Friday, October 24, 2014

Field Trippin'

     One of the most rewarding things a parent can do is to be involved with their children's school activities.  Whether it be joining the PTA or helping out during the Fall Festival.  Providing much needed assistance to the schools where our children are sent to learn is very important.  That being said, as a stay at home father and uber dad extraordinaire, the one event that can send chills down my spine is the field trip.  Sounds easy right?  Ride on a bus and go down to the old pumpkin patch and hang out with a plethora of 5 year olds for the day.  No problems there.  Not at all.  This will be fun.  Right?  That totally depends on what your definition of fun is, I suppose.  Field trips with young school age children can be an interesting study in not only human behavior, but continued sanity as a human being.  That is, of course, only my humble opinion.  It's almost as bad as trying to braid a 5 year old's hair, but that is another story for another time.  I love to try, but my skill set is limited, to say the least.  Is everybody in?  Is everybody in?  The ceremony is about to begin....commence the trip.

     The pumpkin patch- one of the last vestiges of the way things used to be.  A place where just for a moment one can get away from the hustle and bustle of modern day living and go and hunt you up a pumpkin.  Normally, these things are way out in the country anyway, and cell reception can be sketchy at best.  Throw in a combination of pumpkin patch and a fully functional farm with animals and all- then you've got a party.  Just don't get lost in the corn maze!  This particular story involves the following:  The aforementioned corn maze, pumpkins, farm, and animals on said farm.  Plus, pig races, big slides, packed out hay rides, and wild and wooly young'uns.  Yep, we've got it all covered.

     They say that half the fun is in the journey, and it can be even more important than the destination itself.  In this case "they" would be wrong.  Whether you ride the bus with a bunch of screaming 5 year olds or attempt the route to the farm itself it was a harrowing trip.  Way out in the country is an understatement.  I passed chicken coops, a pasture full of bulls (I really mean bulls here, with big ole horns and everything), various cow pastures (in fact there are probably more cows per capita in this area than any other living thing...true story), goats, pigs, and farmhouses aplenty.  Narrow roads led to the destination, but its exact location was not clearly defined.  It took everything that Google Maps and Siri had to find this place of fun and pig poop.  We did arrive, and hit the ground running.

     When one volunteers to be a chaperone of a field trip it normally comes with a few responsibilities.  In my case I was placed directly in charge of my daughter and another young lady.  This turned out to be more difficult than you would expect.  Almost immediately, Maddie's partner in crime took out running.  Fast.  Really fast.  I knew that I was responsible for her well being and safety so I yelled for her to stop.  No response.  Kept on truckin'.  She only broke stride when she heard a familiar voice tell her to.  That would have been the voice of the Kindergarten teacher.  Stopped her dead in her tracks.  I wish I had that kind of power, but I don't.  The teacher gave me a smile and went about her business.  Man, she was good.  I retrieved Madddie's buddy, and we were off to some jumping contraption deal that was obviously a pretty big deal with the 5 year old set. 

     We went down a big slide, attempted to traverse a corn maze- that almost saw a casualty or two and at least one meltdown, and finally ended up in a pig pen.  All the while I was holding two little girl hands, and doing my best to keep them happy.  Shouts of "I'm hungry," "I want to eat now," and I want this and I want that rang out from one side of the farm to the other.  Children, while all miracles in their own way, are not the same.  Demands were made and negotiations attempted during this arduous process.  Once upon a time I was tasked with catching criminals.  The dredge of society.  The bad guys.  However, I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Putting folks in jail was easy.  Taking care of kids every day is hard."  Factual statement.

      The hay ride beckoned.  Packed like sardines on a voyage of pumpkin retrieval was the setting for this adventure.  Bumpy ride it was, and I was surprised that everyone escaped without a head injury of some type.  Maddie was sitting on my right leg as I sat cross legged on the floor of a trailer being pulled by a John Deere.  Our friend and companion on the journey was on my left leg.  Two little girls sitting on top of my already packed in and smothered existence.  The joys of fatherhood are endless.  How did I get here?  Nevermind, I already know.  Pumpkins Ho!!!

     We survived lunch.  We survived the pumpkin patch.  We survived the slide.  Heck, we even survived the pig races.  All in all the day was a smashing success.  Fresh air, or mostly fresh, only a faint smell of animal waste.  Then as the day ended and I began to leave to start the trek back to civilization Maddie hugged my neck really hard, and said "I love you Daddy."  Then, to my surprise our friend looked at me and said, "Chris"- I told her to call me Chris, because if someone says Mr. Perry I turn around and look for my father.  "Chris, this was the best day of my life."  Mine too friend.  As far as you know.  We came we saw, we got a pumpkin.  That's all.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The After School Special

     You remember those "After School Specials" right?  You know - the public service announcements that were geared to positively influence the youth of America.  Don't do drugs, don't drink, don't be a bully, don't take any wooden nickels.  That was the idea, and I saw quite a few of them back in the day.  Well, this post is a PSA for what not to do when performing the popular American pastime of yard rolling.  This story, while heartbreaking, may be helpful to those young people who decide that yard rolling is something that they would like to pursue in their future endeavors.  It's time we addressed this issue, and stopped ignoring the problem.  This "After School Special" is brought to you by the letter "Y," because "Y" would you do something like this in the first place.

