Celtics - Lakers: Just Like The Old Days

It's About Time! I've been a Celtic's fan from the time I understood what basketball was. I've read the biographies and autobiographies of most every player and coach the team every had. I've watched the Len Bias tragedy, Larry Legend retire, revolving coaches and lousey player pics, but finally... finally Danny Ainge pulled it together. Now get ready to witness another Finals series by two of the most storied franchises of the game...

And to all you blow-hards that called him crazy, who's cazy now? Hahahahahaha! (I'm sure they'll be the same people saying how they tagged the Celtics for the NBA Finals all along.... ya right.

Live or Die by your picks, people... Celtics in 6... Word



What an interesting week...

The clock is ticking as Ashley and I move closer to "Till Death Do Us Part." Only 8 days! Friends and family are on their way and we are making final preparations.

This was the last week of school for Allie who will be joining Avery for summer school, and I'm sure there will be just as much drama as usual as we try to get out the door in the mornings.

Today, Allie went into hysterics over the fact she didn't have a gift for her beloved school teacher (the families pitched in to get one big gift instead everyone bringing individual ones). As I settled that one, Avery decided to pee all over the floor and her school clothes... I had to pick out a new outfit which matched, but I don't think it quite fit...

And, I might get to spend two weeks with my boys this summer! Can't wait!

So here's what I found in Clark's Inbox this week....

The Wall Street Journal ran a review on Flander's Book of Faith written by Simpsons creator Matt Groening... the rundown in the article of a number of "Flanderisms" is hilarious, especially when you know people that act exactly like Ned.

I thought this was a great post from The Art of Manliness on the virtue of Humility.

From Out of Ur, I read an article on why Jesus didn't come to earth to teach us how to run a multi-billion dollar corporation, be a successful manager or build better returns on investment as a number of well-meaning Christian business leaders have suggested in numerous books (several of which I've read). Author Chris Blumhofer takes the issue to task in Jesus is not a CEO.

With this past Monday being Memorial Day, my father sent me a great site called What Kind of World Do You Want which supports a number of charities to include: Augie's Quest, Autism Speaks, Save the Children, Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront. Take a moment to learn more and then watch the videos posted there by Five For Fighting and others.

I've been getting a number of comments and even emails from readers all over the world so I wanted to start featuring blogs from new Lunchbox subscribers I've heard from this past week so I can introduce them to other readers. This week I have two new readers to spotlight:
If you get a chance stop by their sites & say hello.

Finally, Clark's Video Clip of the Week - Baby Fight!

Reader's Poll! - Don't forget to vote on March & April's favorite post which can be found on the front page right under my profile. Only 2 Days Left!!!


Make Me Some Pancakes, Funnyman!

I’ve started a new habit of getting up early on Saturday mornings. Why would any sensible person do such a thing unless they had a weekend job like delivering newspapers or selling new homes? The truth of the matter is I do have a job… sort of. I’m the On-Call Pancake Production Specialist covering the weekend shifts from 6am to 9am. Basically, my job duties boil down to simply whipping up gourmet pancakes at the whim of Allie and Avery. Thank goodness, it’s only a three-hour window outside of which, I can tell them to go chew on leather belts as a means to quell their tiny growling stomachs (it’s a technique used by the French Foreign Legion as a means of survival when getting lost in the desert. My boys think it’s cool.).

Typically, I roll out of bed, get dressed and head upstairs to the kitchen praying the girls will be satisfied with today’s offering to the gods of their bottomless pits. It’s my own fault. I created these little monsters back when I started dating Ashley in an attempt to impress her by winning over the solid gold hearts of her darling little girls. So, when she mentioned to me her girls loooooooove pancakes, I saw my opportunity. I am a master pancake maker, a talent handed down from father to son for generations in my family, so mixing a batch of golden brown, cinnamon flapjacks would be, well, child’s play. I had no idea my well-intentioned act would turn these little dears into mini-me, meth addicts.

Based on height, weight, and gender, I estimated about twelve to fifteen pancakes as the appropriate amount for the girls, their mom and myself – two each for mom and the girls and six for myself. It filled my heart with joy watching the excitement in Allie and Avery’s eyes as I poured, stirred and flipped their breakfast treats, and then resulting joy as they swallowed the first bites. “Mmmmmmm! You’re a good pancake-maker, Ron,” they said in unison as their mom looked at me with love in her eyes. I was in, which is to say, in way over my head.

“Can we have some more?” I turned from the stove to see these little cherubs holding their plates in the air like those starving kids in Africa. How could I refuse? I’d just subtract 2 from my portion and make up for it later with a snack, but 30 seconds later the girls returned hoping to receive pancakes 5 and 6. “Wow!” I thought, “Either I’m even better than I think I am or these little urchins have been living a deprived existence outside the realm of the pancake world .” The final count for that first morning ended up running something to the effect of twelve a piece for the girls, eight for Ashley, and the lone pancake dropped on the floor going to myself.

I actually had to make more in order escape the kitchen with my own life. After pancake number 8, Allie handed me her plate with the expectation of another hit of “the good stuff.” I tried to explain to her that there was no more batter (I held off on the part about generously giving up my portion as a matter of good Christian living. I figured I’d get a “Golden Pancake” from God as my reward in heaven.). Allie said nothing as her face slumped in disappointment, and she walk off only to return a minute later with a folded up piece of paper she handed to me. At first, I thought this to be a charming thank you, but I believe the actual text scrawled in black crayon was closer to, “MAYK MOR PANKAKZ OR YU WEEL DI.”

There was a red scribble at the bottom. Sensing the confusion mixed with the horror in my expression, Allie motioned for me to bend down close so she could whisper in my ear. Cupping her hand she whispered, “The red is supposed to be blood.”

“Holy, Smurfing Care Bears! Who are these kids?!” I thought as I slowly straightened up and looked over at the mother on the couch. She looked up and smiled adoringly at me for feeding her hungry offspring, completely oblivious to the murderous extortion taking place at that very instant and not five feet away from where she sat.

Fast forward to the present where I slowly drag out mixing bowls, pancake mix, an egg, milk (not to be confused with “sugar milk”), cinnamon, vanilla, brown sugar, flax seed, and…. “Oh, dear Lord, let there be frozen blueberries in the freezer,” I pray as I rifle through the freezer. “No, no, no… Yes!” There is a God and He pities me. It’s much better for me to get up early and prepare everything in advance so as to avoid such pitfalls as not having blueberries on hand. It makes for a harmonious morning with less tension in the air.

I used to sleep in, letting Ashley get up with the girls to feed them cereal and turn on cartoons so she could fall back to sleep on the couch. However, as soon as she would start snoring loud enough to drown out the TV, Allie and Avery would push away from the table and proceed downstairs to express their displeasure with me.

I would open my eyes, to the blurry sight of the girls standing next to bed. Their faces would be eerily expressionless. “It’s time.” Avery would say simply in a flat monotone voice, and Allie would raise her arm to show me a red crayon as if to say, “You know what this means, don’t you?” Taking the none-too-subtle hint, I would roll out of bed and head up to the kitchen to perform my duty.

On my way, I’d pass a practically unconscious Ashley slumbering unaware on the couch prompting a reminder by one the girls. “Don’t wake mother,” they would say in that same monotone voice, but with the notable hint of a creepy English accept.

Nervously, I’d whip up a heaping batch of blueberry pancakes hoping to meet with their approval, but the pressure to perform in front of such a demanding and cutthroat audience increased my chances of making a potentially fatal mistake. There have been some close calls, eventually prompting me to my current routine of waking up ahead of time. On one occasion, I forgot to add flaxseed.

“Hey!” Avery said throwing her fork on the table. “Where’s the flaxseed?”

