Posts Tagged ‘Pat’

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Trip Gifts

July 20, 2009

As John and I are joyfully anticipating a trip to King’s Island for my birthday and our anniversary this weekend, I am reminded of the many family trips we experienced growing up. The destinations my parents chose are for another post – I do not have the stamina to relive those memories right now. But regardless of where our trips took us, they always started in the same, wonderful way.

My mom instigated the tradition of trip gifts. After the car carrier was loaded and locked on top of the van and all family members were tucked into their corners of the van with pillows, snacks, and backpacks scattered around, we would bow our heads and pray for safety and quality time on the vacation. Then, Mom’s eyes would begin to gleam as she excitedly pulled out a gift for everyone in the car. We all got something special, just for being there.

Probably the best and most memorable trip gift Mom gave out was a Nintendo Game Boy for each of us kids. I cannot adequately express how much we treasured those things. Our Game Boy systems and battery packs were necessary companions on all future trips. Often, Ben and I would load the Super Mario Brothers game at the same time and race to see who could score the most points, get to the furthest level, or simply complete each level fastest.

At other times, Mom doled out gifts that were simply cool but completely unrelated to travel. I received a full manicure kit one year, and I think I still have some of the components in my makeup drawer. Often, we received books by our favorite authors or cute outfits to wear while sight-seeing. It really did not matter much what we got – we just loved the tradition!

Prior to family vacations, the three of us kids would sometimes whisper to one another, “Do you think Mom got us gifts this time?” She never once forgot.

Shannon and Ben – do you remember any other gifts that Mom gave us on trips?

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Fireworks and Action Figure Martyrs

July 3, 2009
Now I call this patriotic

Now I call this patriotic

July 4th is always a fun time for our family, because it falls right in the midst of forty-eleven family birthdays, which means we are all in a celebratory mood already. Since our home state allows small-scale fireworks, Mom always buys one of those big Wal-Mart fireworks sets. I recall getting scared out of my wits on a couple of occasions when Dad managed to sneak up and pop some of those little snaps right at my feet. Snaps are definitely the most fun Dad has on Independence Day.

You may be surprised to read that the most important and memorable tradition for our family on July 4th is actually not the fireworks. As exciting as the green smoke bombs and unpredictable fountains of sparks truly are, they do not come close to the thrill of watching Ben set up and destroy a random action figure each year. He started out with G.I. Joes that he didn’t need any longer, but as the years progressed, he moved on to bigger and better targets. My personal favorite was the year of the Incredible Hulk destruction. If my memory is correct, we had to use a shovel to remove the green mess from our driveway.

Significant planning and concentration goes into each action figure kill. Ben selects the necessary fireworks early in the evening but waits until all of the other fireworks are gone before preparing his annual masterpiece. There is often some sort of harness involved to keep the action figure steady while sparkling rockets and sprays of fire melt him away. Ben is also the director of the most intricate step of the process, which consists of lighting all of the separate wicks simultaneously. Our store of lighters gets maxed out as three to four family members assume stations and begin lighting at the count of three.

Inevitably, however, one person’s fuse is quicker to light than anyone else’s, and the moment something catches a light and begins to burn, we all desert our posts and scatter faster than roaches at the switch of a light. In reality, this setback is a benefit, because it draws out the process and allows us to take stock of the damage after each blast.

Reader, if you are beginning to suspect that we are savages with rather sadistic tendencies, please give us the benefit of the doubt. I promise we are harmless. Mom, Shannon and I can’t even watch the torture scene in The Princess Bride, which means that somehow we are able to compartmentalize this tradition and keep it from influencing any other part of our lives or time of year.

At the risk of turning this post into a glorified photo album, I will post some photos from one of our more memorable Independence Day Debacles Celebrations. I really cannot help myself. Enjoy!

Action Figure Setup

Its going to be a bad day for this green beret.

It's going to be a bad day for this green beret.