     Dateline.  Second Saturday in October.  The man of the house is watching ESPN College Gameday right when Corso is going to put one of the mascot heads on, and make a fool out of himself.  It is a weekly ritual that all College Football fans should know well.  The spectacle is interrupted by a doorbell.  The doorbell has been a nuisance of late, and mostly this is due to the dreaded "ding dong ditch."  The ding dong ditch while important in the annals of youth activities is not the main point of focus in this story.  Another PSA for another time.  The boy was sent to answer the door, because that's normally why the doorbell rings.  They're looking for the boy, not for the man of the house.  Sad but true statement.  Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago when the doorbell rang the excitement level rose, but these days it is more of a nuisance.  The boy opened the door, and said "Dad, you need to come look at this."  Those are words that you never want to hear.

     The walk to the door to check what was undoubtedly quite an area of concern for the boy was a long one.  What could be waiting on the outside of that door?  What caused the young man to react so strongly?  What's for lunch?  Why is this happening to me?  All important questions that needed to be answered.  Upon arrival it became immediately obvious that someone had been busy.  Really busy.  Toilet paper littered the yard, but no one was anywhere to be found.  It was a combination ding dong ditch - toilet paper yard rolling double shot.  The culprit had fled the scene, and left their handiwork behind.  I began to pick up all the toilet paper, and I found a box underneath the tire of my Nissan Xterra parked in the driveway.  The box had a note attached that read, "Sorry for the prank.  Here's some candy."  The box was labeled with the ever familiar "Sour Patch Kids" logo.  I am a fan of the "Sour Patch Kids" candy, but the prankster did not leave candy.  The box contained rocks.  How thoughtful.  My son and I continued to rid the yard of its toilet papered state.

      As we were wrapping up our cleaning process I noticed a very familiar item laying in the driveway.  Steve Jobs greatest creation.  Normally stray iPhones don't just pop up in one's driveway, but on this day it happened.  Could it be that the culprit had left the iPhone?  I thought it was a very likely scenario.  Just as I picked up the device it began to ring.  Here we go.  I immediately said, "Hello."  No answer.  Click.  Hung up.  A few minutes later the phone rang once more.  I answered again, but this time a response was heard.  "I told her not to do it.  She was the one that rolled your yard."  Undoubtedly, it is en vogue to not only roll yards, but to perform the prank on boys that you like.  Back in the day a good old, "Check Yes or No" would do fine, but things are much different these days.  They knew that the gig was up, and that they were caught.  I agreed to give back the iPhone if the perpetrators returned to clean my yard of the toiletry debris.  They agreed.  As if they had a choice.  I had them right where I wanted them.

     The prankster paraphernalia was stacked up waiting when the young ladies walked up to the driveway.  A look of embarrassment combined with shame covered their faces.  The words "We're so sorry" kept falling from their lips, but their eyes told a different story.  The retrieval of the phone was the goal here, and I knew that.  I gave them a brief sermon on why they shouldn't do this sort of thing, but it probably went in one ear and out the other.  Finally, I extended my hand with the phone and said, "Do me a favor, the next time you go and roll somebody's yard - Don't leave your phone in the driveway."

     The moral of our story is simple.  Outside of the obvious, not leaving phones at the scene of a crime, one should never wear white after labor day.  Sorry, wrong moral.  I'm sure you could pick plenty of lessons from this story.  Don't roll yards, but if you do use good toilet paper, because bad/cheap toilet paper can be a handle to clean up.  Don't let your blonde hair-blue eyed son out in the daylight, because little girls are bound to come around.  Don't watch Lee Corso put on the stupid mascot head on a College Football Saturday.  I could go on and on, but I'll Just Say No!  That's all I got.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

The Case of the Shiny Shoes

     I'm a guy that finds things.  I'm a gumshoe of items misplaced by children.  My children to be exact.  Mysterious occurrences are not new to me, and I'm comfortable looking into the unknown.  The most recent case that this Daddy Detective had to investigate was a tough one, and involved missing shiny/light-up shoes.  You know the ones I'm talking about right?  The lights are triggered with every step.  Lighting up as if acting as a beacon of youthful exuberance seeking attention.  Could this old salty dog of a detective find the shoes?  The answer remains to be seen.  I'm ready, willing, and able.  I'm putting on my old school Humphrey Bogart raincoat and fedora.  "Out of all the houses in all of Kimberly, Alabama, she had to lose her shoes in mine."

     She was a pretty little girl.  The kind of fancy gal that always stood out no matter where she was or what she was doing.  I knew when she spoke that she meant business, and may be a tough nut to crack.  The reason for our interaction was lost shoes.  Not any lost shoes, but some really fancy shiny shoes.  She exclaimed, "I can't find my shoes!  I want my shoes!"  I tried to calm her uneasiness with the comforting tone of my voice and a reassurance that I would find her missing items, but it was a tough sell.  A good detective has to build trust with the victim to get the whole story, but I couldn't reach the clear blue eyes of this young lady.  Distressed and upset she blurted out, "Jesse must have took them!  He always does stuff like that to me!"  Who was this Jesse, and what was his connection to the missing shoes.  I decided I needed to talk to him, and find out what he knew.