I tried to smooth it over; amazed she could even tell it was missing. “I’m sorry, Sweetie, I forgot…” But she cut me off.

“Forgot?! You forgot?!” her tone more accusing than questioning.

“Forgot? What did Ron forget, my little angel?” It was Ashley standing at the top of the stairs. Somehow she miraculously manages to wake each Saturday morning without fail just at the moment I start serving the first round of my “griddle manna.” “What do they think you forgot, dear?” she then asked me. But as I opened my mouth to speak, it wasn’t my voice that I heard.

“Mommy! Ron put sugar milk in the pancakes!” Allie said while starting to rub her eyes as if she were crying. “He said he ‘forgot’ that you said he couldn’t use it anymore.” It took me a day and a half to convince Ashley otherwise, and at no small price.

On another occasion, I used frozen mixed berries instead of the outrageously more expensive blueberries. The mixed berries had of blueberries, but it also consisted of blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries (which Allie detests). I clung to a single hope that I could make the substitution and the girls would be none the wiser, and maybe, with any luck, they might even like this new version better. Things were going along better than I anticipated with Allie and Avery each having gulped down four “modified” pancakes before Ashley casually mentioned how she really like the way I mixed in the raspberries and especially the strawberries.

“Aren’t these good pancakes, girls?” Ashley said to the girls. “Tell Ron what a good pancake maker he is.”

I slowly turned to face the girls who were nodding in agreement and wearing large fake grins that accentuated their oversized cheeks stuffed full of pancake and mixed berries. I nervously smiled back as a sign of my gratitude, hoping to gain some small amount of mercy from Allie and Avery. It was not to be.

As soon as Ashley got up to give me a peck on the cheek and put her plate in the sink, the forced smiling ceased. Allie put her thumb to her throat and slowly drug it under her chin in a simulated slashing motion and then pointed at me. When their mom turned back around the girls’ smile immediately re-appeared, and then faded slowly as Ashley walked away, clueless that my life was now hanging in the balance. Once she had disappeared down the stairs Allie and Avery turned back towards me and spit the contents of their mouth out onto the floor for me to pick up. I can’t remember quite what happened next, but for the record, as part of the terms of the confidentiality agreement, I am not allowed to disclose the detailed concessions made in order to remain among the living. I will say it was steep and involved marbles and possibly a voodoo doll bearing my likeness.

That incident was the final straw convincing me I needed to be awake and ready before everyone else. Now I have the batter made, the griddle perfectly heated and the blueberries thawed, making me as ready as I can be for Allie and Avery’s demand for stacks of golden pancakes. As I mentioned earlier, this routine makes for a more pleasant morning with the girls not behaving with that Children-of-the-Corn demeanor. In fact, they usually smile at me as they enter the kitchen, knowing I have accepted my role as the On Call Pancake Production Specialist and thus recognize my place within the household.

At 6:45AM, they appear right on schedule all bright and cheery upon seeing I have prepared for today’s session.

“Fix us some pancakes, clown!” Allie demands while climbing up to the table.

“Ya,” Avery echoes as she joins her sister. “I want blueberry pancakes, Funnyman!”

I’ll admit, it’s a bit demeaning to take such abuse from a six and four year old, but it’s better than dying a horrible death for refusing.

PS. Watch the video (from Wedding Crashers) and insert “pancake” for the word “bicycle.” It’s like that.

Wedding Crashers


The Skinny Jeans

The other day I put on a pair of my favorite blue jeans - Lucky Brand, 32x32 slim-cut, faded and slightly ripped in the knees and thigh areas. Not only do they go with everything in my closet, they make everything I wear with them look great. Jeans like these only come around every few millenia; in fact, some people never even find their special pair despite a lifetime of searching. Like every other time I've worn my special jeans, I get myself together, look in the mirror and never half to mentally wonder if they make my butt look too big. That's actually the problem of late. By the end of the day, these one-of-a-kind jeans of the holy grail sag to a point that I look something like a ghetto rapper, fresh on the block and trying too hard to fit in by letting my pants sag somewhere close to my knees. That might not be too bad if my underwear didn't resemble worn out cobwebs or melted stringy cheese.

When I got home, I took my Lucky Brand's off and held them up in the air. They were huge and I felt like that Jarred guy from the Subway commercials as I staired up at them. Slinging them on the bed I went to the bathroom and dug out the scales. "Holy Crap!" was my first reaction to the dial coming to rest at 175 pounds. I haven't weighed that little since before I left for the Army. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I'm not waving around jeans so large they can double as a car cover, but being unemployed for several months mixed with a bout of mono and 20 pounds melts away like a Popsicle in hell's parking lot, and it isn't exactly healthy. I sat down next to my over-sized favorite jeans and started to question what in the world I was doing with myself.

This certainly isn't the first time I've felt this way, and certainly not the first time I have doubted my actions given what's currently going on in my life. Keep in mind, it's not that I question everything. I'm going to be married shortly, to someone so wonderful I've never seriously doubted what's happening between us or that we should be together. This lack of doubt with Ashley makes up for a great deal of the negative feelings I have been experiencing , but at the same time, what I'm feeling with her isn't the end-all-be-all. It can't let me escape the feelings of incompetence for not being able to land a good job to date, or the humiliation of drawing unemployment benefits and borrowing money. It can't cover the irresponsibility I feel in not being able to take care of my own children, or my constant lack of faith in what God can or is willing to do.

Since being laid off, I've been holding on to the thought that deep inside me, there's this calm place reminding me it's going to work out fine, and not only that, but I will be better off than before. Every time another circumstance would play against me, I would remind myself of that thought coming from the quiet place in order to successfully move on past it.

Facing down my doubts have been particularly hard on a level greater than just beating circumstances in that for the first time in my life, I am attempting to use my writing talents to get out of this place (economically speaking). Having never done anything along these lines before, there is a great deal of confusion in the "what's" and "how's" (and the "who's" and the "where's" and the "when's") in attempting to make a career out of writing. This confusion leads to a complete lack of direction for me which only feeds into my doubts even more.

Sometimes I do get a glimmer of hope and direction, like I have had over the past several days experiencing some real joy and a sense of comfort in knowing I am at least open to God's direction for me at this time. It's when I feel open to His direction, I feel peace, and in feeling that peace I believe I am heading down a right road. However, for as strong as I can experience that peace, it can be gone in an instant when I hear, for example, that my x-wife lost her job this last week leaving my oldest son to question me, with a no small amount of nervousness in his voice as to whether I've found a job yet. When I answered with, "Sort of," it did little to reassure him. At least with me not getting paid for working, the boys mother had the means to provide, but now that's even gone.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm not doing anything as I've been applying for jobs big and small every week, but there have been very few nibbles out there. I guess nobody wants a home building exec these days. I don't really want to be an exec anymore, but I would do it. But even if one does, I become even more confused as to what route I'm to go. The few opportunities that have surfaced, I've pursued, but they have fizzled which secretly, I have been glad for. But the even fewer writing opportunities that have presented themselves have fizzled as well leaving me to wonder where this is going, and what am I missing still?

Yesterday I was flirting with the idea of actually getting involved with major relief work within the church. I never want to be involved. I never volunteer, sign up or offer to do anything in the church, so the fact I jumped in to help with a church event recently is a huge deal in that I says I'm serious about what I'm believing. Yet, in one phone call from my old son, I'm completely off track, irritable, and frustrated. I had actually gotten to a place where I was constructively dealing with the overdue bills and lack of money for gas, but now I'm what the technical medical journals refer to as a, "basket case."

