used to be KISS, but he's almost 4 now so his musical tastes have evolved and his new favorite band is Motley Crue. We took I-81 to highway 15 around Harrisburg, PA. I really like the towns on the Susquehanna b/c we lived in one when I was a youngster. Too bad this road was 2 lanes a lot of the way and made traveling very slow. We were supposed to drop the kids off w/ my parents in Brockport about 4 and pick my brother up at the airport in Buffalo around 5. When we stopped for lunch around 1:30, I realized that wasn't going to happen. In fact when I called my mom at the hotel around 4, we were still in Pennsylvania. We finally pulled into my cousin Duane's house for the 5 o'clock pizza at 7:30. My brother, Kevin, got us a deal on a room at the Homewood Suites in Rochester, but he needed to be the one who checked us in. He got there not long after we did and after playing frisbee w/ Desmond we headed back that way. I think we checked in around 9:30. Izabella went to sleep and I had to stay w/ Desmond on the pullout couch. Maria and Kevin drank Labatts in Kevin's room. She had been ready to kill me since about noon.

Saturday - The reunion
The only thing we had to do was be at the firehouse by 5 for the dinner. We had talked about going to the children's museum, but Maria slept in then we walked to eat lunch at the Cracker Barrel and when we came back it was nap time. However, the only person who napped was Maria. When we loaded up to go to dinner, both kids fell asleep almost immediately in the car. After the dinner, we went out to my cousin Becky's 800 acre farm for a hay ride. Her husband, Tom, gave us the low down on the apple trees, squash plants, alfalfa plants, and migrant worker housing. It was cool and the kids really liked it. Izabella was very tired towards the end (it was like 9:30 but still light out), but we got back to the hotel around 10 and she and Desmond (this time in the king size bed) both went to bed in short order. Maria and I sat up drinking Canadian beer.

Sunday - Rochester, NY to Morgantown, WV
We went to the family breakfast before we left, but Kevin had gone out the night before and wasn't in a getting ready to go mood. We didn't get out there until like 11:30 and didn't hit the road for home until 12:30. We took a different route home. I-90 west to I-79 south to I-77 south back into NC. I was talking about driving all the way home but Maria gave me the look and the kids started a screaming chorus somewhere in Pennsylvania, so we stayed at the Springhill Suites in Morgantown, WV. In a desperate attempt to keep our family functioning as a cohesive unit, I forced everyone to watch the ABC Family channel's original movie Pizza My Heart. I called it the Real Romeo and Juliet b/c it was about 2 competing family pizza places w/ a forbidden love threatening to tear both families apart. The end was a little different b/c the kids got married, the 2 pizza parlors merged to form a super business, and nobody died.

Monday - Morgantown, WV to Greensboro, NC
We left about 11:30 after letting Desmond run around on the play place at Burger King. The dvd player was working a lot better, and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed to improve everybody's mood. We got home a little before 6, and I immediately started pounding beers. It's good to be home.

Random Thoughts
-I can't believe I haven't seen the Modern Marvels for the Erie Canal. I saw the canal for the 1st time and maybe it's too old to be a "Modern" marvel, but it was pretty cool.

-The best name for a strip club was Southern "X"-posure in Princeton, WV.

-Every town has the same stuff except for grocery stores. Kroger has a pretty wide base, but I don't understand why there isn't a nationwide grocery store. Maria and I discussed this and think it has something to do w/ distribution centers for things like meat and produce.

-The reunion next year is in Ohio, and I think Maria is already coming up w/ excuses to not go. Keeping kids in a car for that long isn't a great way to feel warm family togetherness.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Too Damn Humid

I don't believe in that heat index and wind chill nonsense (it's 80 and humid or it's 40 w/ a stiff wind but that doesn't mean it's a different temperature), but the humidity is ridiculous here. I went out to the garage yesterday around 5:30 and it started raining. The sun was still shining and I didn't see any gray clouds, but the rain was coming down pretty hard. It reminded me of Florida in the summer. I know I'm not supposed to fall for that climate change pseudo-science, but I think that's the power company talking trying to get you to turn your air conditioning down. I'm looking forward to the family vacation in New York.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Maria's Birthday

Yesterday was Maria's birthday. I managed to get her what she asked for (shoes). She had to email me a link to the shoes, but I was the one who took the 45 seconds to complete the transaction. It was a lot better than what the kids gave her (a block of cheese), and that was the present that I dreamed up all on my own. I probably had food on my mind b/c we were going to Bistro Sofia for dinner. They changed the menu on Thursday, so I had to scramble a little bit and ended up getting one of the specials, grilled grouper on a fried black bean and pineapple cake. Maria got the crabcakes and they were ridiculously good. The grouper was pretty good although the black bean and pineapple stuff was the best part. I was crushed that the dessert menu didn't have the butterscotch and vanilla pudding parfait, caramel rice Krispy treat still on it. I picked the next best thing and told them to put some ginger ale in it.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Tomato Bandit