The bike is in for it just as much as the army guy. Notice the thoughtful placement of all of the fireworks.

The bike is in for it just as much as the army guy. Notice the thoughtful placement of all of the fireworks.

Bombs away! We really hoped this guy would fly up high, then land conveniently close by so that we could see the effects of his firy trip.

Bombs away! We really hoped this guy would fly up high, then land conveniently close by so that we could see the effects of his firy trip.

I am reasonably certain that there could not be any more fireworks attached to this guy.

I am reasonably certain that there could not be any more fireworks attached to this guy.

The duct tape you see in this photo stretched all the way up to the rim of our basketball goal. This gives new meaning to the phrase, My brain is fried.

The duct tape you see in this photo stretched all the way up to the rim of our basketball goal. This gives new meaning to the phrase, "My brain is fried."

The Carnage

Getting it from all sides

Getting it from all sides

Motorcycle man is toast.

Motorcycle man is toast.

Another angle, for your viewing pleasure.

Another angle, for your viewing pleasure.

The Shower.

The Shower.

The combustion has turned the soldier a lovely shade of gray...

The combustion has turned the soldier a lovely shade of gray...

A Family of Patriots

If there were an award for Most Patriotic Family Member, Uncle Mike would get it. He brought his own CD player this year with a CD of patriotic favorites.
If there were an award for Most Patriotic Family Member, Uncle Mike would get it. He brought his own CD player this year with a compilation of patriotic favorites.

Need proof, you say?

Note: If you have trouble viewing this video, try following this link directly to YouTube.

Mike and Tom, taking a brief break from discussing politics and religion.

Mike and Tom, taking a brief break from discussing politics and religion.

Aaron and Mike, both with some of their best facial expressions

Aaron and Mike, both with some of their best facial expressions. I know I never leave home without my copy of Cornerstones of American Democracy, which I believe contains reprints of some of our nation's foundational documents.

Pat, Colleen, and Tenille - I have no idea what was funny here, but I love to see my family laughing.

Pat, Colleen, and Tenille - I have no idea what was funny here, but I love to see my family laughing.

Misha will probably never experience another American holiday quite like this one. Love you, Mish!

Misha will probably never experience another American holiday quite like this one. Love you, Mish!

Gram may be experiencing some disbelief at her grandchildrens antics.

Gram may be experiencing some disbelief at her grandchildren's antics.

Thug life...

Thug life...

Happy Independence Day!

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Running Errands

June 8, 2009

In general, my mom tends to get her energy from her alone time. Not once can I remember her  complaining about being lonely or needing to get out and be with people. She loves having people into the house and has a big heart for her friends and family, but being alone certainly does not bother her.

Except when running errands.

If people could earn degrees for the amount of time they spent running errands, Mom would have her doctorate. She was and is almost always on her way somewhere to do something. When I was between the ages of about ten to eighteen, I pretty much got to be Mom’s errand-running partner. Mom would often come down to where we kids were hanging out and say, “Hey, I’m on my way out the door to run some errands…” Pause. “Does anyone want to come with me?” That was my cue.

Mom and I would ride along silently at times, and at other times we had very meaningful conversations. Occasionally, Mom would ask me what I was thinking about – a dangerous game. I know that I flat out lied at least once, and she could probably tell, but I certainly was not going to ruin my reputation as sweet, innocent Sarah by disclosing to what extent my mind was in the gutter. Another time, I distinctly remember giving Mom a detailed explanation of an unimportant scene from Lassie in response to that question. At least that was an honest answer.

Perhaps all that ingrained errand running is the reason I love riding in the car. Driving is just all right, but if I can jump in and go somewhere with someone I love, I am completely content.

Thanks, Mom, for the good memories!

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$2000 Telephone

May 20, 2009

There is not a more conscientious bill-payer than Gram. As soon as those bills hit the mailbox, she is on it. No one can accuse Gram of being lax in her payments; in fact, I think such an accusation would be incredibly offensive to her.