Sitting on the bed with my jeans, I remember a few days ago wearing them as I read a great post by my bother-in-law dealing directly with the topic of doubt. What was said was a complete encouragement to me and I got me through another day. Now, however, I'm wondering if I should just give these stupid jeans up to Good Will knowing I'm probably never going to fill them out again the way I used to.


A Lunchbox List

One of my favorite things to write are lists - particularly Top 10's. While employed in my previous home building life, I used to jam out a Top 10 list every so often on some company related hot topic. Of course they were usually tongue-in-cheek or satirical in nature with the idea of taking the edge off something controversial, or just easing the tension for a everyone during a stressful period. Who wouldn't love to get a Top 10 Signs It's Been Raining In Houston Too Long from a division president and then open it to find somewhere in the list you are someone you loved/loathed got mentioned for the company to read.

I was a huge hit with the overwhelming majority of those slaving in the office and at the field sites (I saved and printed their replies), but quite the opposite with some (not all) of the management since I was making like a woodpecker on a few fragile egos (but I'm an "arteeest," and that's what we do, right?). Anyway, I was reminded of proper business etiquette regarding corporate emails (It wasn't like I was one of the 250 other people forwarding prayer chains that would earn me a million buck for forwarding on to 5 other people or condemn me to hell for deleting it because that is how God rolls). Along with the reminder, I was kindly asked to stop.

However, I realized the other day (it's only taken a year to figure this out), I can post all the lists I want on my blog so I figured I could do this on a regular basis. That explained, in the spirit of my Sugar Milk post here's a list of the Top 10 Things We Say To Get Kids To Eat Their Food.

For the fun of it keep score as you read these. You get 1 point if your parents used these on you. You get 1 point if you use them on your kids (2 total if both apply). Add up the score and leave it in the comments. If there's one you didn't see on the list, then add it in a comment. Thanks

Top 10 Things Said To Get Kids To Eat Their Food

1. Philosophical Approach
"How do you know you don't like it? You've never had it before." (So why take the chance on more disappointment in life if I still don't after I do?

2. Athletic Approach
"Let's have a race, kids and see who can eat the fastest!" (I hope you know how to do the Heimlich, Dad 'cause a 9 year old choking on a chuck of liver and onions isn't going to be pretty)

3. Old School Approach
"It'll stick to your ribs." Or, "It will put hair on your chest!" (Why in the hell would I want either one of those things to happen to me? I'm a little girl in first grade for Pete's sake!)

4. Installment Method
"Just one more bite." (That's what you said 10 bites ago. Either you have Alzheimer's, Mom or I'm being played here.)

5. We-Know-What's-Best
"It's good for you." (Uh, relevance?)

6. Sympathy Appeal
"But your Mom (or other relative)worked hard to make it." (Mom has a job?)

7. The Threat
"Clean up that plate or you can't have dessert." (Sorry, dad. A roll of Smarties left over from Halloween wouldn't be considered dessert by proper folk.)

8. Japanese Anime (in other words, What The...?)
"Here comes the Mr. Airplane loaded up with yummy strained beets!" (I'm 8 months old, Mother; you don't need to talk to me as if I were a child. You are soooo not cleared for landing)

9. The Event or Celebration
"Eat up. It's Thanksgiving." (And tomorrow is Friday... what are you going to say to get me eat day-old dry stuffing?)

10. What-Would-Jesus-Do Appeal
"There are millions of kids starving in Africa..." (Sounds like an outreach opportunity. How much to mail my plate of squash to the them?)

What was your score?


The Lunchbox Recomends... ProBlogger

In my attempt to learn about the world of blogging as part of my freelance endeavors I came across Problogger.net. To me, the site, started by Darren Rowse, was thorough, understandable and easy to read, plus it included a job board for me to scan for possible opportunities. I was impressed enough to actually sign up for the daily email tips - something I try to keep to a minimum since it's a huge distraction for my ADD. I'm glad I did as most of the daily posts have shortened my learning curve, increasing my desire to do more blog writing as my confidence in the medium continues to grow.

This past month Rowse along with Chris Garrett, released a book they co-authored called Problogger - Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, which I was eager to get my hands on. Now, before you jump to any conclusions about what I was thinking, let me say this
I'm pretty sure the Lunchbox - as much as I love it - will not launch me to Trump-level riches, so it wasn't the reason I wanted to get my grubby little paws on it. I tend to be skeptical of anything sounding like a scheme, and I am terribly cynical when it comes to jumping on bandwagons; however, being drawn to the content on Rowse's web page prompting me to do a little background work. What I found peaked my curiosity even further.

Before being an A-List blogger, Rowse worked as part of a ministry team at an Emergent church (Living Room) in his native Australia. Given where Ashley and I attend church (Ecclesia) and my other intrests in ministry, this lowered my skepticism as did his photography hobby (which Ashley does so well). It was a tri-fecta of sorts, and I sent away for a copy of the book first chance I got.

Don't let the title fool you into thinking it's only for those serious about making money through blogging. That is a good portion of it, but it actually spends considerable time covering blogging basics from determining your niche and organizing an approach to getting off the ground and building your traffic. Particularly helpful were the tools provided to research how your site may stack up amongst the millions that are currently out there, how to find blogs within your niche and how to analyze the traffic you are getting (or could be getting) on your own page.

I hate to sound like a suck up, but in implementing even a few of the tips provided, the traffic on the Lunchbox has gone from 35/day to 75/day and now up to 115/day average. I'd been having trouble defining my blog, but recently determined it to be targeted at a primary demographic (Men 20 - 40 understanding their various roles in daily life and in their faith). Another problem was organizing my subject matter into something consistent and relevant, which I managed to do with better tags to make my posts more granular. The book helped with both issues. I have some other items needing to be tighten up, but wouldn't been aware otherwise.

For those out there looking to make some money, Problogger offers practical advice, tips and considerations that apply to both the novice and those who have been at it for a while. Additionally, with the information as simple as it is, the book still provides in depth coverage on marketing your blog and establishing income and earning strategies that are not watered down.

If you're a cheapska... uh, thrifty, much of the information can be found on the Problogger.net website, but it's easy to get caught skipping around from thought to thought in an haphazard fashion (for those of us with ADD, that means after 30 minutes of click, click, click we find ourselves laughing at videos of dancing pieces of broccoli on Youtube). The book helps avoid that by presenting the material in an organized and sequential fashion, thus keeping me away from videos of frolicking veggies. If you are in any way, shape or form interested in, or already eyeball deep in having a blog then Problogger will likely benefit you.

Clark Kent likes Problogger? Mr. Rowse is running a deal for readers (that's me) to send him a photo where they are reading his book, so this is my submission (with Ashley's help). I must be loosing my edge...

Tomorrow: A Lunchbox List?


For Memorial Day

With this being Memorial Day weekend, I received this video from my mom and dad, and although I have this Five for Fighting album and have heard this song many times, seeing the video got me a little choked up.

I'm glad I had a chance to serve my country, but my service pales in comparison to the actual danger, sacrifice, and horror that my father, friends and many others endured to protect the basic freedoms of others.

Irregardless of your beliefs, and convictions, we all enjoy the freedom of holding to our points of view as well as being able to express them because someone else risked themselves and died to give that to us all.

Whether you agree or disagree with our nation's politics and policies is immaterial when you consider the fact that another human being is willing to put their life on the line for those they have never met.

This Memorial Day, at least realize what you enjoy with the knowledge that no one hates war more than a soldier. (As you watch the video, note the images of children put in harms way or worse, put on the front lines.)

After watching the video take a moment to look at the What Kind Of World Do You Want Web Site for information on being a part of the organization's many charities for children.



First let me welcome everyone to another idea sparked by my unmedicated ADD brain. It's a weekly round up of articles, blogs, and information hitting my email this week, thus I'm calling it Clark Kent's Inbox. I'll keep this up every friday, and we'll see how it goes.