I have 3 tomato plants up against the fence in my backyard. I actually ate the 1st tomato off of them on Monday (I had to throw one away on Sunday). They were looking pretty plentiful yesterday, but definitely green. Today I was back there and every single tomato green and redish was gone. No matter what the size, the greenies that I saw just yesterday had all disappeared. I blame society.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Jail for some, tv for others

I'm not feeling real sorry for Bernie Ebbers. Despite cries that the sentence is too harsh for an old man, I can't muster up too much sympathy. However compared to Lou Holtz I think Ebbers got the shaft. Not surprisingly South Carolina football is hit w/ NCAA probation shortly after ESPN's newest college football commentator leaves. Since his 3 previous employers (Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Arkansas) also received NCAA sanctions for violations during his tenure (and all sanctions were handed down after Holtz left) that makes his last NCAA violation free job the New York Jets. I'd get all outraged and try and get ESPN to fire him, but they'd just replace him w/ Jackie Sherrill.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Grasshoppers game

We went to the Grasshoppers game on Sunday. It was another game in the fabulous kids club package. I discovered a new area to watch the game. Below the playground where we spend most of our time, there is a smoking section. It's on the right field line and butts up against the visiting team's bullpen. You can see everything and it's right on top of the field. There was a dude out there w/ cornrows and 4 gold teeth giving the Sandgnats right fielder hell. No cursing, but good things like "it's time to retire if you can't hit this pitcher." A grasshoppers employee came out there and told him to cool it, so I pointed out to the employee that this Randy Moss look-a-like was helping the team more than he was and maybe he should give him the offical Grasshoppers polo shirt he was wearing. Later on the cops were spending some quality time talking to him. When they came back up the ramp, I asked them what he was doing and made the one hand talking motion. The cop nodded and I asked if that was against the law. About 10 seconds later Maria came back from putting the smoking section to use and told me Randy Moss wanted the cops to press charges b/c his tormentee had cursed at him. So let me apologize to those 2 police officers in this forum. Sorry for thinking you were trying to silence the people. Now can you take the boot off my car?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

N through the out door

I went to the N club for the first (and hopefully last) time last night. It was Maria's friend's birthday, so it was up to the girls what to do. I violated 2 of the rules to get in the club (I was wearing a t-shirt and had on sandals) and since like 4 of the rules had to do w/ shoes I can only guess it was my whiteness that got me in. I think the last time I paid a $10 cover to get in someplace it either had naked women or Sonic Youth there. This place had neither. It did have plenty of what I would call guidos, but since it's North Carolina I guess you call them regulars. I guess I shouldn't complain since it wasn't my birthday, but I did plenty of not complaining last night. When it's my birthday, I'm sitting on the couch and watching football. I'll charge you $5 to get in to make it feel like you're having a good time.

Engine Back Up

I took my lawnmower pull cord mechanism to the Ace Hardware on Market St. I really just wanted the part to fix it, but I ended up leaving it there and they fixed it. $13 in parts and $15 in labor. I hate paying people to do stuff I can do myself, but I didn't actually know what needed to be replaced (I did but I was looking for a smaller part on a larger component and couldn't find it). I put the mower back together and even discovered that the screwdriver that holds the sockets is much handier than the ratchet piece when putting this thing together. I mowed through on tank of gas, and when I started round 2 of the lawn the mower wouldn't start. It did the same thing it was doing last week. No tension when you pull the cord. Needless to say I was irritated. They replaced the pull cord (unnecessary), the wheel that holds the cord (unnecessary), and the piece that actually creates the tension to start the mower (what was actually broken). The guy explained all this to me when I picked it up, so when I took it apart I could see the bent plastic lip that stops the spinny thing that creates the tension. A few adjustments later and I got it to fire up. A $30 lesson on a $6 part, but at least I know what to do in the future.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Take Out Saves the Day

Maria's birthday is Friday and her brother's birthday was yesterday, so her parents took us all out to eat last night at Macaroni Grill. Except things didn't work out just right. Desmond went on one of his patented tirades starting at about 4:30. Evidently, he knows a guy who will let you trade in your dad for a new dad. I'm a little skeptical, but he keeps threatening me w/ this measure. After an hour plus of screaming and yelling, we decided that I would stay home w/ him so everybody else could enjoy their meal. I made sure to point out to him that he wasn't going out to eat b/c of his behavior. Not b/c the child psychologists say to clearly identify why you are punishing the child, but b/c I am a mean m@+#$%!*&?$%. We spent some quality father son time threatening each other. I caved to his demand for orange juice. He then spilled it all over the counter and floor. I caved a 2nd time (this time I put it in the right cup), and only a little spilled on the floor after I wrestled it away from him when he said he would pour it all over the floor. Eventually, things calmed down. His problem, as usual, was that he didn't nap and was too tired to be interacting w/ other human beings. I convinced him that it was bed time at 7:00 (he can't tell time). I poured him another glass of orange juice, and it spilled all over the floor when I mishandled the handoff. I was only laughing on the inside b/c I wanted him to stay calm and go to bed, but it seemed appropriate that more oj would have to be shed before he'd get to bed. Shortly thereafter Maria came home w/ pasta milano, ceasar salad, and chocolate cake for me. I think I fell asleep at like 9:30. I suppose this is just one of the many ways you could define a "wild" Friday night.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