Her attentiveness to bills could even be considered a bit extreme. After all, she has lived alone and taken care of herself for over 30 years now, so she had full responsibility for the gas, water, and electric bills. When Gram decided to move in to Mom and Dad’s house, her prompt bill payments came under a little more scrutiny than she had experienced before. Some of the time, she may have objected to this change, but there is one instance in which we are all uniformly grateful that Mom took action.

One day, as Gram sat at her table writing checks, Mom noticed an odd bill sitting on the table. It was an invoice from AT&T for $17.00. This would not have provoked much suspicion, had there not been a second AT&T bill on the table, waiting to be paid as well. Without a cell phone, Gram should only be getting one phone bill each month. When Mom asked Gram what it was for, Gram said she wasn’t sure – but she was not about to default on a bill! Looking more closely at the invoice, Mom noticed that it was for some sort of phone rental agreement.

Flexing her investigative muscles, Mom picked up a phone and called up the number displayed on the bill. After pressing a succession of 1’s and 0’s to reach a customer service representative, Mom finally reached someone who could explain this bill anomaly. What she heard is the kind of news that makes you cover your mouth and attempt quick multiplications in your head.

Apparently, Gram purchased the type of phone you see displayed here around the same time she and Grandpa bought their house, which was decades ago. It was chocolate brown and mounted to the wall in her kitchen. I remember this phone having a very distinctive ring, as if each time someone called, the phone underwent a major struggle just to belt out its tone.

At the time of purchase, it was customary for households to rent their phones from the phone company. They paid a monthly phone rental fee for the use of the phone. When companies switched to charging for service rather than for the telephone itself, they failed to inform Gram. Therefore, at least ten years, Gram had been paying $17.00 per month to rent the phone she was using from the company. Altogether, that trusty brown phone which was mounted to her kitchen wall ended up costing somewhere in the $2,000.00 range.

The phone company said that the only way to get out of this contract was for Gram to mail the phone to an AT&T headquarters or warehouse somewhere. Once they received it, the bills stopped.

If someone had asked me a long time ago what I thought a $2,000 phone would look like, I probably would have imagined a diamond-encrusted phone:

Or perhaps the original Agent Smart shoe phone:

But by the time we returned Gram’s luxurious phone, the off-white receiver did not even match the pasty brown body of the phone. It might have brought $0.25 at a yard sale.

So the next time you hear someone complain about the charges on their cell phone bills, you just think of my wonderful, sweet, unsuspecting grandma and be glad that you are at least paying for a legitimate service.

Love you, Gram!

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What to do in an umergansy.

April 4, 2009

According to a note I found in my school file today, there was a point in the early nineties when I struggled to overcome two unfortunate weaknesses: a propensity to wake people up unnecessarily and incredibly poor spelling. See below:

Page 1

Page 1

Page 2

Page 2

I find that a phonetic spelling of this letter is almost just as fun to read:

“Dear Mom, I’m sorry for what I did. But now I will think abote it! I hope youwill forgive me. (over–>) Hers what dad told me. That I sood not wake pople up enless it is an oo-mer-gan-sy. Love, Sarah”

It is that last fragment that really disturbs me – that is where everything really fell apart.

A closer analysis of this letter leads me to believe that I may have been better off if I had not crossed out whatever I first wrote before that “aboat” nonsense. Also, my attempt to delineate the spacing between “you” and “will” was a valiant effort, but it does not excuse the incorrect conjoining of two otherwise easily spelled words.

Dad, good advice – that was an important lesson to learn. Mom, I hope you declared my spelling a state of umergansy after reading this note. I will now proofread this post twice before publishing it.

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Compartmentalization

March 30, 2009

Putting things into categories often helps us get what we want. I generally consider this tendency to be more of an adult habit than a childhood habit. After all, it just makes sense to me that we would have to have superior mental capacities in order to compartmentalize skillfully.