Also, don't forget to vote on your favorite Lunchbox post from March and April which can be found at the top of the front page.

This week... Bimbo proof your daughter, Jesus shows up in an ultrasound, and what it means to be a man.

  • How To Be A Man Personal development coach Steve Pavlina lines out 10 characteristics on what it means to be a man. Although I don't agree with every detail, I still liked the list.

  • With two step-daughters (who can't drink milk from a bowl), I'm getting a real education these days. I figured I had better prepare myself. Bimbo Proof Your Daughter.

  • You may have caught on to the fact I like comic books... well, I do, but had no idea I could find a Christian site on pop culture covering not just comic books but a whole host of media on Hollywood Jesus.

And check out the Lunchbox next week for another Lunchbox Recomends that could make you money, and a Tuesday Top 10 List getting kids to eat their food plus more of my thoughts and stories on being a guy.

If you'd like to recomend an article or blog let me know and I'll try to include it.

Don't forget to vote... no, not that election - My Reader's Pole.


Sugar Milk

I guess I'm writing this after realizing how anal I've been getting about the money lost on wasted food. For some odd reason Allie and Avery have this unnatural aversion to finishing the milk left in their cereal bowl. To them, milk isn't exactly a complete part of a balanced breakfast fortified with vitamins and minerals to make their young bones grow healthy and strong. Instead, milk is a more of an engineering feat allowing sugar-saturated food to float high enough for them to get their spoons under for another heart-attack-inducing shovel full. When all you have left is milk, this is signal to them their breakfast is complete. Five minutes later I discover a half-gallon of perfectly good milk with a few remaining Fruit Loops floating aimlessly like disregarded toys left alone in a swimming pool. With a gallon of milk costing nearly as much as gallon of gas, you can then multiply that number by seven days in a week, and then again by four weeks and it becomes obvious how at this rate, milk takes up half the grocery bill on an already tight budget.

Even more aggravating is the fact we can't just have any milk as the girls have developed into little connoisseurs of the stuff rivaling only French wine critics in their snottiness. They sniff, swirl, swish and swallow with their noses held high in the air. One sip and they know with complete confidence the differences between Non-Fat, 1%, 2% and Whole Milk as well as their organic and non-organic versions. They continue to brandish their arrogance as they announce the milk's future expiration date along with the region of where that particular cow was chewing the grass at the time of the milk's production.

As I reached the top of the stairs one morning, Avery informed me that they only drank 2% milk with their cereal, thus implying that the recently purcahsed gallon of non-organic whole milk sitting on the counter should be considered unsuitable for human consumption, with its only rival being a gallon of piss from a gangrenous rat suffering from a bladder infection. Growing up in a home where it was expected that you clean off every inch of your plate to the point the enamel started to chip under the scrapes of your fork, the idea of a four year old - one without a job I might add - telling me what was unacceptable in her estimation didn't go over too well with me. A point I proved by pouring the entire gallon down the drain... and later having to apologize for, as I misunderstood what it was she actually was trying to tell me (which I don't remember, but her mom explained it pretty well at the time).

Like the unholy belching, this appears to be a hereditary condition as Ashley suffers from the same malady preventing her from finishing an entire can of the Diet Coke she is so fond of. Over the past several months Ashley has opened 435 cans of this carbonated toilet water and has finished exactly zero of them. I swear sometimes I've seen her open a can, take a sip and then hide the rest of amongst the seat cushions in the couch. From the perspective of someone who's digested twenty years worth of of dish enamel (along with some Tupperware), watching such blatant waste induces gasps of horror so large they nearly induces lock jaw. Of those 435 unfinished cans, I am the one who has finished them up while calculating the wasted money now salvaged with my every gulp. It doesn't matter if the can has just been opened or if it's several days old and attracting roaches and ants - 10 cents a can is worth it. Of course my medical bills have tripled in my thriftiness as I now have a mysterious rash, a clogged artery and jaundice

Even though I have been managing to salvage Ashley's pop money, the girl's "stand-alone milk phobia" still posed a problem until a few weeks ago when I got the idea to "recycle" this precious commodity. When the girls set their bowls near the sink (and no one's looking), I strain the left-over milk through a clean (I stress clean) dishtowel into a plastic container, thus filtering out any foreign bodies while preserving the integrity of the milk for further use. It's pretty easy to get away with reapplying it to the next morning's bowl of cereal, but when Avery asked me for a glass of milk I had think quick when she asked what I was handing her.

"It's sugar milk, kiddo!" My heart started racing a bit.

Her eyes lit up, "Sugar milk?!"

I could feel sweating beading up on my neck, "Ya, sugar milk. Mmmmmmmmm sugary!"

Avery took a hearty gulp and then looked up at me with a very dirty milk mustache spread over a wide, approving smile. "Mommy! Mommy! Ron gave me sugar milk!"

Ashley, who had reached the top of the stairs looked at me quizzically. "What's sugar milk?"

"Oh, it's nothing. We're just playing a game for her to get a marble." I said patting Avery on head as she suckled away at her cup's contents with all the enthusiasm of new-born calf feeding from its mother.

"I want a marble!" Alley said popping up suddenly like a prairie dog from behind the couch.

To which Avery shot back, "No, Alley! You didn't finish your sugar milk! Only I did and I get a marble!"

Allie sighed and slumped her shoulders. "That stuff is gross and has little brown things in it."

Ashley kept her eyes fixed on Allie as she explained about the brown things, then looked at Avery's dirty face and then finally set her furrowed eyes on me. Just as she opened her mouth I cut her off.

"Girls, tell ya what. How 'bout you each get two marbles!" This distracted Allie and Avery sufficiently enough to throw scent off my trail, and Ashley switched her attention to making sure Avery didn't fall from her chair.

Unfortunately, however, Asley's suspicions were confirmed one Saturday morning when the girls woke up at their regular time of 6:30AM. Normally, I stay in bed for a little while as Ashley shuffles upstairs to fix the girls a bowl of Sugar-Craps, and then go back to sleep on the couch. On this morning; however, I was struck with the thought that Ashley might grab the good milk instead of using up the "sugar milk." My fear was confirmed as I could hear her pull the milk from the fridge. I judged by the increased weight causing a heavier sounding shuffle in Ashley's movement along with the high-density tone made by the carton when she sat it down on the counter I realized she had NOT grabbed the "sugar milk!" I literally shot out bed and ran up the stairs skipping every other one in my mad dash.

"You can't give them that milk," I explained breathlessly making a simultaneous mental note to lay off the Diet Cokes. "They like the sugar milk." In her half-conscious state I might have gotten away with getting Ashley to use the recycled milk with no questions ask, but Allie and Avery's equal contempt and elation at the idea of sugar milk perked their mom up enough for her to inquire as to the exact nature of this concoction.

"He pours it into a towel, Mommy!" Allie stated in the general direction of Ashley while fixing her eyes accusingly onto me. Allie's courtroom theatrics sealed my fate and I was left with no choice but to explain where sugar milk came from exactly (my attempt to lighten the mood by answering it came from really sweet-cows failed to produced the intended effect). Since then I have been forbidden to even acknowledge the existence of sugar milk with the same level of seriousness the government would employ to deny any involvement in a coup carried out in some third-world country (despite its vested interest in the sweet-cow trade for which that country is known).

Occasionally, Avery will request sugar milk and my heart flutters with hope at the thought of the dollars still possible to save with just one child drinking it down. This hope is short-lived though, as I catch Ashley's disapproving eyes burning holes into me from just above her newly opened can of Diet Coke. "That's ok," I think to myself knowing she has no clue I've started recycling her drink of choice.