More Broken Stuff

I have the lawnmower on the road to recovery, but the dryer stopped creating heat last night. You can turn clothes in there for a pretty long time w/o heat and they still won't be dry. Every railing, shower rod, hook, and rack in the house has wet clothes hanging on it. On the bright side, I have an excuse to go to the Wash Pub soon.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Broken Lawn Mower

I mowed the back on Saturday, and about half the front on Monday, but when I tried to finish the lawn today the mower wouldn't cooperate. The cord you pull to start it didn't have any tension to do whatever it is it does that starts the mower. I took it apart and saw a piece broken off, but I stripped the screw and couldn't get it down to its core elements. I still think I can make it faster and stronger, but I not w/o the help of an authorized Briggs and Stratton repair center.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Unlike this picture I don't sit eight miles high at the Guilford football games (literally or figuratively), but I do spend a lot of time looking at the trees around the field. Even w/o all these colors, it still looks really cool.  Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 04, 2005

The One Person Who Hates a Parade

I spent as much time driving to and from the parade downtown as I did at the actual parade. After staying up late to go to the fireworks, Desmond was so tired he was lying down on the carpet in front of the Credit Union on Greene St. Nothing in the parade was of any interest to him except the kids on the other side of the street who had balloons. I agreed to take him home and he was happy until I told him we weren't going to watch any television. That renewed his interest in old Chevys and local politicians. Still, we left. Let's just say at this point I looking forward to my dependents celebrating their independence.

Smith Family Bar-b-que

Originally, Maria wanted to have people over the weekend of her birthday (July 15th so you still have time to get her something nice, but not too nice that you show me up). For some reasons those plans got changed and this past Saturday night was the actual party. We had a good crowd who I won't out for fear that they were violating their parole. Laurie has an actual photo of me on the grill (my hair is in a bun a la Little House on the prairie, I didn't cut it), but I'm not saying if she was there or not. Things actually went really well. Desmond was up way too late running around outside. We tried to get him to bring people beers, but after a while he figured out that it was work and he didn't want anything to do w/ it. Eventually he fell asleep on the couch watching tv. I put him in bed and even put a Pull Up on him, but he was too tired to do anything but go back to sleep. We mostly stayed outside, but the rain delayed race was too much for me to pass up when it got down to just the hardcore people who weren't leaving until Sunday morning. I did go too far by letting Fun House reach the last song which should only be played if you are washing dishes and need to get out a particularly stubborn stain. Maria saved the day (and saved face for Iggy) by putting on Lust For Life. I knew it was safe for me to go to bed at that point. I also figured anybody still at the house at that point would be there when I got up w/ the kids at 7:30. Who says I'm a bad host?

Tiger Bear Wolf at Corndale house

I was skeptical about the Tiger Bear Wolf show at the Tiger Bear Wolf House. I refrained from drinking on Friday b/c I figured the cops would come break this thing up and I don't need a DWI. Dave and I brought a 6 pack of Icehouse tall boys to take over there (the perfect amount of beer for 2 people to split over a couple of hours and still be ok to drive). When we parked in the Kerr Drugs parking lot, there were plenty of people milling around outside but it wasn't very loud. You could sort of hear a band playing inside, but it wasn't anything the Friday night traffic couldn't drown out. When we made it inside, they had the basement covered in sound proofing foam which explained why you couldn't hear the rock down the block. I know it wasn't the first show down there and I think they practice there, but these guys have it going on. No problems w/ people, a keg of beer (which when dry was supplemented w/ 2 cases of the beast), no cops, no angry neighbors, ample parking, a clean bathroom, and rock and roll. I wanted to take the set list to report to you, but they wrote it on a chalkboard. I asked about borrowing the chalkboard so I could write it down and despite TBW agreeing to it, it looked like it was bolted to the wall so I didn't want to start wrecking their house. I don't think they are playing around here any time soon, but their tour might be coming to your town (assuming your town isn't Greensboro) and if it is I'll be sending you an email to go check it out. If it isn't send them an email, get them to play in your house, and go to Home Depot and buy a truck full of sound proofing foam. You won't regret it.