On the contrary, in the past couple of days, I have been reminded of two great stories that contradict my previous belief, and I incorporate them here in order to demonstrate how early and how humorously we begin to categorize and compartmentalize our actions.

Ben

By the time Ben was three-ish, he had discovered the adrenaline rush of testing boundaries and was becoming more adept at it by the hour. While visiting Papa’s house one evening for Christmas, I believe, Ben decided to do some exploring. Unfortunately, Papa’s pristinely-perfect piano found itself in the path of his ventures. Holding a juice cup in one hand, Ben reached toward the clean ivory keys with his other greasy hand. Mom saw and gave him a clear, unequivocal instruction: “Ben, No! Do not touch the piano.” Ben clearly understood because he looked back at her, hesitated only slightly, and yes, played a fistful of discordant notes.

Mom grew more insistent, saying, “Ben, I told you not to touch the piano!” and started to move toward him to follow up on her instructions, when Ben rushed to explain how he could not possibly be disobeying at that moment. His rationale: “I’m not touching the it, Mommy. My hand is touching it.”

True, his hand may have committed the crime, but I am pretty sure that it was his behind that took the punishment.

John

Yummy yummy broccoli!

Yummy yummy broccoli!

To this day,  John is not a super huge fan of vegetables, although he does make a valiant effort. A younger John tried to avoid eating veggies at all costs, and this sometimes meant that he did not finish his dinner completely. In his house, the rule was the same as in most others – No Dessert for Children Who Do Not Finish Their Dinner.

One evening, John just could not bring himself to finish off the rest of his vegetables and declared himself to be full. His parents were fine with that – they simply removed the plate and informed him that he would not get any dessert that evening.

This was a problem. While John had difficulty stomaching veggies, his capacity for dessert was quite high. He exclaimed, “No, no – I still want dessert.” Robin expressed shock and awe that he could possibly have room for dessert if he was full just three seconds ago.

John was happy to explain: “You see, my vegetable compartment is very full, but my dessert compartment is completely empty!”

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Crush (Volume 1)

March 12, 2009

What fools we were, according to Ben. Everyone can remember having a crush as a youngster, and while not everyone enjoys reliving those days, I have decided to dredge up some good crush stories from our family and to smear them on the Internet for all to see and know. Fortunately, my family is good-natured enough not to mind… at least, most of my family. Some members who will go unnamed refused to give their permission for me to blog up their childhood crushes, and to them I say, Hmph.

For those of you who are more willing to divulge some great crush stories, please notice that this post is entitled “Volume 1” in the hope that you will be willing to share your own crush stories for a “Volume 2”. After reading, you should definitely click on the Share My Own Memories tab on the right and send me a tale of long lost (or found) puppy love. The stories that appear below can be your inspiration.

John

At the age of fifteen, John considered just a few things to be irresistible. One of them was basketball; one was Star Trek; and one was smart girls. While working at a pharmacy part time, he got to know a pretty cool chick who had just graduated from college. Yes, your math is correct – he was about six years younger than she, which is a lot when you are fifteen. This chick’s name was Robin, which I find interesting only because it is also the name of my amazing mother-in-law. No matter how good the name, if you can avoid ending up with someone who shares a name with one of your parents, that is a huge plus. Anyway, neither Robin’s age nor her name deterred John, because Robin had been an English major in college. That was all he needed to know. They spent time at the pharmacy filling prescriptions and discussing literature. I do not know if Robin ever knew of John’s fancy for her, but I will be always grateful to her for instilling in John a particular affinity for English majors.

Sarah

Lots of names come to mind when I think of my childhood crushes. There was Gabe, the cutest guy in my first grade class. His mom was also our librarian, so that was another selling point. Then there was Steve Green, whom I once beat in a foot race at church. Flirting was his specialty, and I found it came pretty naturally for me too. There was also Josh Harris, the renowned Christian relationship speaker and writer. I got so into him while reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye that I wrote in my journal about how I needed to stop looking at his photo on the back cover of his book. Ah, but none of these came close to my passion for Steve Baldwin. He was in high school when I was around the age of six, and I thought he was all that and a bag of chips. Every Sunday at church, he vowed to me that he would wait for me to grow up… I did not realize how creepy that sounded until much later… But when Steve up and married a gorgeous girl named Annette, I remember feeling a little betrayed. After all, he said he would wait.