Long-Distance Dad

It’s that time of year again. You know, those last several weeks before the end of the school year when the kids are having all their school programs, parties and graduations. Of course the more children you have the number of these events increases exponentially requiring more memory cards for the cameras and camcorders. At the same time parents are wondering in the back of their minds what in the heck they are going to do to keep the kids occupied for the next ninety days… swim lessons at the rec center or maybe an art class at the library? Of course, there’s a week away from the city, singing songs and making incendiary devices at Lil’ Tike’s Terrorist Training Camp, and the always eventful family vacations to Disney or Wally World.

For me it’s both a fun and sad time. Fun in the sense of seeing Allie and Avery get all excited, and then act like a couple of hams in front of people at all their school events, but sad because it also reminds me that my three boys are having their own graduations, school programs and class parties. Throw in the fact that Allie just had a birthday party this past weekend to celebrate the fact she’s now 6, and it’s one more event in my kids’ life that I’m not at.

I have to admit, when I’m at any of the girls’ functions, there is a sliver of guilt that stabs me in that place in my heart reserved for my own children making me feel like I’m choosing one set of kids over the other. I probably wouldn’t feel this way if I lived closer to where the boys are, but being thirteen-hundred and some odd miles away, geography determines things differently. Moving to where they are is on the table, but finances and a miserably unsuccessful job search stand in the way. Soon summer will be over, the school year will start again and relocating will then be delayed another year.

I know I’m sounding kind of bleak here and everyone (if you’ve gotten this far) is asking, “Where’s funny Ron at? He must be off his meds?” Ya, I like funny Ron too, and I’m still here (yes, I’m on my meds too, thank you), but sometimes “funny” can be an effective psychological barrier making others think you’re ok. Ironically, some of the stuff getting me the most laughs comes from the same things I agonize over the most. Allie and Avery’s day-to-day antics make for hilarious material, but as I’m typing it up, I’m wondering what quirky things my boys are doing as they sit at the dinner table or ride in the car.

Not that Allie and Avery are red-headed step-children (it’s really more of a light-brown, and Avery’s young enough her hair could still change), but your kids are your kids, and I want to be involved in the lives of mine, especially since they are boys. Again, nothing against the light-brown-headed step-children, but there are volumes of studies citing the damaging effects resulting from boys not having their fathers (or at least a male mentor – check out Donald Miller’s Bellmont Foundation on the side bar of the Lunchbox) to guide them.

This thought has also been one of the factors prompting my interest in the “masculinity movement” going on in the churches today. Within this movement there are ones extolling a balanced message, and there are others pushing a bit more aggressive ideology. As I look into those more vocal groups, I’ve been getting a perception they have gained a popular foothold with men looking to fill the voids created by the absence of those essential elements of manhood only provided by a father (and one that has found these elements himself).

This point is the theme for a number of books including Miller’s To Own A Dragon and John Elderedge’sThe Way of the Wild Heart. Both books make many solid points, as well as coming to the ultimate conclusions that even without a father, God is the only perfect Father who can guide us to a true manliness; and earthly fathers, despite our imperfections, should mimic His example in giving sons what they need to become a man.

Although I don’t agree with everything Elderedge has to say on the methodology in raising sons, I do think he summarizes the essence of what a boy needs from his father, and the void created should boys not receive it.

Without [the] bedrock of affirmation, [the] core of assurance, a man will move unsteadily through the rest of his life, trying to prove his worth and earn belovedness through performance or achievement, through sex, or in a thousand ways. Quite often he doesn’t know this is his search. He simply finds himself uncertain in some core place inside, ruled by fears and the opinions of others, yearning for someone to notice him. He longs for comfort, and it makes him uneasy because at thirty-seven or fifty-one, shouldn’t he be beyond that now? A young place in his heart is yearning for something never received.

For me, I have been tested many times in this area; in fact, I’m going through one of those periods right now as I deal with a completely new situation for me in being unemployed as I discover God’s direction. In conjunction with a job search, I’m attempting to face down the fears and doubts that go along with pursing a dream I believe God wants for me. By no means is this easy. It’s not supposed to be, and I’ve almost given up on it more than once, but the thought that keeps me from going through with it is what I would tell the boys one day when they’re facing the same thing. Will I be able to guide them with the confidence gained from overcoming my own fears, or will I shrink with guilt when they need me as I remember how I backed away repeatedly?

Last week I received Noah, Harrison and Sawyer’s school pictures from their mother, who, despite our differences, is pretty good about mailing them to me each year, and I am grateful she does. As I looked at their faces, that sliver of guilt stabbed into my heart like a shiv, adding to the pain caused by not being able to talk to them for four or five days. Rather than take pride in how big and strong they look (not to mention that they can melt almost any girl’s heart), I moped. Instead of taking delight in the fun they were having as they were at church, their friend’s house, or school events, I sulked, thinking they didn’t care about a Dad living so far away. I only made it worse as I focused on my present circumstance that are preventing me from being near them again, which of course, led to the doubts encouraging me quit. Pretty soon, “Fun Ron” started to turn into “Clinically Depressed Ron.”

Then yesterday Noah called me at around 4 in the afternoon (3 hours earlier than the regularly scheduled time). He wanted to tell me he fixed my old Army entrenching tool, and as such, needed to know how to dig a foxhole big enough to fit him, Harrison and their friend. Dad, I need something that will make us completely impervious (he uses lotsa fancy talk) to the enemy, he explained.

We spent the next thirty minutes discussing the specification and methods as Noah stood outside with the cordless phone relaying what I was saying to the others so they could get started. Then he handed the phone over to Harrison who launched into some of the events of the day, which turned to questions about the Indiana Jones movie coming out this week. Altogether, I spent over an hour in conversation with them, and I was thankful my works allowed me to stop what I was doing and focus just on them. Had I been working in my previous job, it would’ve more than likely I would have rushed things or been distracted if I even picked up the phone at all. Something then became clear to me.

In my desire to be a father to my boys, I have been trying to do it the way I think most logical in the sense of being physically closer to them. Along the way, however, in my narrow vision of how things should be, I’ve only frustrated and discouraged myself which in turn has led to doubting myself. That one-hour phone call reminded me of the commitment I made to myself to be a present father even though I can’t be a (physically) present father. It also reminded me I have a Father who has a greater vision for me, and in knowing He wants me to follow His example as dad to Noah, Harrison and Sawyer (as well as step-dad to Allie and Avery), I also know He will determine the circumstances and timing allowing me to do so. In the mean time, I need to keep plugging away.

"The Lady Killers"


Clark Kent: The Mommy Chronicles Part 3, Morning Drive

In Part 1 I gave a basic rundown of how I attempt to get two little girls out the door without the assistance of their mother who is at work. In Part 2 I outlined a typical morning by time sequence, which brings me to the actual drive to school. This probably wouldn't warrant a full post if it weren't for the fact that the drive takes about forty-five minutes or roughly the same amount of time as a prime time reality show (minus commercials) with equal levels of drama and entertainment.

The first order of business is to recall where the minivan is parked. This sounds like it shouldn't be a problem, but given we live in an apartment complex with outdoor, indoor, reserved and visitor parking, it is more daunting than one would think since there is no regularity in which spot the vehicle ends up in at the end of the day.

Of course this also means all the time saved getting out the door just became wasted as we wander aimlessly looking for our ride. Adding to the level of difficulty is the fact our Honda Odyssey is painted in what I refer to as "stealth" green (visualize an extremely watered down version of sea foam green) which allows it to hide in plain site as well as run undetected bombing mission in Iraq. Given we live in, what is considered a "hip and trendy" complex with young, beautiful residents driving flashy cars, one would think even a stealth killing machine in the form of a minivan would stick out. However, there happens to be an exact duplicate belonging to a fellow resident, fooling me more than once. With as many times as I have tried to load up into this van, I have been tempted to grab a can of Rust-olium and add a red racing stripe in an effort to distinguish between the two.