     The boy was nervous when I walked toward him.  Kind of like he had something to hide, but didn't want to let on.  I could sense his concern and smell the fear in the air as I walked right into his personal space.  Sometimes if you make the person uncomfortable you can find out a little more information.  I asked the young man, "Where were you this morning when these shoes first went missing?"  He fidgeted a little in his seat and said nervously, "I don't know."  I continued, "Well, why don't you know?"  He looked at me and swallowed really hard, like he was trying to swallow a concrete block, and said, "I just don't know."  He was clearly being intentionally obstinate, so I threw out a vague threat.  "It would be a shame if one of these baseball bats here went missing wouldn't it?  It would upset you quite a bit I would imagine.  Isn't that right Jesse?"  His eyes lit up and got as big as saucers, and he said, "Don't mess around with my bats!"  Now, I knew his weakness.  The boy's love for baseball would be my ace in the hole.  I picked up his bag full of baseball items, and started to walk out the door.  He jumped up quickly and grabbed my shirt, "Please, no!" he yelled, "I didn't have anything to do with the shoes I promise!  I know that I may have hidden some of her stuff in the past, but I swear this wasn't me!  I didn't do it!  Please give me my baseball bag!"  I believed him.  He was telling the truth.  I handed him the bag full of baseball tools and then asked him one last thing, "Well, if you didn't do it.  Who did?"  He didn't hesitate with his answer, "I bet it was Mom.  She moves stuff all the time."  He was right.  She does.

     I had dealt with this "Mom" many times.  She was a regular suspect in my investigations, and I had my suspicions that she was responsible for many unsolved crimes that were in my cold case file.  She's a crafty one, though, and always seems to be one step ahead.  I approached her and said, "So, Mom, we meet again.  What do you know about these shoes?"  She gave me what I like to call, "that look," and didn't acknowledge my question.  I'd been down this road before with this woman, but I really needed her information to help me find these shoes.  I turned on the charm.  A good detective needs to be half Rudolph Valentino and half Brad Pitt.  I looked her in the eye and said, "How you doin?"  Her immediate look of disgust spoke volumes, and I realized rather quickly that this wasn't going to be easy.  She finally spoke, "Why are you bothering me again with this stuff.  Why don't you go blog or something, and leave me alone."  She was speaking gibberish now, and I began to consider the potential that she had a mental illness.  No matter, I still needed info on these shoes.  Time was of the essence here, because school would be starting soon.  I threatened her the best way I could and said, "If you don't tell me what you know about these shoes, I'm going to send the victim up here to talk to you!"  Her eyes narrowed and she stood up and moved toward me with a sense of urgency that was rather concerning.  I was immediately concerned for my personal safety, and I did not have a sufficient reactionary gap to fend off her aggressive movement.  I backpedalled, and asked again, "Just tell me what you know about her shoes?"  Her response was chilling, "I always put them back where they are supposed to be.  I only put things back.  Back where they belong, and should be in the first place.  Things in this house have a home, and that's where they should live.  You can't just leave things laying around everywhere and then wonder what happened to the stuff.  Put things away, and you won't have to wonder."  I really didn't understand any of the rant that Mom was putting out there.  It didn't make any sense to me. I decided to leave well enough alone, and move on.

     I was out of witnesses and suspects so I turned back to the victim, Maddie.  Tears flowing down her face, because of the stress she tried to talk.  "Did you find them?" she said with a trembling voice.  Frustrated by my inability to find the shoes I said, "No sweet girl, not yet, but I'm not giving up."  At that exact moment I caught a glimpse of what looked like a light show coming from the darkened kitchen area.  What was this?  I thought to myself.  I walked in the direction of where the lights were coming from, and I noticed in the space between the kitchen and the dining room that two small shoes were sitting by the door to the pantry as pretty as you please.  I picked up the shoes, and took them to the sad little girl.  Her eyes lit up when I handed her the shoes, and she was genuinely thankful.  That's why I do the job.  Not for the glory, and definitely not for the money.  The one thing I couldn't figure out was why the shoes appeared to light up when no one was wearing them.  It must have been a helping hand from above to assist us in getting to school on time or maybe the shoes were defective.  Who knows?  Whatever it was, it sure helped.

     We were finally ready, and leaving the house after the mystery was solved.  I was proud of all the hard work that had led to the discovery of the shoes.  At this exact moment Mom came down the steps, and asked what the result was of my investigation.  I apologized for considering her a suspect, but I only go where the evidence leads me.  She then asked, "Where did you find them?"  I responded, "That area between the kitchen and the dining room."  She looked at me and said, "The Butler's Pantry."  As we walked out the door I looked at Maddie and said, "How about that.  The Butler did it."