Ben

Ben had lots of crushes to choose from as well. Tory is the one who stands out for me. They both went through a brief period of liking each other when they were about seven-ish. All of the adults thought this attraction was adorable, even long after Tory and Ben described themselves as “over” each other. It was during this post-crush phase that Ben starred in a church play as the character Small Fry, a Bible nerd with a bowtie and thick glasses. Tory’s grandmother insisted on taking photos of the not-so-happy couple after the play, plunging them into deep embarrassment.

The one girl who probably had the greatest influence on Ben’s crush life was Lauren Heinz. It was Lauren who caused Ben to experience a very rare introspective moment in his busy childhood. Sitting in Joyce Knight’s Sunday school class (the epitome of Ben’s social networking in fourth-fifth grade), and not paying attention to the lesson, Ben was struck with an epiphany. He clearly remembers thinking, “I am nine years old now. It is probably time for me to start liking girls.” Up to this point, his interactions with girls had consisted of teasing them, hitting them with Bibles, calling them fat, and so forth. “Time to make a change,” Ben thought. “So… who in this room is cute?” Shoot. The cutest girl in the room was Lauren, and she hated Ben’s guts for all the mean things he did to her on a regular basis.

That day, he approached Lauren and apologized (sincerely?) for all the things he had done, then asked if they could be friends. Lauren hesitantly shook his hand and agreed, wondering what this kid was up to now. And so began a three-year long crush, during which he secretly asked her out not just once, but three times, and was secretly turned down each time. Guess it is not such a big secret now. Ben, I have to say – you’ve come a long way.

Shannon

Out of all of us, I think it is safe to say that Shannon has the most unusual and fascinating crush stories. Of course, the common, sentimental fare is there, such as the time in second grade when she carved Alex Minick’s initials into her bedroom window. Now, over twenty years later, Alex’s mom is Shannon’s supervisor. Itty, bitty, tiny world, huh?

No, I am not talking about those cute little stories – I am talking about some of the most interesting men I have ever met or heard of seem to gravitate to Shannon like cat hair to my new furniture. Some of those narratives have been officially stricken from the list of bloggable topics, but there is one remaining that I think should never be removed from the annals of family memory. That is the story of Haider.

Haider wanted to marry Shannon. He had never met anyone as beautiful as she was; the problem was, he had also never met Shannon. Haider chose her for his life partner while shopping in a Half-Price Bookstore where Shannon and Mom also happened to be spending Shannon’s twenty-fourth birthday. He stared at her intently while she browsed the aisles but couldn’t work up the courage to speak to her until she was in the parking lot, about to leave. He ran out to the parking lot and asked them to wait before getting into the car. With Shannon and Mom there by the car, he poured out his heart, saying that Shannon was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and that he would like her to go out with him. Needless to say, Shannon was flattered but cautious. Mom was even more cautious and decided to take the offensive by asking him if he was a believer. He stuttered something like, “Uh, yes – yes, I believe.” Shannon agreed to take his number and meet him at Starbucks the next morning.

The Starbucks date gave a little more insight into who Haider was. He was Morrocan, I believe – Shannon might need to correct me. He had two houses (although I think one was in Daytona… if you’re going to spend money on two houses, put the second one someplace cooler than that). He knew seven languages. He was Buddhist. He was an entrepeneur. She never learned what he actually did for a living, and while the houses and languages were impressive, the difference in religion was the real kicker. Though they did not meet again after that semi-date, Haider continued to call Shannon for awhile after that when he was in town. I hope he has moved on by now – I am pretty sure Shannon has.

I love this family.

I love this family.