Once the van is located, everyone buckles up and I perform the necessary safety checks which includes covering my eyes and then peeking to see if there is enough gas to get there. Usually there is not as I am quite sure magical Alley Gnomes (Alley Gnomes are like Garden Gnomes, but the urban, gang version wearing gold chains, and hoodies) are syphoning it off. This means a trip to my favorite gas station across the street where I've been known to pay for gas using all the change mined out of the cup holders, glove compartment and seat cushions. On one stop I even asked a rather disheveled, looking man for a quarter to which he replied that he was about to ask me the same thing so he could by bread to eat. Ya, gas prices are that bad.

Gas or no gas, Allie and Avrey start off the ride by yelling for their particular song request. Aside from being their chauffeur, I am also the morning DJ with the spin handle, "Mix Master Mighty White" (I take no prisoners, people). I have no problem with this secondary duty since it makes me waaaaay more popular as a driver than their mother who either forces them to play "the quiet game," or worse, listen to NPR for the entirety of the trip. I find these actions both astonishing and inhumane; astonishing in that I have never seen any child successfully play "the quiet game" for more than .5 nano-seconds, and inhumane from the standpoint that the subject matter featured on NPR is so extremely boring it makes me want to shove freshly sharpened pencils into both my ears just to escape the pain. I kid you not, this weekend I was subjected to a full episode of something called, The Atomic Hour, which is a narrative read from some technical report detailing the construction of the first nuclear bomb just because I mentioned to Ashley that she looked pretty, thus ruining the quiet game for everyone in the van.

The girls prefer upbeat sugar-pop tunes mixed with a little urban hip hop... the only music more annoying than both Hannah Montana and polka. For a while they were in love with Rhianna, who used to sing sweet little tunes, but in latest album she's decided to skank it up a bit (allot). There favorite song: "Shut Up & Drive," which by the lyrics has less to do with driving and more to do with being ridden, but I think they just like the idea of getting away with yelling "shut up" at me. Thankfully I've been able to ween them off skank-pop and onto angsty chic tunes like Avriil Levene. Listening to an angry 16 year old millionaire screaming into the mike about her horrible life is just sends a better message. My ultimate goal, however, is to make the leap from angsty chics to a Christian alternative in the same vein (any suggestions?).

For the most part the girls make requests by taking turns, but there are mornings they are overcome by the Me-First Demon. Usually what I do is tell them they have to work it out on their own and once they do, I will turn the music back on, allowing them to develop their conflict resolution skills along the way. There are those times, however, when neither demon is backing down and all hell breaks loose. Sometimes, I will let this go on, curious to see how far it will escalate before I need to jump in. For being six and four Allie and Avery can get pretty vicious, so once they draw their 9's and shots are fired (usually after both have broken or lost their Barbie Prison Shivs), then I put a halt to things. In any case, once the music has started playing then the majority of ride is uneventful.

First we make a stop at Allie's school, pulling into the parking lot from the back entrance, and winding our way to the front as we follow the other vehicles to the drop off point where teachers are waiting to assist the kids as they depart from their cars. For someone who enjoys observing people, I can't help but take notice of the parents and their kids. Somewhere in the trail of cars are vans and suburbans that pull up and open the doors allowing eighty-seven little Hispanic boys and girls to spill out onto the curb. Next will be a tricked-out Chrysler 300 or Escalade, pulsating its base loud enough to make the entire zip code to vibrate. Rolling up to the stop the door opens and Lil' Gee or Miz Thang jumps out and dances their way into the building. Another major group, is the Bubba Dads. These guys drive huge trucks with massively large tires, and they don't use the driving line to drop off their kids, choosing rather to drive over stuff like median strips, curbs, sidewalks, no parking signs, small trees, and the occasional bike where they park, and then open the passenger side door letting their kids to jump down onto a trampoline device intended to break their fall as they get out of the truck.

Of course there are the soccer moms, of which, I also belong given I meet the only pre-requisite of operating a minivan (SUV's count too). We arrive in groups and approach the drop off point in a formation reminiscent of the famous helicopter assault scene in Apocalypse Now ("I love the smell of lattes in the morning!"). Finally, there is the most annoying parents in the bunch - the "professionals," who are hard to ignore as they drive their gleaming BMW's and Lexus's at unsafe speeds through the parking lot, bypassing the car line (even though the school has warned against this), in a demonstration of their supreme placement in the suburban cast system. After cutting off the lead vehicle, they shove little Winston Straton Briggs III out the door, barely taking time to bring their vehicle to a stop as they yap into their cell phones and shove a bagel down their throat. I'm thinking of mounting a door gun on the side the minivan - but just to scare them - I swear.

After dropping Allie off at Cookie Cutter Suburban Elementary, Avery and I head to her pre-school. It's in this five-minute stint that Avery attempts to rehash the major events of her life while trying to understand what it could all mean in her search for meaning in life.

Yesterday, I had applesauce for a snack, and I ate it all up, and it was good, just like the time I had applesauce when I lived in the yellow house when you didn't know who I were because I was only three then and didn't go to school yet and have a snack time, but Allison in my class was three and she went to school and had applesauce even though I didn't. Do you like applesauce, Ron?

Yes, I do like it, noting that in one sentence we are half way to her school. She then follows my answer with her second sentence which she cannot finish before we pull up in the parking lot. We make a short walk to her classroom, where as soon as I open the door, Avery runs into the middle of the group and announces that she has arrived, thus signalling to the administration that today's activities may now commence.

From there I get back in the van; crank up some Rhianna and head off to work until it's time for the Evening Routine (Part 4).


Clark Kent: The Mommy Chronicles Part 2, Timeline

In Part 1 of Clark Kent's Mommy Chronicles, I brought everyone up to date on the job situation which finds Ashley working at a new office, and with me working from home, I get the girls to school. I mentioned a few of my beliefs in using routine, rewards, countdowns and distractions. At first I was going to include a typical timeline in Part 1, but since I got a little wordy in that one, I'm posting it here as a Part 2.

So what's a typical morning timeline to include where Ash and I fit it? Basically it would be something like it was today.

6:15 Ashley's alarm goes off. She beats sleep button into submission.

6:20 My alarm goes off. I spend fifteen minutes figuring in my head what to wear and why My Little Ponies like ruben sandwiches and not roast beef.

6:25 Ashley's alarm goes off. She knocks everything off nightstand before finding snooze button.

6:30 My alarm goes off. I get up, hungry for roast beef, but having no idea what to wear. I figure underwear is a good start and make a selection.

6:35 Ashley's alarm goes off. I check for pulse and remind her she's going to be late. Ash glares at me as if I ate the last of the roast beef in the fridge. Gets up and shuffles to bathroom to collect makeup box.

6:36 I make bed to ensure Ash doesn't crawl back in. Head to bathroom to take shower and think about what to wear.

6:50 I get out of shower, medicate myself, brush teeth and fix hair. Ash fixes make up while sitting at computer desk

6:51 Open bathroom door. Find two little girls dancing outside who rush past me and slam door.


6:51 Open bathroom door. Find Ashley holding makeup brush in teeth while answering emails. I start countdown sequence one, two, three... Ash goes back to applying makeup thus saving herself the loss of a marble.

6:55 Go to closet - put on clothes none of which were what I was thinking. Head up stairs to prepare breakfast. Turn on Microwave countdown timer. Ash starts getting dressed. Stresses about which blouse has what effect on her cleavage. Asks my opinion and does opposite. Lays clothes out for girls

7:00 Wake up girls (if not already). Ash or I flip on lights and rub, pat, scratch, dance, joke, cajole, and threaten. One, two, three, four, five... Alley is dressed at "joke" stage. Avery gets out of bed after "five" is sounded and smells smoke from Care Bear set on fire for not getting out bed before "five" count.

7:05 Breakfast is ready. Wrap egg, bacon cheese sandwich for Ash to take with her on ride to work. Will hand her Diet Coke on her way out if it's in stock. Kiss Kiss, hug, hug, accidental grope (by Ash),dirty talk and goodbye. Allie appears, declaring us "gross."

7:06 Hand Allie breakfast - usually a Pop Tart, cereal, or cinnamon toast. Call to Avery downstairs to which she replies with how she got her first Barbie doll while living at the "yellow house." Head downstairs to investigate. Allie asks if my boys like Hannah Montana.

7:08 Open door to find Avery naked and trying to put on little girl underwear. Am screamed at for seeing her, "naked booty." I blush, shut door and step on wet pull up diaper. Remind Avery she can have a marble for throwing diaper in trash. Am reminded I am not to see her "naked booty" or her "panties." Blush again.

7:10 Call Allie for assistance in helping sister. Allie refuses. Negotiations begin. Allie demands marble for efforts. Finally, I agree to three - head up stairs to eat breakfast. Allie asks if the boys like Barbies.

7:15 Check email while eating breakfast. Internet is out. Head downstairs to check router. Allie passes me on the stairs and reminds me of marble agreement. Asks if my boys like to sing.

7:16 Find router disconnected by Ashley who changed setup while I was in shower. Avery appears asking if I think she is pretty / cute / adorable depending on outfit for the day. I tell her she is the prettiest / cutest / most adorable ever and would be more so if she eats breakfast. Fix Internet.

7:18 Follow Avery up stairs and get her breakfast. Get text message from Ash. Wants to know if "she is pretty / cute / adorable" depending on what blouse did which things to her cleavage. Reply that she is prettiest / cutest / most adorable and I like what her blouse did to her cleavage.

7:20 Get new text message with dirty talk. Wonder to self if I am just hunk of meat or some kind of machine, but make note to get bottle of wine later anyway. Allie reminds me of the marbles. Wants to know if my boys like make up.

7:21 Allie counts marbles like Ebeneezer Scrooge. Avery wants marble as she stands over AC register letting cold air blow up her dress. I tell her to eat breakfast or I will take a marble. Avery returns to chair, takes bite and expresses need to retrieve all 7 My Little Ponies from bedroom. Avery is again reminded to eat.

7:22 Return to breakfast. Check email. Get distracted by random spam promising free Viagra from reputable Canadian pharmacies. Reason this to be important enough to investigate for 8 minutes only to realize it as a scam. Allie informs all present of new marble count. I congratulate her. Avery is MIA. Allie is curious if my boys like Spongebob.

7:30 Find Avery in bedroom looking for new outfit. Begins crying that current outfit isn't cute enough. Takes no consolation in my statement her outfit is cuter than mine (secretly want to change my outfit now). Avery crying.

7:31 Ask Avery if Barbie ever had any political aspiriations while she was in college. Avery stops crying, stares blankly into space. Returns to kitchen and finishes breakfast. Wakes with no recollection of need to change outfit.

7:33 Return to my breakfast. Feel morning "man urge" in tummy. Tell girls to get shoes on and stuff together to leave. Make mental note that microwave timer will go off in 12 minutes. Search for suitable reading material to fill time void created by acting on morning "man urge" in tummy.

7:33.01 Allie declares self winner in unannounced Put-on-shoes-the-fastest Contest. Avery melts down due to her all-time record of 0 wins, 674 losses and 1 tie while competing in Allie's unannounced contest league. Allie wants to know if the boys would like the Hannah Montana shoes she is wearing now.

7:34 Continue down stairs at hurried pace while carrying random fashion magazine (Lord only knows why). Yell at girls to work out their issue or prepare to watch all Barbies ripped apart by wild horses. Justify outburst as a result of morning "man urge" speaking through me. Allie scoffs at notion citing the fact horses are not readily available for such work. Avery stops crying with inaudible comment referencing My Little Ponies.

7:36 Position self for morning "man urge" action. Flip through random fashion magazine baffled why chiffon and paper bags are considered worth $10,000. Allie knocks on door wanting to know what I'm doing and why I need a magazine to do it. I agree to another marble if she will go away without the need for an explanation. She agrees, but wants to know if my boys like to watch The Naked Brothers Band.

7:40 Morning "man urge" appears to be false alarm and I prepare to resume morning's routine activities. Receive text from Ashley - more dirty talk. Notice additional fat on my left butt cheek and feel less sexy. Make note to buy two bottles of wine.

7:41 Head up stairs to grab laptop and carry bag (man purse). See Avery and tell her to get shoes on.

7:42 Avery appears with wrong shoes. Wants to know if they are cute. Allie declares Avery's shoes "inappropriate" for day care. I tell her to get shoes her mother set out.

7:42.30 Avery returns with wrong shoes. Wants to know if they are cute. She is told to return with shoes her mother set out.

7:43 Avery returns with wrong shoes. Wants to know if they are cute. She is told to return with shoes her mother set out. I follow her to bedroom.

7:44 Find Avery sitting on floor staring at wall. Ask her where the shoes her mother set out are. Avery says she doesn't know, but is lying because she is a really bad at it. I threaten to trash her coloring book and start counting...one, two, three, four five! Five? Five! Head to stairs to make good on threat. Avery declares mother's choice in shoes ludicrous for not matching pretty / cute/ adorable outfit for that day but pulls the correct shoes from where she hid them.

7:44.30 Repeat intentions of trashing coloring book. Hear crying and running behind me. Check if she has on right shoes. Good to go. Grab carry bag (man purse) and head to door. Allie is at door tapping her foot.

7:44.45 Avery joins us at door, but is crying over shoe travesty. I inquire as to whether Care Bears were born with a natural sin nature. Avery stops crying and enters trance-like state. I visually inspect each girl. Hand Allie her reading glasses and tape Avery's show-and-tell item to her body for her to find later after regaining consciousness. Allie wants to know if my boys like girls with glasses.

7:45 Alarm sounds. I shut it off and usher everyone out the door.

That's pretty much how it goes. Day in and day out.

Next week, Clark Kent Mommy Chronicles Part 3 - Ride to School


Clark Kent: The Mommy Chronicles Part 1 - Mornings

For those out not familiar with what's going on with the job situation, I'll bring you up to speed quickly. For the past eight years I had worked in the home building industry, primarily for one major builder in Houston, and then I transferred to Chicago so I could be closer to my boys. My transfer coincided with the beginning of the end for the housing market and the Chicago division, being one of the company's worst, started cutting jobs. Despite a descent career I figured I'd better leave the company by going out on top as opposed to getting caught up in the lay offs because they "overpaid" me. My best chance to sustain the level of income needed to take care of the boys lay in Houston where the housing market is still good (relatively speaking)and I found a job with one company, but it was a sketchy operation. When a larger, internationally reputable builder approached me about a position they were creating I jumped at the chance. Less than 65 days later they laid me off (they said because of budget shortfalls, but really, it was because I didn't subscribe to management's cultish belief in The Secret...ya, another blog, another time). This brings me to the present where Ashley and I started a freelance writing business.

Like any start-up, things are slow, which keeps us looking for "regular jobs." The truth of the matter is Ashley looks to be the better freelancer to client's, while I just appear to be a failed business executive. As such, Ash has scored a great, steady gig just a few minutes away from the loft. Despite it's proximity, however, she has to be their pretty early so getting the girls up, dressed, fed and out the door (on time) falls on the shoulders of ol' Clark Kent here.

Given the fact, my Army experience makes me knowledgeable in prepping C4 explosives for breaching obstacles and assaulting an objective, and that I have implemented major business initiatives resulting in strong profits as a corporate exec, then the mere concept of me getting two little girls ready for the day by myself is hilarious by itself. Therefore the concept in execution is just that much more funny...and crazy.

Don't get me wrong; it's not that I can't handle it. I'm quite apt at getting kids out the door without other people seeing them and thinking mommy must be sick or out of town. Admittedly, my experience has been with my boys so fashion hang-ups and big conversations about Hannah Montana at the breakfast table don't hold up the process like they do with little girls, but in any case kids for the most part are pretty much the same across the board in enough areas that I can still "accomplish the mission," or "meet the budget" as I would've said in my past lives.

Keys to the Morning - Routine

With this in mind, the universal concepts I use involve routine, rewards, countdowns, and distractions. The first key, routine, is kind of like what the Army refers to as Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), and serves as a consistant template for how to get something done. For the girls it's, get up, get clothes on, get breakfast, fix teeth and hair, get school essentials (glasses, bags, show and tell items - all staged the night before near the door), and then head to the van. If you were to mix in the additional routines for Ashley and me, that would be known as "battlefield synchronization," while in the business world it's the weekly coordination meeting, but that's getting off track.


For rewards, I like the marble game. Honestly, I just pulled this one out of my butt-crack having no idea it would work so well, but it does so that's how we roll. The deal is, if you do something your asked or complete a chore then you get a marble in your little bowl; conversely, should you decide you are going to secede from the Union and you pay a marble. Early on, we promised a reward once someone got to a certain number, but we've been pretty vague on how many marbles one needs to have for that prize. So far the girls haven't questioned this, not realizing this part of the system is near to that of reward points used by credit cards. Part of why this works is Allie works well with little reassurances here and there, and so, when she beams this big smile and announces, "I have fifty marbles!" then we make sure to give her an "at-a-girl" for working so hard. Avery, on the other hand, is on 10, which is good seen as how she operates mostly in over-draft protection. Not that she doesn't try, she does, but let's just say she has focus issues, and that's where the other key concepts come into play.


Based on a the set time we need to across the line of departure (LD in military lingo), I set the microwave timer to countdown so it will go off letting everyone know wherever they are that they should be at the door so we can move to the minivan. When the girls get up stairs to eat I point out the timer and remind them they have to beat the time. For Allie, this is child's play as she is ready waaaaaay before the alarm sounds, and runs around to remind the rest of us where we need to be at that moment, which is fine since she gets to feel in charge for a few minutes. For Avery, 20 - 30 minutes is too much time to digest, but she'll let you know when it goes off that she's ready, and then ask you to help her find the matching sock to the one she's been holding as she does circles around her room.

Smaller countdowns work better as in, "Avery, get your shoes on, okay, one, two, three..." When you hit five then bye bye marble (we have to have amnesty days where one miraculous act will bring her account balance back to even so she doesn't loose interest). I've got to say the microwave countdown is as much for me as anyone since I hold off on taking my ADD meds until after I drop the kids at school which means I can be found circling the bedroom with Avery looking for a stamp or something inconsequential to us hitting the road. It really helps me stay on track and to avoid Allie looking down her nose at me for my failure in getting ready on time.


It would seem contrary that distractions would be effective when one child and one unmedicated adult both have focus issues, but done right, they work quite well. For me, I just need to remind myself that I get distracted easily, and when I forget 30 seconds later I catch a glimpse of the timer and I know I don't need stamps for something I can email. For kids, conceptually, they are like those monkeys with PhD's in astrophysics that NASA uses to send into outer-space. When one of them starts arguing in sign language over the launch sequence, someone starts waving a banana around and all of a sudden that monkey has 600,000 pounds of thrust behind him before he can finish the last bite. My point is that kids are way smarter than we sometimes think, especially when they don't want to do something, so you just have to find their "banana," and start waving it around.

With Allie, distraction aren't necessary on a regular basis since she's too busy counting marbles or preparing a self-righteous diatribe in case I or Avery are tardy in getting to the van (when I get to Part 3 you'll see where they come into play for her). It's Avery who functions best with them, and they don't have to be real elaborate either. Say she's talking about her My Little Ponies when she's supposed to be brushing her teeth. All it takes is mentioning My Little Ponies like Reuben sandwiches, and she comes out of her catatonic state strapped in her car-seat with no memory of the last ten minutes.

Now these concepts have been used for years by parents. They're nothing new, but I still get a kick out of watching them work.

Next Clark Kent: The Mommy Chronicles, Part 2 - The Morning Timeline


Green: It's The New Green 2

A few weeks ago I posted a short piece on how "going green" was the biggest trend out there with corporations figuring out how to capitalize on the craze in order to make some "green" off of being "green." One of the industries I spotlighted was that of residential home building given I gave nearly 8 years of my life working in a number of different positions covering the gamment of operations. As such I was pretty interested to get links to these two articles in my morning updates on trends in the housing market.

The first article details how the leading home builders aren't quite up to par on green building as what they may say they are. Although KB Homes ranked the highest it still wasn't that great.

The second report deals specifically with one of my former employers - Lennar Homes, who is now the target of Julia Ro... I mean Erin Brockovich (Sorry, I mess that up all the time). Apparently, one of Lennar's communities is located near some nasty stuff that Brockovich intends to spotlight.

These stories and the Green movement, made me think of my time as the VP of Purchasing for Lennar's Houston division. At one point, the purchasing agents and myself got the idea to bring in all the sales reps for all the components affecting energy usage in the homes we built. After some coffee and donuts, we got down to business. I addressed the group telling them our purpose today was to discuss how we could make all the components they represented to work together in order to produce a truly energy efficient home. What kind of windows would work best with the size of AC units we installed? How could we best use our insulation to compliment our roofing system? I let the concept sink in for a few moments, and then asked what they thought. The room was quiet, and everyone looked around at each other with puzzled looks. For a moment I thought I was off my rocker, but finally one of the reps piped up, "Ron, that's an excellent question, but no one's ever asked it and I'm not sure it can be in done in tract housing production."

"So then how is it one of our competitors is advertising that's what they are doing?" I hoped I wasn't getting a snow job here.

The rep shot back, "Because no one can really check it out to make sure, there's no real standards to it."

The rest of the group all nodded their heads in agreement and that was the end of that meeting.

On another occasion as a division president I was required to attend an informational class put on by upper management covering Storm Water Prevention Regulations and the program the company intended to put in place. It was all pretty boring - I mean I understood the need to curb the effects of construction on wetlands, but it didn't matter because it wasn't like it would stop people from building. What did stick out to me was the statement by the speaker that we really didn't need to worry about making sure we were in physical compliance (i.e. having sandbags up, keeping debris out of drains, and dirt off the street) so much as we needed to make sure our paperwork looked good.

As division presidents, we were being charged with ensuring all the forms were filled out correctly. In fact, we could violate the actual compliance standards, but if we noted it on our paperwork, then no harm no foul. To make sure our paperwork was good, the company created positions in every market to do nothing but run around and check inspection sheets and log books for the correct signatures and so forth. "So what about protecting the environment?" I guess if our paperwork's straight, God's ok with it. Right?


It's Official - The Unit Is Back for Season 4!

The LA Times Entertainment Web Site announced that The Unit will be back for a fourth season! You can read more on The TV Squad, but details are few at this point.

Yay! And many thanks to all those who showed CBS how much they supported the show.

See other posts on The Unit in my blog. The Unit 1. The Unit 2. The Unit 3.

Check out my Top 10 Episodes of The Unit

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